Jonathan Vickers and Kerri Pratt

Surprisingly, the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award is only just beginning to be recognised as a significantly prestigious prize of national standing.  Surprising, because the Award, has now been running for sixteen years, with successful artists receiving a substantial bursary of £18,000, a nine-month residency in a rent-free studio, contribution to cost of materials, a solo exhibition at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery and input into teaching on Derby University’s Fine Art degree programme.  This makes it one of the biggest art prizes in the country, which not only gives the recipient the opportunity of being able to paint, uninterrupted, for a prolonged period in a dedicated space, but also creates the potential for the artist to be represented by an established gallery.   Major dealers are now paying attention to this biennial event, with London’s prestigious ‘The Fine Art Society – Contemporary’ now representing 2012/13 winner Bartholomew Beal, giving him a solo exhibition at their premiere venue this summer.

Established by the Derbyshire Community Foundation, with the aid of a legacy from the estate of the late Jonathan Vickers, the Award aims to bring ‘a rising artist to Derbyshire to produce work inspired by the county’s landscape, heritage and people’.  It has given painters Lewis Noble (2000/01), Kerry Hacker (2003/04), Helena Ben-Zenou (2005/06), Natalie Dowse (2007/08), Barley Beal (2012/13) a much needed boost to their careers, and by retaining one work from each artist is developing a collection of contemporary art of national importance that enriches the cultural life of Derbyshire.

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt is the latest painter to receive the award and will take up her residency in Derby’s Banks Mill Studios later in the year.  In 2011 she graduated from the University of Derby Fine Art BA programme with a 1st class honours degree, the Vice Chancellor’s Award and two University purchases to her name, having developed a working method that was painterly in its focus through restrained, yet adventurous, mark-making in the build up of semi-abstracted landscapes. Her large-scale paintings centre on personal responses to places, and in particular the built environment and urban setting, and it is here that the potential for a strong response to this year’s Award theme of ‘Our Treasure Houses’ can be realised. Her work hovers between pure abstraction and a defined concrete reality of architectural forms, with physical and illusory space in the image being flattened through a delicate layering, building and scraping back of paint surfaces, which still manages to present an apparently semi-readable view comprising of perspectival impressions.   It is this duality in the painting that allows for an open-endedness of interpretation where the viewer can delight in the restrained gesture and painterly qualities in themselves and, at the same time, become involved in attempting to read a more recognisable scene.  For a painter, such oscillation between the figurative and the non-figurative is no easy feat to achieve; yet Pratt succeeds in this time and again throughout her work.  She says about her practice “Taking inspiration from my surroundings, I have a curiosity for architectural spaces, drawn towards unusual forms, patterns and hidden layers. In particular I like to draw attention to subtleties of the apparently insignificant, things that are taken for granted, overlooked, mundane and banal. By deconstructing the landscape through a drawing process I am finding new ways of ‘seeing’ and responding to the built environment. This practical research then translates through experimental painting techniques, using a controlled approach, but with unpredictable outcomes.”

It is this dynamic between the ambiguous and the apparently readable that hints at the potential for developments to come, and interestingly she states her desire to underpin her practice throughout the residency with a rigorous approach to drawing.  It is this purposeful, focused and disciplined attitude that will ensure Pratt succeeds in producing assured paintings during her nine months on the Award.   Added to this, being born and raised in the local mining town of Heanor, makes her association to a prize that aims to take inspiration from the region’s heritage and add to the county’s culture genuinely valid.  It is the combination of a rigorous approach to practice, coupled with the authenticity of an artist linked to the region and local community, that will no doubt lead to the creation of work that is a genuinely personal response to the brief that nevertheless holds universal appeal.

During Pratt’s residency her work in progress will be available for viewing through Open Studio sessions at her Banks’ Mill Studios, with dates for these being advertised through her website and Twitter feed. Her solo exhibition of paintings from the residency will be held at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in September 2015.

Is it still worth going to the cinema?

No-one can deny the power of cinema, most of us agree that film has a unique power to move and inspire us, but in this tough economic climate, is it still worth going to the cinema? We are deterred by hiking prices of admission, peak time charges, extortionate costs of snacks and beverages, 2D and 3D screenings and online booking mishaps. On the other hand, can you put a price on seeing a film like Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave for the first time or spending your first date with your future love at the pictures? The debate has become even more relevant in the age of online streaming and Video-on-Demand.

Let’s face the facts, the cinema is the best possible place to watch films. Nothing can compete with a massive screen and a state of the art sound system. Watching a movie on the big screen is very different from watching it on a laptop or mobile device. Movies look far more cinematic and mesmerising on the big screen, especially when screened in the correct aspect ratio, whether it is 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Though cinemas offer a bigger and louder movie-watching experience, you tend to get a certain unsettling feeling that cinemas have turned into quite soulless and sterile entities. Nowadays most chain cinemas use digital projection systems to show films, meaning that the film is being played off a hard drive from a computer. A far cry from the loving portrait of the movie theatre as depicted in films such as Cinema Paradiso, Hugo and Ed Wood.

Cinemas just aren’t as glamorous as they once were and I for one still love going to the movies but often my experience is not as enjoyable as it could be. After paying over £10 to watch a film, all I ask for is for the film to be projected correctly in a quiet darkened room. I am usually treated to an unbearable barrage of annoying adverts that I have seen on television countless times, then followed by an eclectic mix of trailers and then finally finished off with a rage-inducing advertisement for an app that requires you to turn on your mobile phone to answer questions that a caveman, who has no idea of the concept of cinema, could probably get.

