Skip to main content
A cast of a pair of combat boots. They're unlaced and slightly worn; an off-white colour standing on a marble pedestal

Sixteen students will exhibit at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) following a call to create their own responses to items from the Academy’s collection.

The Version Galore! project invited the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students to research and study first-hand the collection held at the RSA’s Granton facility, which was established almost 200 years ago and contains more than 3,000 artworks. 

They were invited to select and respond to an individual work held within the collection by making their own interpretation of it, either homage, copy, influence or critique. The development of their artwork was then supported through discussion groups, individual crits and field trips. The resulting collection of new artworks will be displayed at the RSA to coincide with the annual New Contemporaries Exhibition, open from 30 March to 24 April 2024. The project was led by ECA Lecturer Kenny Hunter.

“This exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy has allowed the students of ECA to share their artwork and research with a wider public, it has also given them the opportunity to work directly with a significant historical collection of Scottish Art.”

Kenny Hunter

ECA Lecturer

Among those exhibiting is Tammy Stewart, who said: “After an extensive search of the RSA’s Collection, I chose the painting ‘A night alarm in the cavalier camp’ by Scottish artist John Adam Plimmer Houston (1812-1884). The painting depicts a scene of the English Civil War, in which soldiers take refuge from battle around a campfire, playing cards and drinking, while an approaching armada descends. 

“Running with the theme of ‘Versions’, I decided to extract key elements from the painting, and chose to focus on the footwear of the soldiers, bringing historical war scenes into a contemporary light. I wanted to link it to my own family connections with Scotland and the British Army, so I decided to cast my veteran fathers combat boots. I used coade stone, a strong ceramic perfected by Mrs Coade in 1770 that mimics the hardiness of stone and can withstand severe weather conditions. The piece is called ‘Feet of Clay’. 

“I found the experience very rewarding. Being able to access an art collection so vast here in my hometown of Edinburgh was incredibly insightful. It was fantastic to gain first-hand experience from Lucinda Middleton, Acquisitions Co-ordinator, who helped to facilitate the visit to the collection in Granton. 

“I have learned a great deal from this project particularly working alongside the RSA, Collections Curator Sandy Wood and Kenny Hunter. They enabled a rich learning experience from the initial stages of an idea, to the making, execution and installation of a successful show; showcasing student artists and allowing them creative freedom and direction while still contributing and guiding the process.”

Ella Williams, also exhibiting, said: “I chose to focus on William Gillies ‘Interior’. I love Gillies’ work and was interested in looking at what was such an ambitious and personal work for the artist. I was intrigued by Gillies connection to ECA, where he was both a student and teacher for many years, and having looked into the history of ECA (as Gillies would have experienced it) I intended to reframe Gillies portrayal of a domestic space within its painting studios.

“I have painted a triptych of portraits of painting students within their studios- in reference to the original composition and colours within Gillies work. I wanted to represent these shifting studio spaces which have been host to so many different young artists over the years. 

“I have really enjoyed the experience of producing work as a part of this project, it’s been such a wonderful opportunity to be involved in and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the work on display at the RSA.

“In using an existing painting as the basis for my piece I’ve been able to examine my own practice more - looking at making a work that feels true to the original but also to my own style and work. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the other students involved and watching their own work evolve over the duration of the project.

Thomas Allcock said: “I chose Patrick Hennessy’s ‘A still life’ from the collection as originally, I was drawn to the discourse in the description of the work, which consisted of a long email chain between RSA staff and Hennessy specialists on whether the painting was actually a Hennessy or potentially a James Cowie. 

“My final piece of work, titled ‘A Labouring Life’, is a photographic reinterpretation of Hennessy’s painting exploring the contemporary connotations of what embodies the spirit of my hometown Newcastle: Greggs, Newcastle Brown Ale, the blue-collar workforce, and the steel industry. The artwork is an A2 Hahnemühle gloss rag photographic print, mounted on a stainless-steel plate locally sourced. 

“The opportunity to work with the RSA to curate and install an exhibition at this level is an absolute privilege and I think together with Kenny and the RSA team’s help, we have pulled together a well-executed exhibition that embodies the spirit of Version Galore!

“I have learnt practical artistic skills which I will be able to use within my practice from experimenting with new processes and externally installing my work. I have also seen what goes on behind the curtains for the whole process of an art exhibition and how much hard work goes into the installation process.”

The artists exhibiting in Version Galore! are:

Sean Obrzud, Eloise Considine, Emily Clubb, Alyssa Miller, Roshi Pradhan, Thea Moston, Finn Trevor, Thomas Allcock, Lily Waite, Hattie Quigley, Daisy Arkwright, Marni Saunders, Oliver Johnstone, Ella Williams, Tammy Stewart, Rob Humphris

ECA graduates exhibiting in this year's New Contemporaries exhibition are: 
2022: Harrison Armstrong, Olivia-Anna Boden, Mary Bowen, Agnes Brook-Sulman, Fyfe Daly, Pollyanna Esse, Rachel Glen, Madeline Howden, Tim Milner, Saffron Slater

2023: Billy Brown, Natasha Bucheit, Tegan Chaffer, Catriona Clark, Danele Evans, Remi Jabłecki, Berti McColl, Erical McCracken, Tracey Exton McShane, Iona Peterson, Charlene Scott, Ammna Sheikh

Meet our staff