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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 22:36 GMT
Art school makes mark at the Tate
By Graeme Esson
BBC Scotland's news website

All We Need is The Air That We Breathe 2004 by Christopher Orr, courtesy of IBID Projects. Photography by Andy Keats .
Christopher Orr's work will be on display at the Tate Britain
A Scottish art school is making its presence felt at a major exhibition of new British work.

Six former students of Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee are featured in the Tate Triennial, which opens at the Tate Britain in London next month.

Senior lecturer Professor Alan Robb said it was an "extraordinary" achievement for a college which was used to punching above its weight.

One ex-pupil, artist David Mach, said the city was having a renaissance.

He was a student at the college between 1974 and 1979, when he believes it was a "world-class" college.

"I think it is still very, very good and I think Dundee has changed so much. It is a totally different place," said David.

He said the city tended to get ignored - but admitted that this could also be a "real advantage".

Luke Fowler
Lucy McKenzie
Alan Michael
Scott Myles
Christopher Orr
Richard Couzins

"People who are working there can get on with it and find out a lot of things for themselves," he said.

"It is not a trendy place to be, but I think it is a heavier place to be because you carry out all this stuff first-hand.

"You are not flicking through magazines to see what the next big thing will be."

Mr Mach, whose large-scale installations include the Big Heids seen by thousands of drivers every day on the M8 motorway, is now a visiting professor at the college.

Analysis 2005 by Scott Myles
Artist Scott Myles was born and bred in Dundee

The Tate Triennial also features two other artists associated with the college - honorary professor Ian Hamilton Finlay and Marc Chaimowicz, who used to teach at the school of sculpture and ceramics.

Five of the six former students taking part in the exhibition - which is held every three years - were at the college over a period of about five years in the 1990s.

One of them, Christopher Orr, said: "Most of us knew each other and at the time there seemed to be a lot going on in Dundee, with the students organising exhibitions themselves."

This included shows by Lucy McKenzie and Luke Fowler, two of the other Tate artists, and events organised by Unit 13 and Generator.

Christopher said: "Dundee is quite small and everyone lived quite close to each other, within 10 minutes of the college.

"There was a bit of a sense of community, and not having commercial galleries forced people to look at all our alternatives for showing work."

Contemporary art

The artist, who is now based in London, said it was "really exciting" to be in the Tate show.

"It is definitely a very interesting take on what is happening in contemporary art," he said.

The artists featured include Dundee-born Scott Myles, whose work has already been bought by the Tate.

Professor Alan Robb
Given that there are about 60 art schools in the UK it is extraordinary that we have six graduates in this show
Professor Alan Robb

"It is nice to have your work acknowledged at quite a prestigious museum, but at the same time my process is ongoing," he said.

"It is not an end point but a nice punctuation in my career."

He also highlighted the importance of his peer group at the college, as well as some of the tutors.

His peers include Alan Michael, another of the artists featured at the Tate Triennial, with whom he shared a studio for two years.

The exhibitions they were involved in included Suburban Affair, which Scott instigated at his grandfather's house in Newport-on-Tay

"There was quite a strong sense of proactivity during that time," he said.

Prof Robb was head of fine art at Duncan of Jordanstone when many of the students were at the college.

'Core group'

He said there was no obvious link between the "diverse group" of artists who had been selected for the Tate show.

"In a sense it mirrors the route that we have taken over the last 10 to 15 years, which is to mix up the whole business of fine art with a lot of cross-boundary work, working between painting and sculpture and so on," he said.

"We have been punching above our weight for quite a long time, but it is interesting to suddenly see a curation like this where there is a real core group of our graduates.

The Scratch Orchestra 2005 by Luke Fowler
Luke Fowler is another of the former students whose work will be shown

"It caught my eye because I have not been aware of that number at a show like this before.

"Given that there are about 60 art schools in the UK it is extraordinary that we have six graduates in this show."

He said Dundee was a good place for looking after its artists, with about 80 former students staying to work in the city.

"Dundee has come a long way, and with Dundee Contemporary Arts coming on stream five years ago, art now has a high profile."

Looking to the new crop of artists coming through the college, Prof Robb said painting had a very strong presence in this year's upcoming degree show.

He said: "We like to focus on what the students are interested in and try to develop them individually.

"The pay-off comes when you see a curation like the one at the Tate."

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