I appreciate the fact that cinemas have to earn their revenue back but these constant adverts are a real hindrance to the cinema experience. I can tolerate the adverts and everything else to a certain extent, but I don’t appreciate a film being advertised at 8pm only to start almost half an hour later. In fact, in recent weeks, I have often left the house at the exact time the screening is meant to start and after a 15 minute walk, I take my seat before the trailers have started. To many, the behaviour of the cinemagoers is often the most crucial point in my experience and most audiences are well behaved. The only time I have had a problem with my fellow cinemagoers, was in a screening of the remake of Carrie, where two teenagers were texting all the way through. Luckily the film was so bad that the eternal distracting glow of the phone screens made little difference to my enjoyment of the film.

Where I live, there is a chain multiplex cinema and a local independent. The chain multiplex offers the same sort of experience not too dissimilar to the one described above. The independent cinema offers a completely different experience, both with good and bad qualities. The independent offers a more personal and human experience with the walls adorned by movie posters and lobby cards of films long forgotten. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the venue is as grand as you can imagine, having being built in the 1930’s in the style of a vaudeville movie palace. The screen is not as great as one you would expect to see from a massive chain but you get the feeling that the cinema is based around treasured memories and emotion rather than action-packed spectacle. Their packed programme schedule is nothing short of a showcase of lesser-known titles, foreign releases and screenings of classics. We are treated to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur and a screening of the American classic, 12 Angry Men.

Perhaps, the greatest asset to the cinema is its sense of community. They are very willing to promote cinema in all its forms, showcasing student projects, local films and participating in film festivals, which you wouldn’t get the sprit anywhere in the brand. I feel that the service is worth the price of admission but they cannot accommodate to the blockbuster crowd.

I am aware that not everyone is able to go to the cinema whether its due to the cost, the hours that they work,  or where they live, Cinemas try to fulfil everyone’s needs but often its is not enough. Some people wish to the hustle and bustle gamble of going to the cinema and prefer to wait until the film is released on the home market, where they can enjoy watching it in the privacy of their own homes whenever and wherever they want. A lot of journalists and writers, especially Mark Kermode, who wrote a book about the various problems of modern cinema, have written about the death of cinema, suggesting that the film industry has become something of a cynical and desperate business. The great auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino compared watching a digitally projected film to watching “television in public” and if that is the state of modern cinema, then that is what it is. Some of us will stick to our independent sanctuaries but the age of the blockbuster is far from dead. It looks like the digital projection and sterile mega-chains will continue to rule the industry for decades to come, forever battling the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market.

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon: The Transcripts

DC: As an artist what is one thing that you still have yet to achieve that you would like to achieve in the near future?

 

JVL: I’m leaving my day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may the doorway to a full time arts career. Those are two elements to my immediate, known future that I need to play by ear. I think a lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but I’ve never picked up on that mode. Maybe it shows.

 

DC: For someone who might be viewing your work for the first time – how would you describe the processes and methods that go into creating each piece?

 

JVL: I work with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece. There are times where one area of the painting or drawing is set, and an instinctual timidity set in for the rest of the piece. The common reaction to that is “work the rest of the piece up to the same level of the area that is strongest”. Most the time, the section that is strongest first is lying. By intentionally disturbing the strongest areas, I’m replacing fear with an initiative. Not holding a part sacred over the whole has other implications, but that’s why my work consists of more than one layer. To be able to see the initiative.

 

DC: The combined processes that go into creating your work often seem extremely time consuming, how do you remain motivated to keep up with – and more importantly finish – each piece?
JVL: I’m not convinced I know how to finish a painting. I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think it’s a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more. The level of detail I work within facilitates that, but also diffuses the endpoint. Most my work focuses on small details of an idea rather than an overarching concept, so anything other than the detail-intensive work I’ve fallen into seems like a disservice.

 

 DC: Colour seems to act as a very important presence, within your paintings in particular – is the addition of colour simply another step in the process of creating your work that comes somewhat instinctively, or are there more conceptually driven decisions behind the colours you choose to use?

 

JVL: My use of colour is unassigned, and I prefer the less-is-more approach when using colour. It’s easy to lay down everything thick and bright, and I think each residual drawn or painted work emphasizes more control over that impulse. There’s surface-level implications with using a desaturated palette – it points to weathering, sun-bleaching, lack of maintenance, and the like. Even those obvious considerations are minimal to me, texture and value has always been more interesting to me than colour. Kaskaskia was one of the first paintings with extensive green I’ve completed in the past three years. 

 

DC: You have a particularly impressive web presence, how important do you consider it, as an artist, to get yourself and your work out there on the Internet?

 

JVL: It’s been unequivocally important, in the way of opportunity and career experience. There’s a lot of falsehood to endure when relying heavily on web presence, but I don’t perceive that as being different from more conventional approaches to the same objective. I’ve done my share of spending time trying to gain connections and forging relationships with people on a local level. Every artist I know goes through that, and dealing with the non-commitment of others can really wear a person down especially when their livelihood is at stake.

There’s a pushback with a lot of artists about using the internet on the level that I and others do, and it has nothing to do with age or a generational gap. Some people disagree with using the internet as a platform for artwork. The reason for dismissal is always fear-based. “My work doesn’t look good on a computer screen,” “Someone will steal my work,” “I don’t trust XYZ intention of the people looking at my art on their computers” “I will be exploited,” “it’s not the same experience,” “It’s not personal enough,”. I don’t care how contentious this is to say: It’s almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the internet. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, babies cry for a lot of different reasons but it all sounds equally annoying to my ears.

Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and it’s usually at no cost except for time. It’s still humbling to know my work is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence I’ve maintained online.

 

DC: Your aesthetic is “influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design” – how is it all of these different inspirations came together to help to create your work as it is today (is your work literally a representation of all of your creative interests in one space)?

 

JVL: I like to consider all the processes I was taught when making a piece, but it’s not necessarily a high-priority focus that a viewer recognize all the influence. My approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design. What a 12th century illuminated manuscript has in common with the advertisement for Target on the subway is that they are both made to structure information to the viewer in a way they normally wouldn’t see. I’m happy to have a lot of opportunity to act on that impulse through my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Are you ever tempted to recreate any of your paintings digitally?

 

JVL: I’m most interested in learning 3-D modelling at this point, for structures that would accompany or enhance my 2-D work. I hope to have an opportunity in the next year to test some ideas.

 

DC: Recently your paintings seem to have become much more three dimensional, almost suggesting a natural yet architectural growth. Was this change a conscious decision or just another natural progression of your work?

 

JVL: Up until the middle of last year, my work had architectural influence but intentionally lacked structure or conventional depth (tied to landscape or dimension). Stations / Colliders address space in a much more direct way, where what isn’t drawn into those spaces is of equal importance. They are also a more direct correlation between design and the act of drawing. They probably have more in common with the painted works than I think they do.

 

DC: Do you ever find it difficult to balance commission type work with your own creative projects?

 

JVL: I’ve been fortunate to have clients who give me space to continue my body of work, on commission. A lot of my work is commissioned with the understanding any new piece will be a sensible continuation of existing work.

JVL: I’ve been approached by a few different agencies/other entities for specific projects, but have been less inclined to take on a prompt birthed in a room full of marketing people/CDs who have never actually looked at my portfolio to know what I do best. I like being challenged by a prompt, not manipulated.

 

DC: How does the natural transition between ideas and pieces work specifically for you – is it all planned and sketched out before you start, or do you let it evolve and form into new work freely?
JVL: I don’t plan every piece. An old drawing teacher of mine basically said thumbnails and sketches are the devil, the notion of which I whole-heartedly reject. Some of my work needs to be fleshed out before the final piece starts, even considering that my painted work is full of live edits, and you can see that decision making in the final pieces. The figurative work I do is much more automatic, because it’s a destructive/deconstructive approach in comparison to my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Have you ever worked collaboratively with another artist/Would you ever be interested in working collaboratively with another artist?

JVL: I love collaborations but it’s difficult to find proper time to do anything like that in great depth. I’ve done some back-and-forth with Gabrielle Rose, Ben Sears, Ryan Humphry, Michael Chase and a few other friends. I’d like to do some extensive piece with Michael Canich.
DC: Has your work ever taken any dramatic turns either conceptually or in the way that you use materials and processes?

 

JVL: My work is drama-free, and non-toxic. I combine a lot of things that aren’t totally unconventional but not necessarily made to be combined. The mixtures can generate some surprises down the road as whatever chemistry I’ve created on the surface is dynamic and prone to change over time. That’s rare though, and I tend not to mess around too much if the work is commissioned.

 

DC: Had you always wanted to become an artist?

 

JVL: No way.

 

DC: What has been the most difficult part of reaching the point you are at today with your work and career?

 

JVL: Keeping the self-doubt out of my work, completely.

 

DC: Any advice for any practicing artists?

JVL: Don’t stop working, and don’t let your work get ugly.

 

DC: And finally, do you think art can be used to change the World?

I’m not concerned with that.

 

With Thanks to Jacob Van Loon.

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon

I dont care how contentious this is to say: Its almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the Internet.

These strong and opinionated words are those of Chicago based artist Jacob Van Loon, and as a successful artist with an impressive web presence, perhaps they are words best taken on board. Attributing the humbling fact that hiswork is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence [hes] maintained online.Obviously Van Loon is doing something right online that so many others are still missing out on; and with the wise and somewhat modern opinion that Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and its usually at no cost except for time surely all practicing (and wannabe practicing) artists should be following suit.

While Jacob Van Loons web presence might seem as if it takes up most of his time alone, his real passion lies in the artwork that he uses said web presence to advertise and reveal to the world. Working with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece Van Loon uses sharp lines, de-saturated colour, and a spectacularly steady hand to create impressively intricate yet bold drawings and paintings. With an aesthetic influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design, Van Loon is the first to admit that his approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design, aiming to represent this information and his influences in a fresh and unique way.

With such intricate and detail orientated work I had to know how any artist could possess such admirable motivation and determination. However, with his reply beginning with the statement, Im not convinced I know how to finish a painting, it seems as though Van Loon may be more like other artists than I first assumed. With the widely believed opinion that artists are never truly finished with their work ringing true in my mind, Van Loon adds I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think its a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon – Homan Square

I was surprised, however, to find that colour didnt play such an intrinsic role within the creation of Van Loons work as I had always assumed it did. My use of colour is unassigned, he stated, adding that he always preferredthe less-is-more approach when using colour. Stating thattexture and value [had] always been more interesting to [him] than colour. Everything makes a little more sense, as while colour does clearly play a large role in the overall aesthetics of the work, the texturing and appearance of layering is most certainly more key to each pieces individual success. This act of layering and texturizing within Van Loons work is even noticeable within his most recent works  works which also seem to relate more closely to his constant inspirations of design and architecture of a more direct correlation forming between design and the act of drawing.

