19 Mar 2011

RSA New Contemporaries

RSA New Contemporaries 19 March - 13 April 2011
The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture

An exhibition of the work of 53 artists and 6 architects selected from the graduating
students of the Scottish Schools/Colleges of Art and Architecture in the summer of 2010.


When the RSA launched New Contemporaries three years ago the primary aim was to initiate an exhibition which would set new standards in promoting and supporting emerging artists and architects. Our intentions were to select the most ambitious work from the most talented undegraduate students and by doing so, create a platform for excellence that would help to develop professionalism in graduating students. To achieve this would require the Academy to establish a strong curatorial direction while simultaneously entering into a new partnership with the Art Schools. The task of the selectors, comprising academicians and art school staff was to identify quality, talent and excellence. We believed that bringing together the work of young artists from the five Scottish degree awarding Schools to form a site for dialogue and debate would both compliment the important role the Schools play and enhance the status of contemporary art in Scotland. Above all, we hoped that by participating in New Contemporaries, those young artists and architects might go on to enjoy a life-long relationship with the Academy.

The difficulties involved in moving outside the realm of the Art School into the professional art world should not be underestimated. A big public exhibition of a young artist’s work in the RSA galleries assumes a very special significance. For the first time the individual achievements of each artist are made accesible to a wide audience. Inevitably new readings and evaluations will be attached to the works on show and the future prospects of the artist will be dramatically transformed.

The art of our time takes on many roles and many appearances and the different art forms - painting, sculpture, printmaking, installation, film, photography, performance, etc that now constitute the realty of degree shows across the western world (and actually have done for the past half century) have their own idioms and properties. As a result, New Contemporaries reflects the wide range of creative activity currently in existence. All meaningful art has its roots in the local and this is embedded in many of the works included in the exhibition. Attempts to standardise the Fine Art degree have been resisted and the distinct identities of the Scottish Art Schools remain in place despite the demise of the artist/teacher over the past two decades. It might be appropriate at this present time to acknowledge it is precisely because of the commitment and dedication of their artist/teachers, the work of the young artists in New Contemporaries is able to emerge directly from the exploration of a practical discipline that when allied to a questing and courageous intelligence is further able to give renewed vigour to that potent dream of which all art speaks.

Descriptions of the state of the art world vary enormously as to positive and negative possibilities: there are ongoing arguments as to what aspects of art- making are progressive and forward looking, or regressive and backward looking. Even the very nature of how the art world operates and what it signifies are open to question. Anyone who claims to understand
what it all means only dares to make such a claim over a relatively short period of time. This is of course all part of the new/old modernist, or call it if you wish, post modernist (another strategy of displacement) struggle for definition in the amazingly mobile (except for those who think it is immobile) contemporary world.

Young artists are under seige today. Continuously assailed by information coming from all directions, all of the time, can be a confusing experience. Making choices which will determine a course of action, establishing a position, or working out a form of resistance, all become more and more problematic. In order to interpret the world, one must first understand it. Accordingly, I hope the exhibition will become a forum where issues are voiced and new energies emerge; it is important to demonstrate that in Scotland today, the work of young artists does matter.

To work effectively within the context of contemporary art requiries an understanding of the agencies which promote or inhibit social and cultural change across time. Artists proceed gradually by absorbing the achievements of their predecessors in order to come to an understanding of their own historical position. To sustain a life-long career as an artist and
to contribute to the advancement of creativity, knowledge and understanding
by confronting the dilemmas of a changing world remains the primary goal - the only one worth having.

Alexander Moffat

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