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Shae Myles - Contemporary Art Practice

Shae Myles
Inspiring young artist Shae Myles will exhibit her work at the Gray’s Virtual Degree Show next week, but it was in fact the Gray’s Degree Show back in 2015 that launched her creative journey.

The 22-year-old said: “I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do until my art teacher at school took us on a class trip to the Gray’s Degree Show in 2015. I instantly fell in love and was so inspired. 

“Looking back, this was the catalyst that launched my creative journey.”

Shae, who is from Nairn in the Highlands but lives and works in Aberdeen, decided to study Contemporary Art Practice at RGU’s Gray’s School of Art as it felt so open-ended and liberating. “It has room for everyone to explore their own individual practice freely,” she said. 

“I was only 18 when I applied and had no clue where my practice would take me. I decided pretty much immediately that I wanted to keep my options open and apply for a course that encouraged a large span of creativity to allow my practice to evolve without limit. 

“My work explores the idea of pleasure, particularly by looking at the sensuality of food. I wrote my dissertation on the parallels of food and sex, and this helped me form a lot of my ideas in terms of my working practice. 

“Visualising things that may not always be seen is one of the key elements of my approach to making. For example, bringing to life theories such as psychosexual development and exploring fetishes.

“A lot of recurring themes arise while looking at things like food and sex, because they are fundamental in our daily lives but also have so much stigma surrounding them. Ideas of excess, mess and ritual are embedded in my work as a result. The private, secretive elements of our individual lives can be addressed through these motifs; they symbolise consumerism and society’s overindulgent tendencies.

“Having so much freedom, especially in the second half of the course, really allowed me to go from making work that I wanted to make, to making work that I feel is important to make. Gray’s has provided me with a fantastic support system, as well as the skills and confidence to progress.” 

The current COVID-19 pandemic had to change the way Shae would usually work, as well as how her work would be displayed at the Gray’s Virtual Degree Show.

Her work was all made while living alone during lockdown, describing it as partly a reflection on the terrifyingly messy world we live in, and partly a celebration of the delicious aspects of life. 

Speaking of how she had to adapt, Shae said: “It certainly has been a challenge; it made it pretty much impossible for myself and my peers to create the work we had dreamt of our whole art school career. 

“For the first couple of weeks I felt so demotivated but then decided I needed to adapt my practice to reflect the situation; I used the pandemic as fuel to strengthen my concepts. For example, I had planned to create a birthday themed installation prior to lockdown, but the idea evolved into a video piece portraying how a solo lockdown birthday might look.

“A lot of my work usually tends to be tactile and sensory, which when working digitally, is unattainable. Therefore, my body of work this year has taken the form primarily of digital forms such as photography and video. 

“Not being able to have a physical show is heart-breaking but I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to showcase my work in such a dynamic and unique way. Usually, a project such as this would take approximately a year to develop, but the design team have packaged the Virtual Degree Show together in a matter of weeks. It was really difficult to get to grips with the software, and has been a truly stressful process, but I’m sure it’s going to be worth it and stand out amongst the crowd of other online degree shows.”

Shae balanced her studies with working as a supervisor at LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, as well as working on commissions but said she loves what she does and is hoping to apply to the Graduate in Residence scheme at Gray’s to further develop her practice.

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