Having already taken part in nineteen exhibitions since 2009, and with a handful of commissioned projects under his belt, it is no surprise that Jacob Van Loon expects to have a busy few years ahead of him. When asked about his plans for the near future, Van Loon commented that A lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but Ive never picked up on that mode - indicating that he prefers to set short term goals that can be taken on over a matter of years – or even months – rather than decades. With plans to leave his day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may be the doorway to a full time arts career - heres hoping that Van Loons career continues as successfully and impressively as it has started.

As an artist who is not concerned with whether or not art has or can change the World, I will leave you with Van Loons simple yet wise advice for any wannabe practicing artists;

Dont stop working, and dont let your work get ugly.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon

Learn To Be Happy

Its that time of year.  Degree shows are, for a BA Fine Art student, supposed to be the accumulation of everything you have worked for throughout your education; the beautiful and resolved results of your hard work which confidently asserts: I am An Artist.  I am ready for you, world!

Everyone in art school knows the legend of the Young British Artists (YBAs), who hosted the notorious Freeze exhibition which attracted the attention of Charles Saatchiall while many of them were still students studying at Goldsmiths. 

Oh, youll nominate me for the next Turner Prize? You flatterer!

I think many of us secretly believe that we will be snapped up at our degree show Private View and will be whisked off our feet by some Scandinavian gallery manager who wants to photograph our work for big coffee table books; or perhaps the editor of Frieze magazine; they might want to feature you in an article about the next generation of art graduates

Whats that? You want me to represent England in the next Venice Biennale? You charmer!

You may think Im exaggerating, but the little mounds of bespoke business cards bearing websites and contact details illustrate my point.  And of course, weve worked so hard and overcome so many obstacles,(and painted so many bloody boards white!) it feels only fair that we should be rewarded for it. 

According to David McLeavy, an ex-Hallam Fine Art student, the truth of the matter is that the sudden rise to artistic infamy doesnt really happen, at least not very often in regional cities like Sheffield.  The YBAs are an exception.  But that doesnt mean that there cant still be success for us, the recently graduated.  I first met David McLeavy when we both worked at Lush Cosmetics: I had just started my first year in Sheffield and he had just finished his degree and was working in order to fund his studio at S1 Artspace which he had won through a bursary scheme.  That year, Dave learned how to juggle working at Lush with his artistic practice, alongside setting up a new exhibition space in Sheffield, Snig Hill Gallery.  Since then, Dave has curated shows, facilitated new collaborations between artists, and founded Young Artists in Conversation (YAC), a project where interviews with up-and-coming artists are recorded and archived online.  Dave, with several exciting projects already under his belt, typifies successful graduate

When we leave the relatively comfortable safety net of university life (cheap bus fares, 10% student discount at Topshop), it can be hard to adjust to life outside the bubble.  We have to get jobs, pay council tax, be grownups.  Nationwide, there are schemes through university or galleries which can help graduates to bridge the transition from art school into the real world, and for those who have secured schemes like this, you may already have contacts and even an upcoming show.  But sometimes art practices can be forgotten while we get our lives sorted out; sometimes we fall in love or start a career in a totally different sector; perhaps we cant afford to rent a studio and dads garage just isn’t hitting the spot.  But there are different kinds of success, there are different races to be won. 

I felt more satisfaction hosting the Degree Show Private View, handing out cocktails and icing fairy cakes, than I did actually making and installing the artwork in the show.  Success should come hand in hand with happiness, so for me, success will not be as an artistit doesn’t make me happy.  Out of all my peer group, I think only a small handful intend to make art in the future: many are going on to teach, some have got jobs lined up already and one is starting a family.  But in different ways, we have all succeeded; we have all found out what art means to us and we are all closer to finding out what brings us happiness.  Its the time for existential thinking, but also the time for end-of-degree partiesmaybe you cant have the former without a healthy dose of the latter.

Edafu Colli – Threading Loss

Natalie Kate Lloyd presents a live performance that directs the viewer through a sculptural and photographic cartography, exploring the experiential memory of natural landscapes‘.

Edafu Colli is an installation performance created by Natalie Kate Lloyd as part of her degree at the University of Brighton. The installation both echoes and references her experience with the natural landscape and the memories of it through the manipulation of the space and the presentation of reflective imagery, object and movement.

The term ‘Edafu Colli’ is a Welsh term that can be translated as ‘threading loss’. The title is referencing the physical connective threading between the images and objects placed within the space, Lloyds choreographed activity, and the strict directive movements performed.

Edafu Colli

Natalie Kate Lloyd

Objectively, the installation contains images of local or visited landscapes that Lloyd has sentimental connections with. Certain visual works contain layered visual representations of the threading, but are overpowered slightly by the scale of the supporting installation. Supporting this is a large wooden frame constructed to interrupt the white space in which the installation is placed; behind the bars of wood is an upturned tree root, twined with the surrounding frame. This acted as a subtle visual reference to a found object of similar quality as seen in a previous documentation of the work - the object being driftwood.

