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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Prestigious Awards for UHI Art Students

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Six BA (Hons) Fine Art and BA (Hons) Fine Art Textiles final year students at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) are celebrating their success after winning prestigious awards at their recent degree shows.

The awards provide various forms of recognition and support to help further their artistic careers.

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) New Contemporaries was awarded to Jen Upson from Moray School of Art based at UHI Moray, and Anna Charlotta Gardiner from UHI Orkney.

The New Contemporaries award represent the RSA’s commitment to supporting and promoting contemporary art and architecture in Scotland.

Winners of the award are given the opportunity to exhibit their artwork at the RSA New Contemporaries exhibition in Edinburgh, which showcases the best of Scotland’s emerging artistic talent. 

Jen Upson’s practice embraces architecture, installation, and sculpture, exploring the potential for change, renewal, and healing through process.

She utilises recycled and repurposed materials, drawing on their history for inspiration to create something new.

In addition to the RSA New Contemporaries award, Jen also won the Grampian Hospitals Art Trust (GHAT) Exhibition award and a Moray School of Art Alumni award. 

Jen commented:

“I am still letting the news sink in.

“I feel incredibly grateful and proud to have been awarded the RSA award, the GHAT award, and a Moray School of Art Alumni award.

“Each one represents a huge opportunity for a new graduate, supporting me in building a studio practice, making new connections, and continuing my learning journey.”

Anna Charlotta Gardiner has engaged with an array of materials and techniques throughout her studies at UHI Orkney.

“Her final showcase is a culmination of years of experimentation, featuring 2D and 3D collages, and otherworldly costumes for performances filmed in the Orkney landscape.

“A highlight of her exhibit included the use of natural and recycled media, notably fur from her dog, transformed through wet-felting and hand-spinning. 

Anna said:

“Making art is a very personal process for me and I never know quite how other people are going to respond, so I am truly honoured that my work has been selected for this award.”

Keith Massey from UHI Shetland and Duncan May from the Moray School of Art were both recipients of the New Graduate award from the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA).

The SSA is a leading arts organisation supporting and promoting the work of contemporary artists in Scotland.

This award celebrates outstanding work by recent graduates and provides Keith and Duncan the opportunity to exhibit their artwork in the SSA’s annual exhibition later this year at the Royal Scottish Academy.  

Keith Massey’s artwork, inspired by the sea and its interface with humanity, explores new materials and techniques to represent this connection both realistically and conceptually.

Keith transforms materials into the form of a carving aesthetic, remoulding images both physically and emotionally.

He takes the subject to its limits, rearranging it into a new form while incorporating and paying homage to its natural beauty.

Keith said:

“I was completely taken aback and delightfully surprised to be awarded the Scottish Society of Artists New Graduate award.

“The opportunity to exhibit at the Royal Academy is something I could never have dreamed of, and I am extremely grateful for the recognition of my work.”

“What I have learned studying through UHI Shetland, which has become the most important thing for me, is that I need not worry about what people think about me or my art because I now have enough confidence to go out into the world and do what I do.

“UHI Shetland has enabled me to speak from my heart and for that, I will always be thankful.”

Duncan May’s practice blends facts and fictions performed through journeys and extended into drawing and sculpting with a focus on materials.

He is a marine biologist who lived in the northwest highlands for twenty years before returning to Moray with his young family. 

Duncan said:

“When I heard them call out my name for the SSA award I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

“My family, who had supported me for four years, were there and could see the recognition for pouring my heart and soul into my work.

“It’s also a realisation of the encouragement and support from the tutors – I wouldn’t have achieved this without their passion for art which has fuelled my imagination beyond what I thought was possible.” 

“The SSA award is a big deal as a graduating artist.

“I now have opportunities within the biggest artist body in Scotland, including exhibiting at the annual SSA exhibition and access to professional training.

“It’s the first step into and recognition within the art world – it shows you mean business and that you are going to go for it.” 

Kiara-Isabella Mackenzie from the Moray School of Art won the Visual Arts Scotland Graduate Showcase award and the Moray School of Art Alumni Choice first prize. Kiara-Isabella is a multidisciplinary artist who specialises in conceptual textile work.

Using techniques such as hand-stitching and natural dyeing processes, they aim to create work that allows viewers to interact with it and contemplate the somatosensory nature of textile in our lives. 

Kiara said:

“This work has been quite emotional for me to create and to share.

“It has been quite beautiful to see the way people have connected and interacted with the work, and I have shared so many gracefully quiet moments with people.

“I am so excited and thankful to have been awarded these awards, and I look forward to developing this body of work further.” 

The Pier Arts Centre UHI Orkney Student award was received by Caitlin Brodie.

Caitlin’s artistic approach has been characterised by broad experimentation resulting in unpredictable outcomes.

Her work for the degree show encompasses a diverse array of media, from intricate crochet pieces to expressive drawings and sculptures that invite viewers to explore the boundaries of narrative and form.

She said:

“My time at UHI has been so positive that this is just the cherry on top.

‘From my family being told to just take me home and ‘keep me busy’ as I ‘wasn’t intellectual enough for university’ to receiving this recognition for work that I’ve invested much development, thought, and research into, it really means a lot.”

Being selected for these awards brings significant recognition and exposure within the art community, which can lead to further exhibitions, sales, and commissions.

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