A Point of Departure

Artwork by final year Edinburgh College of Art Graduates, purchased by the University of Edinburgh Art Collection

By The University of Edinburgh

A story by the Centre for Research Collections

Notations: Edinburgh (2017) by India Cawley-GellingThe University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh College of Art

Founded in 1760, and gaining its present name and site in 1907, Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is a leading international art college located in the historic Old Town of one of the world’s greatest cultural cities. 

The Art Collection

In 2011 ECA formally merged with the University of Edinburgh, at which point its extensive collection of prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture were combined with the pre-existing 350 year old University Art Collection.   

Collecting now: Degree Show Purchase Prize

Each year students graduating from ECA take part in a showcase of the work produced over their Degree period. 

Over the past seven years the University of Edinburgh Art Collection has purchased 100 works by 50 artists from these annual Degree Shows. These  have often been the first works sold by the artists, and also represent the first time the University has bought art in a particular media.

One Pound Coin One Pound Coin (2017) by Lara HirstThe University of Edinburgh

This story

This story provides a selection of the artworks purchased from students at the Degree Shows. 

Alongside the artwork images are the words of the students; reflecting on their time studying at ECA, the making of their work, and what it meant to have their art collected.  

Jacopo Nani (2019) by Brandon LoganThe University of Edinburgh


I think for many people, myself included, degree show and graduation, though celebratory, mark the beginning of a very uncertain period. That considered, the timing of the acquisition offered some much-appreciated encouragement going forward outside of the art-school environment.

Brandon Logan  
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2019

Untitled (Sucker Darts) (2016) by James HowdenThe University of Edinburgh

“The Degree Show” has been embedded in every art student’s experience of being at art school. It has many different functions, it is: 

A rite of passage; Thinking and making made visible; A declaration of what is important and what is not; Evidence of learning; A transition between the end of something and the beginning of the next thing; A public showing of energy, commitment, rigour and hard work; A nervous time, a brave time;  A chance for parents to be proud or perplexed; My favourite time... 

Gordon Brennan
Former Head of Undergraduate Studies School of Art

Zane (2013) by Isobel TurleyThe University of Edinburgh

I felt like I had made something that might make a difference in some small way.   

Isobel Turley 
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2013

Cantilever Ring (2013) by Sally MorrisonThe University of Edinburgh

Body (2014) by Rachel HillThe University of Edinburgh

The first time I walked into the sculpture court, with its archways and high ceilings, I was terrified. I felt like a small fish in a very big pond! Over the years, I started to feel more and more comfortable in my surroundings. I got to know the building inside out, from the best printing press to the comfiest seat in the library. In my final year, I even bagged a coveted studio space with a view of the castle. I felt so at home. 

Rachel Hill  
Illustration - BA(Hons), 2014

I was amazed to hear that my prints had been purchased by the University of Edinburgh Art Collection. This was the first sale I had ever made, and it felt so momentous that these pieces that were so personal to me would become an archived piece of ECA's history.

Rachel Hill   
Illustration - BA(Hons), 2014  

North State (2014) by Tiina LiljaThe University of Edinburgh

I saw myself as a figurative painter throughout, but the development of my studio work was steep, shifting from surrealist experimentation into more refined compositions featuring cherished objects and iconic brands.  

Tiina Lilja    
Painting - BA (Hons), 2014  

More than anything else, these paintings were an acknowledgement - if not an homage - to the way I grew up and how far I had come.  [They include] the addition of my birthday, hidden in the lettering...

These were not the first artworks of mine to end up in a public collection, but they remain the most personal artworks I have sold, perhaps even painted.   

Tiina Lilja    
Painting - BA (Hons), 2014

Not For Gain (2016) by Daisy LaFargeThe University of Edinburgh

By the time I made this work writing was becoming the dominant part of my practice, and I wanted to use a lulling, seductive narrative rather than more direct polemic to explore questions around borders, pleasure, inclusion and exclusion, specimens and weeds, and the politics of naming.   

Daisy Lafarge  
Fine Art - MA (Hons), 2016   

The Repairable Flatpack Toaster The Repairable Flatpack Toaster (2018) by Kasey HouThe University of Edinburgh

During my study in ECA, I developed independent thinking and research oriented  product design strategies. 

Kasey Hou 
Product Design - MFA, 2017

Minoan Fertility Goddess Figurines Minoan Fertility Goddess Figurines (2017) by Daisy SilverThe University of Edinburgh

I am grateful to have studied the MA Fine Art course which offered both an academically rigorous degree and training in the practicalities of art-making. This twofold education has been deeply impactful in my career. Many of the research questions I developed under the tutelage of professors at the University have continued into my PhD studies.   

Daisy Silver   
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2017

Natural Geometry Series (a) Natural Geometry Series (a) (2015) by Robin CrawfordThe University of Edinburgh

I relished every opportunity to walk in the front door of the building each day I studied there. I felt immensely privileged to have such a huge opportunity to shine in my chosen discipline.   

