Susan Mansfield, 'Emerging Talent To Get Excited About' (The Scotsman, 26/12/2008)

There have been some fine exhibitions in Scotland this year, by artists dead and living, but a good barometer of a country’s artistic climate is in the vibrancy of those who emerge, blinking into the artistic spotlight.

Degree shows at Scotland’s main art colleges in 2008 were as rich as they were varied, and it has been interesting to spot names out there in the big, bad world who, only yesterday, it seems, were fresh-faces graduates.

Alex Dordoy was part of the class of 2007 at Glasgow School of Art, and is now represented by the Modern Institute. His first solo show in October, part of the Collective Gallery’s New Work Scotland programme, confidently took possession of the space both as a complete environment and as a home for individual works. The centerpiece, a destroyed photocopier, was a powerful metaphor for originality.

Pio Abad, had his first solo show at the Market Gallery in the spring. Abad, originally from the Philippines, has a distinctive style that has been evident since his degree show, intricate geometric patterns spliced with rococo decadence. He was selected to take part in the New Contemporaries 2008 show, part of the Liverpool Biennale.

Neil Clements is another recent GSA grad. His work stood out in Dundee Contemporary Art’s Altered States of Paint show this summer: black canvases inspired by rock guitars, and two Full Stop paintings made in situ by spraying black paint at a black canvas for two minutes. His is an assured form of minimalism which knows its antecedents. He is now represented by Doggerfisher.

Other artists working their way steadily through the ranks include Laura Aldridge, A Glasgow MFA course graduate, Edinburgh-based Catherine Street, currently in the group show at Stirling’s Changing Room, and Cara Tolmie, a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, whose first solo show recently closed at Edinburgh’s Sierra Metro.

Neville Rae is unusual in that he has a major interest in public sculpture. After being drawn to Cumbernauld with its overtones of failed utopia, he tracked down the town’s official artist Brian Miller, and mounted a show of his work in Inverleith House, A Town for Tomorrow. Rae himself has now been awarded a major commission to create a public artwork for Cumbernauld.

Futureproof, the recent show of new photography graduates at Street Level was packed with talent including ECA graduates Mike Hunter, who dresses actors as commando-style model soldiers and sets them within familiar landscapes to make clever pictures which challenge the notion of scale, and Katrina Johnk who produces beautiful, voyeuristic portraits of family life taken through sash windows.

Artist-run projects throughout Scotland are going from strength to strength. The Edinburgh Annuale provides a rallying point for the artistic fringe in August, while artist-run galleries are embraced within the main programme at Glasgow International, and this year outshone many of the professional shows.

Low Salt, which is run by recent graduates Rebecca Anson and Krisdy Schindler, branched into surrealist performance art during Glasgow International with a sell-out promenade version of The Secret Agent, as well as several exhibitions. Alhena Katsof, the curator of A.Vermin, decamped from her usual venue in her flat to colonise the State Bar with a set of careful interventions. Washington Garcia, run by artists Douglas Morland and Kendall Koppe, who had a two-man show at Intermedia in January, gave New York-based performance artist Kalup Linzy his Scottish debut.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, Janine Sproule has opened Sierra Metro, a new space in a disused warehouse in Granton that was previously a test facility for the Northern Lighthouse Board. Dundee’s artist-run gallery, Generator, is now receiving SAC funding and has undergone a refurbishment. These organizations, bursting with initiative as well as ideas, are not only about artists learning to make their own opportunities, they are breeding grounds for the curators of tomorrow.

Among those who made real leaps forward this year are Craig Mulholland, with an obsessive and impressive show at his alma mater, GSA; Alan Michael, who produces a major body of work for the Talbot Rice; Hugh Watt, whose film at SWG3 bodes well for things to come and Hugh Brady, who emerged from nowhere with a careful and clever show at the Edinburgh Art Festival.

And then there are painters like Jackie Anderson, who traveled to Trinidad on the RSA’s Alastair Salvesen Art Scholarship. Her resulting show was a delight. And Jamie Hageman, who has emerged from the mountains of Glencoe as an astounding self-taught painter of hyperrealist landscapes, after being shortlisted for the Jolomo Landscape Painting Awards.

Last but not least: an artist who is not young at all, and is not in any sense emerging, but who deserves a mention here for his whole new lease on life. Writer and artist Alasdair Gray is now represented by Sorcha Dallas alongside some of Glasgow’s coolest conceptualists. The septuagenarian, who has had several exhibitions this year, also found himself giving a talk at Frieze – surely proof you’re never too old to be the next big thing.