On earlier inspection, I was able to investigate the space pre-performance in order to familiarise myself with the images and to embrace the installation as an artwork. This privilege is shared with any viewing member of the public as the installation is open as a space both pre and post performance. From this, I was able to inspect the smaller supporting images pertinent to the subject; the images are documentary representations of the visited landscapes, positioned in a way that the smaller images are threaded with larger more prominent memories. Small details such as the composition and the placement of the images could have been revisited in a way so there is a subtle refining, in order to preserve the installations objective qualities and its visual coherence. Exploring a darkened space as opposed to a naturally illuminated room would be a potentially beneficial inquisition.

The most immediate stimulus is the collection of slate fragments on the floor adjacent to the door; signs of human interaction are evident in the marks left from previous interactions.

As the performance is prepared, the usher greets the audience into the room. The viewer is immediately confronted by Lloyd, who is leaning with support from a black loop of thick material, which is attached to the wall out of direct eyesight, her weight supported in faith by this cord.

Her orientation is relatively imposing, in relation to the expanse of the room, forcing the viewer to make a decision – whether to stand near her from the front, or to traverse beyond her and view her movement from a different standpoint. This decision can alter not just the visual perspective but the experiential perspective the viewer is presented. The slow directional movement from left to right conveys a narrative that visually leads the viewer, and also draws attention to the strategically placed images, echoing the subject matter and becoming an extension of the work through the tension of the cord and the chronological movement through the room.

On first viewing I felt compelled to view her from a distance, as she interacted with the loose slate, to allow for the flow to describe the narrative she intended and to also broaden my view of the peripheral content.

Her gradual movements of interaction with the slate bare connotations that demonstrate a revisiting of physicality of the memory, whilst literally battling with the tension of the cord and the precariousness forced by the fragmented slate.

The transitions from one movement to another are executed pristinely; a lack of fluidity would drain the viewers’ focus from the objects to the performers fallibility. Lloyd’s transitions are subtle, but all are appropriate when drawing the focus of the viewer to the supporting stimulus. The performance encapsulates Lloyd’s intentions very clearly, to draw attention to the memories that are displayed as photographs, and to draw the viewer through the installation through her clockwise movement.

On second viewing, there was a more substantial audience, which proved to offer a different perspective for my viewing and also the viewing audience. The attendees impulsively crouched underneath Lloyd’s taut cord and immediately viewed the work from a reverse perspective, this as stated before would provoke a contrasting perspective on the performance, which isn’t necessarily inhibited by the presence of the performer. I personally found that following the chronology presented in the installation allowed for the narrative to build, as Lloyd intended.

The climatic stage of the performance includes Lloyd drawing herself near the proximal point of her cord, controlling every movement with strict attention, and detaching from the support. Then she takes a hammer and begins attaching a pre set image of the previous take of the performance to the wall with attentive precision. The solidification of the final images’ symbolism resonates through the entire performance, offering a progression towards a conclusive ending.

Lloyd’s personal development is focused on refining her attention to detail, both the objective details and impactful qualities of her motions. This is naturally achieved through her involvement in the performance.

The subtleties of her work accumulatively substantiate the installation, where her interaction with the space finalises the entire work.

Fresh from NUA

Every summer the studio spaces within the historic St. Georges Building of Norwich University of the Arts, which houses the creative activities of its resident fine art students, is cleared. The messy, productive and often quite chaotic spaces find themselves stripped bare and revamped in order to house work (of the graduating students) in a much more purposeful manner.

Shared working environments, such as shared or artist-run studios (the kind one accepts rather expectantly as a student) provides a fascinating environment in which to work; immersive and diverse, these working environments are the ideal breeding ground for creativity. To see such unrefined creative activity translated into such an eloquent display of emerging talent is utterly refreshing and in this sense NUAs 2014 Fine Art Degree Show does not disappoint; an absolute assortment of artistic practice, work throughout this show spans the traditional to the Avant-garde, challenging notions of artistic practice, ways in which work can be made and ways in which making itself can be thought.

Shared studios are the catalyst for creative discourse and dialogue; shared conversations, common interests and communal discussion are echoed through the display of work. The show is not themed per say, although making ones way round one is aware, in a rather poetic sense, of conversations that have taken place between practitioners and dialogue that is taking place between work.

One such conversation may implicate craft or craftsmanship, work across the breadth of the show appears to be heavily involved with its own making and visually demonstrating such processual activity. Davide Lakshmanasamys Untitled, standing authoritatively on the upper landing, is a stunning example of craftsman-like methodologies of making. Positioned domineeringly, the immensely strong and exceptionally certain characteristics of  Lakshmanasamys work sits in tentative contrast aside the ever-in-flux curatorial compositions of Michaela DAgati. DAgatis installation, which is not titled collectively, but lists each work individually, calls into questions contemporary drawing practice. Through processes of hand, mind and eye, elements of her work gracefully and purposefully negotiate the space in which they reside. Through the interaction between the objects and their space, the physical presence of the space itself is brought to one’s attention, one becomes immediately aware of certain characteristics and nuances of the space shared by oneself and the work. In dialogue with the spatial occupancy of DAgatis work, Francesca Cants Moving Hinged Screens, which invite participatory activity, cleverly ensue the negotiation of space by means of a viewers interaction. The four hinged wooden structures, which frame semi-transparent windows, are intended to be moved; the work either finds itself repositioned in which case the mover defines the space they are in, or remains in its current position, where the structure defines the space and how one might negotiate it.

