Using natural or recycled materials, Contemporary Art Practice Student Isabel McLeish explored how to strengthen people’s connection with the land for her final-year project at Gray’s School of Art.
Isabel (21) is inspired by rural places and the natural world like her home in the North-West Highlands of Scotland.
“My current work for The Gray’s Degree Show considers the relationship between the human body and trees, specifically how they both breathe,” said Isabel. “Through the creation of physical and tangible artworks, and by utilising natural textures and forms, I hope to encourage the viewer to reflect on their own bodily connection to the land.”
Isabel’s dissertation work follows the same themes of reconnecting with the environment.
“Globally, there is a need to find natural climate solutions and restore forests in order to prevent further climate and ecological breakdown,” said Isabel. “My dissertation explores how Contemporary Art Practices can help us to appreciate these themes, as well as reconnect with the land through language, mediated experiences and walking.”
During Isabel’s course, she took part in the university’s study exchange programme to Victoria in British Columbia.
Isabel said: “I am so grateful that my degree offered study exchange. I enjoyed the challenge of studying in a new art school and trying different ways of working. Equally, having the opportunity to travel in North America, explore a beautiful landscape and spend weekends hiking and camping with friends from all over the world made for an unforgettable experience.”
The on-campus facilities and student-led approach to teaching helped Isabel balance her studies with her other commitments.
Isabel said: “I love the fact that we have a sports building on campus as this has created the flexibility I needed for fitting exercise in around my studies. I’ve been able to schedule and plan my own workload, too, and this has enabled me to find time for work experience and volunteering.”
By attending one of the university’s annual open days, Isabel discovered that RGU was the right place for her to develop her artistic talents.
“On the open days, and at my interview, I found the staff and atmosphere to be welcoming and friendly. I’ve always enjoyed being creative and hands-on, and the fact that the Contemporary Art Practice course is so multidisciplinary was a real attraction for me.
“I’ve enjoyed the freedom to experiment and develop my artistic skills while at university, and the opportunity to share my ideas in a supportive environment. I’m grateful for the inclusive and sociable nature of Gray’s. I’ve made strong and close friendships here.
“After graduation, I plan to continue to travel internationally and to qualify to teach English as a foreign language in Asia. I also intend to continue learning and look at doing a master’s or further study in the future.”