UHI Inverness art student receives special prize at Graduate Showcase

UHI Inverness art student Elaine Chisholm received a special prize at the Graduate Showcase in recognition of her progress and talent.

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Elaine Chisholm's display featured structures woven out of New Zealand flax.

The four final-year students from the BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Practices course – Elaine Chisholm, Amy Storey, Victoria Smith and Jagoda Kryszczyszyn – worked together to stage the exhibition at the Inverness Creative Academy. It celebrated their achievements and highlighted their creativity, innovation and talent through various mediums.

Four women standing together holding flowers in an art gallery

The final-year BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Practices students Amy, Jagoda, Elaine and Victoria

Tertiary Education Leader Sharon MacFarlane presented the new Cass Art Prize to Elaine during the recent event, which was attended by friends, family and UHI Inverness staff.

Sharon described it as a “very proud moment” and said it was wonderful to be able to view the students’ work and see how they personalise and develop their art skills.

“They are a superb group of students who have studied with us through challenging years, which included the Covid lockdowns, and had to create an awful lot of their impressive work independently,” said Sharon.

“I also want to thank the super team of lecturers and staff who supported them throughout their time studying with us. We all look forward to watching these students continue to flourish as they move on to what we are sure will be fulfilling and exciting careers.”

A multi-disciplinary artist, Elaine’s display featured various structures woven out of New Zealand flax, etchings on steel plates, monochrome images and burnt gorse to highlight the issue of appropriating plant culture. The work explores materials and processes of Scottish and Māori cultures and the hidden histories within plants, in particular the non-native plant New Zealand Flax and its introduction to Scotland. The flax was traded for metal with Māori during colonialism and highlights the importance of recognising where plants come from. 

Elaine who was a single parent with no qualifications when she first joined UHI Inverness now plans to work as professional practising artist.

Amy reproduced old family photographs as embellishments stitched into large scale textile hangings. Victoria produced numerous portraits and Jagoda created displays and photographs featuring Barbie dolls.

Most of the group of students began studying at NC level and have spent the past five or six years progressing through the levels to achieve their honours degrees.

Rachel Fermi, Curriculum Quality Lead for Arts, Drama and Humanities, said: “We are delighted that our students have had the opportunity to work and exhibit in Inverness Creative Academy, a professional artist space that gives them unique access to creative professionals and opportunities. We are all excited to see what the future holds for this group of students.

“This is the first year of the Cass Art Prize at UHI Inverness. The art department is pleased to have the Cass Art store officially partner with us to support our students, especially in these uncertain times. This is a cash prize given in recognition of Elaine’s studentship and commitment to her studies and her art practice.”

During the week-long showcase First Minister John Swinney toured the exhibition and spoke to the students about their work.

The BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Practices course was developed to provide a direct progression for students graduating from the two-year HND in Contemporary Art Practice to allow them to complete their studies to degree level.