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Michaela

When I Remember, a work by Emma Jones, sees photographs from her childhood reduced into single colours, papers are printed in these autumnal shades and are then folded to create a constellation of origami-like objects which weighted to a single point seem to float upward like a procession of ascending lanterns. Like in Jones work where meaning is subverted behind a fairly minimal faced, Helen Pifferos, a work comprised of two large canvases, becomes an almost political stance against knowing in terms of viewing work. Behind a really rather physical making, involving as much the removal of paint as well as its application, a very visual façade invites contemplation and reflection.

Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Giles Basons Pari Passu, which quite plainly has involved a meditative and tranquil process of making, invokes the same in its viewer. Its utterly subtle, elegant appearance boasts meticulously and lovingly carved ash wood. The works concrete bases are imprinted with wood-like grain and each one, beautifully sculpted by hand, takes on a life of its own as an individual. Staged in front of a large glass window, Basons work coexists with nature and stunning natural light. Although logic tells us, that these sculptural forms have been whittled down to their current physical presences, they appear very much to have manifested naturally from seedlings, even their concrete bases taking on an organic quality with the subtle wood-like textures engrained in their surfaces.

Giles Bason

Giles Bason

In the work of Adam T. Burton, whose digitally made film Those Personal Machines of Transcendence is intentionally disrupted to give this difficult-to-view media a certain amount of tangibility, the materiality of what Burton creates is very much at the forefront of his practice; HD footage is paired with animated light bleeds and virtual camera faults and gives the impression that Burton is working with a media much more physical than is actually the case. The footage sees Burton returning to his hometown, a place he left at the age of 19, where he shoots an array of eerie scenes in which images of the 70s housing estate in which he grew up, seem not to move at all. The film is not made nostalgically, lovingly or emotionally, instead Burton seems to demonstrate a disconnect between himself, his camera and his subject. In the gallery, Burtons work is viewed initially through the semi-transparent views of Alana Webbs Oculi, Formulation I, in which the traditionally city-scape is completely transformed; windows photographed by Webb whilst exploring the city at night induce our most voyeuristic and inquisitive nature. Unlike with Burtons work, Marcia Xs The Gonzo Museum of Ethnology presents: Diasporic X, also introduces the viewer into new surroundings. Traveling back to Puerto Rico, a place that X hadnt visited in fourteen years, she has retuned with her memories. Whilst immersed in Xs work, one does not find oneself in a recreation of Puerto Rico itself, but an installation in which she curates an identity for herself; one which draws on cultural and social idioms, one which stands against the notion of having an identity created for her. Invited to play dominoes with X, she invites the viewer (and people from other parts of the world) to connect with her, in the same way that friends and family connect in Puerto Rico, through the playing of dominoes.

Alana Webb

Alana Webb

Elyn Middleton in her work Look Up Look Down Look all Around, removes a section of the gallery wall to allow one to peer through, not only to the stunning view through the window behind but to the original and paint spattered wall of this historic building. A glimpse which is mirrored and balanced with subtle material gestures; steel rods balance precariously in the space between the original wall and the much newer gallery wall, small rectangular pieces of painted wood are positioned matter-of-factly on the floor and a box-stool which becomes part of this rather curatorial arrangement has the much more practical role of allowing one to see.

The NUA fine art degree show is also quite heavily involved with more theoretical discussion; the catalogue brings aspects of contemporary art practice into question boasting the work of artist Cornelia Parker who demonstrates her playful methods of making and a conversation with artist John Wallbank focused on the subject of process. The theme of accessibility is discussed through a text comprised of the ideas of artist Jo Addison, writer Victoria Mitchell and curator Marcus Dickey-Horley, whilst Mark Wilsher through his text Dont Stop, talks of continuing practice after art school. Conversations and dialogues are formed and cemented with the presence of research and resource material from each student artist and a well-informed resource area attempts to expand on dialogue with its audience around potential of art practice today.

The Degree Shows at Norwich University of the Arts open on 1st July and runs until July 8th; they boast many more incredible works and talented practitioners.

Photos by Joseph Doubtfire.

The Wind Rises – A Farewell to Hayao Miyazaki

Wind Rises

On the one scorching Scottish summers day, of the year probably, I sat alone in my local cinema screen, anticipating the experience of Hayao Miyazaki’s farewell Studio Ghibli film. As a second audience member entered the dark empty room, we glanced a look of understanding and approval; we had both made a fine and wise choice on how to spend this sunny afternoon.

The darkness began to unfold into a bright other world. A recognisable world full of imagination familiar to any Ghibli fan. However, The Wind Rises departs from Miyazaki’s distinctive style of magic and mythical creatures, providing audiences with something slightly more mature.

Based on a true story, the 72 year old visionary director portrays the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an aspiring engineer fascinated by the creation of airplanes. We embark upon a journey spanning from Jiro’s innocent childhood dreams, through the hardships of his life, and to the end reality of his accomplishments as a renowned airplane designer during WW2. Although the inspiring beauty within Jiro’s dreams and passion is unmistakable, Miyazaki’s use of juxtaposition allows the exploration of serious ethical issues. Supporting our protagonist dreams and success is fundamentally supporting the creation of machines that aided the Nazi Regime and caused many deaths.

We see this moral contrast within Jiro’s dreams. The endless blue skies and vivid colours prove Miyazaki’s escapism into imagination and fantasy is still definitely present, but we also see the opposite in Jiro’s nightmares. He foreshadows the future with flames and death, and cannot dismiss his guilt of what his magnificent designs will eventually be used for.

