20 Jun 2014

Tears and cheers for Glasgow’s class of 2014

When fire swept through Glasgow School of Art, many of the students’ degree projects were destroyed. On graduation day, Daisy Ayliffe hears from two students whose work was lost or badly damaged.

There were tears and cheers in Scotland on Friday morning as Glasgow School of Art’s class of 2014 finally graduated. Tears for the vast quantities of their art work lost to the blazing inferno that took hold in the Mackintosh building on 23 May.

And cheers for the heroism of the Scottish fire crews who, by forming a human shield, managed to save 90 per cent of their beloved school and 70 per cent of its cherished contents.

Fionnaula McGowan was a painting and printmaking student who was just four hours away from finishing her final degree show when the fire broke out.

“I saw smoke coming out from around my prints,” she said. “I was so confused. I heard the fire alarm and just left the building as fast as I could.”

Burned in seconds

Fionnnaula lost all of her final show in the fire. “I saw a video that evening of smoke coming out of my studio window and that’s when I knew my work was gone. I hadn’t realised how bad it was until that moment. It was paper and the fire would have burned it in seconds.”

Rosie Dalhstrom was a fourth year painter and printmaker too. Most of her work survived the fire, though much of it is covered in smoke and ash.

“It was totally random where the fire had got into. Some people’s work was completely destroyed while the person across the room, their stuff was intact. I can’t imagine how people who’ve lost all their work can feel. The whole point of the fourth year is to make a body of work that you can move forward from as a professional artist.

Sense of loss

“Everyone feels a sense of loss. Whether it’s for their own work, or for the Mackintosh building or for the degree show that never happened.”

This year’s graduates have no final degree show. Instead, the art school has asked each student to submit one photo for a “showcase exhibition”.

Showcase is a simple affair, a far cry from the hottest ticket in town-type show that Glasgow School of Art undergraduates are accustomed to.

But as Rosie Dahlstrom says: “The showcase exhibition is a very fair solution to totally unprecedented, chaotic circumstances.”

Working together

And she thinks there is a silver lining too. She says the fire has brought the class of 2014 together.

“Before the fire we were all going to go our separate ways, but now with money from the bursaries we hope to get, we can hopefully set up something good and keep working together.”

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