On degree show night, the corridors of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design would normally be teeming with euphoric graduates, its rooms filled to bursting with people looking at the fruits of their labours. But not in 2021.
For the second year, some 300 students are once more unable to have a physical degree show due to the global pandemic.
Instead, they are presenting their work online in a graduate showcase that runs until June 21. They created small-scale exhibits for tutors to assess, but haven’t even been able to see each other’s work.
We spoke to five final year students about their experiences. They were understandably disappointed at being unable to experience a real degree show. But their creative spirits cannot be curtailed, with each accepting, adapting and continuing to focus on making their best possible work.
The students have spent their final year of study in and out of lockdown. And it seems they have become all the more determined to create something meaningful in the face of such uncertainty.
Dean of DJCAD, Professor Anita Taylor, says: “The achievements of our 2021 graduates are truly remarkable. They have sustained and developed their creative work through successive lockdowns and remote working, since March 2020 through to the summer of 2021, in the most challenging of circumstances.”
Textile design student Emer Dobson, 25, says: “When the year above us didn’t get a degree show we all thought ‘thank goodness that’s not us’. Then, as this year wore on we realised ‘it is us’. We have made our peace as everything slowly became more digital. It’s been good to learn new skills.”
Emer is creating a bold and clashing modular fashion collection that aims to be more sustainable. “More is more,” she smiles. “You can never be over-dressed. This past year, I didn’t have any reason to get dressed so I poured all of my fun, creative energy into making these patterns instead.”
Ben Marshall, 22, who is studying in jewellery and metal design, creates hand-crafted wooden walking-sticks topped with impressive metallic wolves and stags.
“My work is all about rewilding Scotland and bringing back the nature that we used to have,” he explains. “A lot of people are going to be a bit scunnered about not being able to get people in to see their work. I would love people to be able to pick my work up and look at it. It’s a big shame.”
Interior and environmental designer Freya MacLeod is reimaging a new use for the derelict Tay Rope Works building on Dundee’s Magdalen Yard Road. She says: “There’s been a good atmosphere in the last few weeks of finishing our degrees. It’s not been at all sad. We’ve just looked at what we can do.”
Freya says she became fascinated by the decaying building after living in nearby Bellefield Avenue: “It’s a hidden gem. It exists behind a closed wall. From the front it looks like a garage door but then it stretches back 100 metres. That’s because rope was made in long buildings.
“I would love to see it reused. It’s crying out for some care an attention and it’s lying there in one of the most vibrant areas of the city.”
Rhiannon Dewar is graduating in fine art, specialising in painting and film. They create very personal work: “I am trying my best to give an experience of what it’s like to have Maladaptive Daydreaming Syndrome. I have this and it’s part of my autism.”
Because Rhiannon conveys their own experiences through art, they would love people to be able to see a physical exhibition in the future.
Rhiannon explains: “Even if there was just one person who has a mind that works like mine. If that one person could come in … and get it, which is a lot harder now.”
Meanwhile, jewellery designer Finlay Grant, 21, creates chunky, resin jewellery in bold colours inspired by the “geometry, colour and aesthetics of swimming pools”. He was a keen swimmer at the Stonehaven open air pool before coming to study in Dundee.
Finlay muses: “Every now and then I will think about it and wish I could walk around and see everyone’s work.”
Will you be joining us on Friday at 6pm? This year’s graduates have worked hard all year and we are so excited for you to see it! Watch the launch event on the website, have a browse of the work and be part of the celebrations. 🎊https://t.co/kgbezzjfjf #djcadgraduateshowcase pic.twitter.com/0cUY2aJM8g
— DJCAD, UoD (@DJCAD) June 9, 2021