On the one hand we have a gentle and enchanting story, accompanied by a delicate soundtrack and adorable characters. On the other hand we explore issues of poverty, the economy, natural disasters, death and war. Although more of a war-time drama than Miyazaki’s fantastical classics like ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away’, the adult protagonist and serious themes aren’t just for adults and in fact could be a great beacon in enticing children to analyse aspects of history and humanity. Seeing Miyazaki’s delightful animations swiftly changing from happy faces to distress and panic really exerts feelings of empathy, and proves animation can be a very powerful device.

Life lessons of never giving up on your dreams, the importance of family and love, and the kindness of strangers are further simple philosophical themes that are lightly, but faultlessly expressed. Jiro is quite a simple protagonist, and may even seem slightly dulland lacking in personality. However, it is his morals of life that make him our hero.

Auteurist’s believe that the style of a director should be individual and identifiable, and Miyazaki definitely exudes this quality. The impressive visuals and attention to detail within The Wind Rises is standard within Studio Ghibli productions, as is the lyricism present within its narrative. Only they could make the labour of industrial technology beautiful and romantic. The consistent visual style invites us into Japanese culture through its unique aesthetics of Japanese homes and architecture. We observe the characters sitting on traditional Japanese floor mats eating food and conversing. These low shots render an intimate atmosphere. The customs and mise-en-scene designs are standard within Japan, but provide an intriguing quality to audiences not accustom with the Japanese way of life, and the fine details of these drawings are truly mesmerising.

Miyazaki cleverly inserts the concept of retiring into his retirement film, and leaves us fuelled with one last dose of inspiration, an element unceasingly sustained within his animations. In the beginning a simple gust of wind introduces Jiro to his true love, and later, brings them back together again. The wind also provides the inspiring quote that sums up the film’s philosophical nature very nicely. Given to us through fellow retiring artist Caproni, perhaps this allows us to pretend it’s Miyazaki speaking to us himself: ’The wind rises! We must attempt to live!’ The original words of French Poet and philosopher Paul Valery, and now the epic farewell to a genius director. Now we must attempt to live without the prospect of more beautiful and magical Miyazaki films.

The Wind Rises

The Uncomfortable Truth Behind Your Creativity

A few years before I moved to the UK and still lived in my hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. I was dating a guy who I met through my friend’s brother. He was everything I wished for as a 19-year-old girl. He played in a band, had long hair, tight jeans and a room wallpapered with posters of one of Sweden’s top pop bands; Kent. After a few weeks of modest dating, he asked me if I wanted to come and listen to the their upcoming gig that would take place the following weekend. I enthusiastically accepted the invitation and ended up in the front row of the intimate crowd among the friends and family who were there to listen. The bright lights of the stage went down and converted into a dim headlight of blue and red colour, as the bass and keyboard’s melodies spread across the cramped venue.

I recognised it so well. The squeaky synth and the angst filled lyrics describing empty cities, concrete buildings and black painted hearts.

After the show, halfhearted applause and a light kiss on the forehead, he asked what I thought. With blushing cheeks I nodded and said I liked it, avoiding the uncomfortable truth that it all was a total rip off, a stolen sound from the big idols he so delicately taped to his bedroom walls.

When you engage in the creative sector, whether it is art, music, writing or any other creative profession, there is a basic knowledge that the fact of surrounding yourself with the work of others will help your own creative process. It will help you to develop your artistic skills and techniques, give inspiration to ideas and help you on your way to discovering your own creative identity.

Although this may be rewarding and supply basic tools for one’s creative development, it is something that my friends and I are often resistant to. The conversation about being one with your ideas and finding confidence in the fact that they are yours from the very start often winds its way into our discussions. For we all have them, our sources of inspiration. The role models, exhibitions and significant works of others that so easily trigger our creative initiative that fuels our own art. We study them, imitate them, become inspired by them and surround ourselves with them on a daily basis because we are told to, because it’s supposed to help us.

During my high school years in Sweden, I took a creative writing course to improve my writing skills. At this time I had a friend whose sister was a spectacular character. She always ended up in all sorts of absurd situations and we could spend hours on my friend’s living room couch talking about her latest antics and conquests. I’d write down these stories in my bedside writing book before I went to sleep, and gradually those small random notes evolved into a short novel that my teacher marked to the highest grade. But instead of being proud of my improvement, my entire body was filled with guilt. The character was not my own, the events taking place in the story were told to me by someone else. How could I call this story a creation of my own? Did it belong to me or someone else?

I have a consistent fear within my creative mind, of the day when I suddenly end up there in the dim blurred spotlight with everyone pointing out the bits and pieces that belong to the others before me, the ones that I have surrounded myself with for so long and passionately. Facing the fear that, of all those pieces, not one belongs to myself.

My influences feel annoyingly transparent and all I want to say already feels said. For many years, my idols, role models and sources of inspiration have felt more like a burden than a strength. A flock of demons that sit on the top of my shoulder gently reminding me that my originality only exists in my imagination.

For me, originality and success go hand in hand. In order to be successful in the artistic sector I must contribute with something new, something innovative. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant but what is important to recognise is the ambitious stress this sort of mindset creates. It will slow your creative process down to zero.

Over the years I have discovered that the projects I start in my own intimate and personal space for my own enjoyment, away from the perceived eye of the public, is the projects I get the most out of. They are not there to be revealed or tracked down. It does not matter anymore if my source of inspiration shines through and reveals traces of creativity that once belonged to someone else. That stress is no longer there and at last I have succeeded.

