Black Cube Collective (BCC), an artist-led group founded in 2012, states clearly its aims: to provide a platform for emerging artists to learn, exhibit and further their careers. This annual show is a group display by such artists, not united by theme, material or ideology. To the uninitiated, however, the lack of labels and exhibition statement may make this already vast array of subjects difficult to digest. This is not a guided experience through the next wave of contemporary artists, rather, visitors must draw their own conclusions.
Scratching the surface of the assembled pieces does yield some underlying motifs. With the Scottish Independence Referendum results arriving on the same day as this exhibition, the number of artworks which examine identity gain a poignancy. Explicitly, Samantha Madonik’s ‘Cultures of Conflict’, a short documentary examining attitudes towards the independence debate both in Scotland and in Quebec has been forced by time to become retrospective. Now the artists and viewers alike can attempt to untangle the web of confusion faced by many voters, made evident by the ‘ums’ and ellipses of her interviewees, in the aftermath of this historic moment.
Moving away from overt politics, other works demand an introspective turn. Elizabeth Stewart’s immense woven piece ‘Nature vs. Nuture’ focuses on the child at the centre of the image wearing pop-culture pin badges, asking, perhaps, what role this plays in our own formation of identity. Harking to a more bizarre undercurrent within the Annual Show Penelope Matheson’s grotesque sculpture ‘Pecking Order’ utilises animal imagery to examine evolution, a reminder of our place in the natural world. The materiality of this piece and others in all three exhibition spaces is another interesting component of the show. The breadth of materials is impressive, from the ceramic painted bowls of Richa God’s ‘You Are What You Eat’ to the deep blue colours of Emma Rodger’s mixed media creations. The exhibition is almost tactile, a true celebration of visual art in all its guises.
However, bland prints and photography, prizing aesthetics over ideas, share these walls. The nature of the show perhaps explains the varied quality of work on display; this is a space for artists developing and honing their craft. Placing this exhibition in the wider Scottish context gives a more sympathetic view: the ongoing Generation exhibitions have been a successful celebration of the work of already renowned contemporary Scottish artists. If you’re looking for the next generation, however, perhaps you can dig for undiscovered treasure in amongst the offerings at BCC’s Annual Show.