Robin Crawford 
Glass - BA (Hons), 2015

Natural Geometry Series (a)The University of Edinburgh

Moths and Bees Moths and Bees (2018) by Jessica GassonThe University of Edinburgh

A lot of my research was about collections. Studying art history and art in conjunction on the Fine Art MA developed my interest in the relation between work in museums and in studios or colleges. To have my own work make this crossing is really exciting.    

Jessica Gasson 
Fine Art - MA (Hons), 2018   

Since graduating I’ve begun to realise just how lucky I was to be part of ECA. I took for granted the towering windows looking onto the castle and corridors of casts – works I now recognize with familiarity in the Uffizi or British Museum. 

Jessica Gasson    
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2018

Society Reproduces Doubt (2020) by Molly KentThe University of Edinburgh

Having a piece purchased by the institution where I’ve studied for the past five years and knowing it will be used to aid in teaching feels very different, an honour. 

Molly Kent 
Fine Art - MA (Hons), 2020

It’s important to note that everything is hand-made rather than being manufactured by someone else.The repetitive motion of continuously piercing the fabric establishes a rhythm that ultimately soothes and, during the process of making, it's incredibly easy to lose track of time whilst also losing track of negative thoughts. 

Molly Kent 
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2020  

Finial Finial (2018) by Jack HandsombeThe University of Edinburgh

I felt it was a fitting end to my time at the College of Art that the University sought to add my work to the collection where it is held amongst the other sculptures and casts which brought me to the college in the first instance.    

Jack Handscombe   
Fine Art – MA (Hons), 2018

Banners of the Banned Banners of the Banned (2017) by Elle McKeeThe University of Edinburgh

Having my work added to the permanent collection was hugely important to me because I hoped it would provide a snippet of the political and emotional context of an important time.   

Elle McKee 
Illustration - BA (Hons), 2017

Banners of the BannedThe University of Edinburgh

The purpose of the work seems just as relevant and important today as when I made it.  

Elle McKee  
Illustration - BA (Hons), 2017        

In the Garden (2019) by Zuzana UllmannováThe University of Edinburgh

Both of the paintings collected feel like they just 'happened'. I had rough sketches for both but those were more indicative of the movements I would be following in the making, the shapes and moods I thought of, than what the final image ended up being. I think I painted them out of curiosity and with less anxiety than painting often entails for me, probably because I was making a lot of other paintings at the time. 

Zuzana Ullmannová 
Painting -BA (Hons), 2019

I was familiar with the University Art Collection, I'd been to the stores and could imagine where my paintings would spend their time and what would happen to them. I was very happy to have my work appreciated and for it to be accessible for educational purposes. 

Zuzana Ullmannová 
Painting - BA (Hons), 2019

The Boundary of Balance The Boundary of Balance (2019) by Dong DingThe University of Edinburgh

Sculptural works hold jewellery pieces that can be removed and worn.  Each piece can be disassembled and re assembled by the wearer. Creating different compositions can change the state of balance.  

Dong Ding 
Jewellery & Silversmithing - MFA, 2019  

The work is kinetic with moveable parts that invite play.  Movement is influenced by counterbalanced components, interchangeable parts and the wearer’s body movement.  Through interaction with the work, the wearer is invited to play with the tension between balance and imbalance.    

Dong Ding 
Jewellery & Silversmithing - MFA, 2019    

Relic of Origins: Red Deer Relic of Origins: Red Deer (2013) by Kyle NobleThe University of Edinburgh

Getting involved

Edinburgh College of Art covers five subject areas: architecture and landscape architecture; art; history of art; design; and music, to offer a creative and supportive environment in which to study over 80 ground-breaking programmes. Find out more about studying at the ECA.

Artists and artworks in sequence:

India Cawley-Gelling, Notations: Edinburgh 2017
Lara Hirst, One Pound Coin 2017
Brandon Logan, Jacopo Nani 2019
James Howden, Untitled (Sucker Darts) 2016
Isobel Turley, Zane 2013
Sally Morrison, Cantilever Ring 2013
Rachel Hill, Body 2014
Kasey Hou, The Repairable Flatpack Toaster 2017
Tiina Lilja, North State 2013
Daisy Lafarge, Not For Gain 2016
Daisy Silver, Minoan Fertility Goddess Figurines 2017
Robin Crawford, Natural Geometry Series (a) 2015
Jessica Gasson, Moths and Bees 2018
Molly Kent, Society Reproduces Doubt 2020
Jack Handsombe, Finial 2018
Elle McKee, Banners of the Banned 2017
Zuzana Ullmannová, In the Garden 2019
Dong Ding, The Boundary of Balance 2019
Kyle Noble, Relic of Origins: Red Deer 2013

Credits: Story

Story by Julie-Ann Delaney, Liv Laumenech and Anna Hawkins, University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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