How do I learn to manage the unbearable thought that nothing I create is coming straight from my bare mind? By recognising that all my ideas are intrinsically connected to my inspiration, that the two are inseparable and that it would in fact, be a great injustice to remove one from the other.

David Bowie once said, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from”.

Reading this eased my mind to such an extent that I realised that once I accept that my work is no different from anyone elses; A sack of stolen goods from everything I see and hear everyday mixed with my own initiative, my creative work process not only becomes more enjoyable but also more rewarding, and allows new ideas to take more accommodation than what I normally would allow for in the hotel of my mind.

Learning to embrace my influences instead of hiding from them has helped me to be more confident in my creative process, I now realise the beauty in being able to find ideas in someone else’s work and to strive for the goal that someone, someday might do the same in my own.

This may not be a truth covered in shiny gold but it is a truth you can relate to.

TH4Y

TH4Y – They Had Four Years

TH4Y is an annual exhibition held by GENERATOR that invites graduating artists around Scotland to submit proposals towards the production of new work. The newly commissioned work of 2014 belongs to the Brownlee Brothers, Flo Gordon, Jonny Lyons, Ailsa Mackenzie and Mary-Beth Quigley. The common bond that exists between the artists is that their practise resides in the idea of the conflicting desires of escapism from the expectations of day-to-day life. Alongside these themes there is the obvious shared use of humour and reflections on childhood that throws the viewer into a world of colour.  The colourful works excite the viewer and entice them into an edible world of art.

The Brownlee Brothers are drawn to macabre folklore and urban legends in contrast to the initial colourful playground that belongs to Flo Gordon and Ailsa Mackenzie. The Brownlee Brothers have created a sinister atmosphere that radiates throughout the dim gallery through the use of their suspended bronze sculpture. They attempt to imitate an object such as a censer, associated with Free Masonry and Catholic ceremonies. The sculpture is filled with incense and burned each day. This performance in itself is ritualistic and challenges the dark and unsettling nature of secret societies and religion. The atmosphere that surrounds the object is overwhelming and is uncomfortable for the viewer. For the masses that are unaware of secret societies, they are able to consider the role they play in relation to our daily life.

 

To compliment this dark theme is the work of Jonny Lyons. Lyons work was inspired by St. Minias, the first Christian martyr of Florence. According to legend, Miniato was an Armenian king who became a hermit in a cave on the hill of Mons Fiorentinus. In 250AD he was denounced and persecuted for being a Christian as he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Miniato had undergone various torments, most of which he emerged unscathed and eventually he was beheaded. Lyons creates a film that considers the beliefs of Miniato in conjunction with the ideas of lost boys putting their outlandish ideas into practise. Alongside the screening of the film, Lyons has created a functioning sculpture of a wooden gun that is displayed on the gallery floor. I fail to see how Miniato relates at all to Lyons’ film. The wooden gun is pointed at a man’s head continuously. It appears more suicidal than any kind of respect to Miniato although it could be viewed very loosely as a statement to the saint’s martyrdom.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of Lyons’ work however the tribute to St. Minias appears to be a cock and bull story to complement the gun.

Generator Projects

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

This leads onto the colourful work of Flo Gordon. Gordon is interested in colour combinations and the irregularity of shapes. Sensory perception is a key aspect in the artist’s work with what looks like a giant cake portrait of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Alongside this, placed on the floor are duvet fried eggs that resemble giant Haribo. Flo is considering the concept of edible colours and contains a humorous approach. I was lingering in the gallery with the hope to reach for a giant Haribo. The garish colours clash with the darker themes of The Brownlee Brother’s and Lyons’ work yet it provides a lighter atmosphere leaving the audience to reminisce of childhood dreams.

The GENERATOR is a great venue in Dundee for emerging artists. It is unfortunate that the city offers a lack of gallery space for upcoming artists and I admire the strength of the GENERATOR projects to aid artists from Duncan of Jordanstone and also from other art schools across the country. As a recent graduating artist myself I understand the difficulties that they all face.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Flo Gordon on life after art school and quizzed her on the very issue as well as her art work and more;

DF: Your work is very playful. What was the initial inspiration behind these works and have you always been interested in these ideas?

FG: I have one rule that I make work by and that is: do what you want. I make a lot of my art without question until it’s finished and then I’ll figure out what compelled me to make it – there’s always a reason. I have lots of different interests but the most prominent in my work to date would be my belief in instinctive humour, the psychological effects of colour, abstract ideas of faith and the way in which modern science threatens our sense of reality in benign ways.

DF: Was Mr Blobby a personal favourite of yours or does he have a deep cryptic meaning?

FG: I actually hardly ever watched Mr Blobby when I was young because he freaked me out. Though every time I saw him, then (and now), I would think of cake. I love ‘edible’ colours and how they speak directly to your sub-conscious urges.

 DF: Life after art school was always going to be hard. How did you find entering reality?

 FG: I had a few great opportunities given to me which have kept me busy for most of the year so I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense. However, the change in working environment was quite hard to adapt to. After University I moved home because it made sense financially. At University they tell you about the problems with money and juggling jobs with your practice but they never tell you about how lonely it can get working on your own. Some people work well in solitude but I was surprised to find that I benefited from a lively environment. I now live away from home and have gotten myself a communal studio space. I half-jokingly explain to people that I am paying for my mental health.

DF: Do you have any advice for the current emerging graduates?

 FG: Apply to everything. There are a lot of opportunities that are for recent graduates only, so lap them up while you can. Even if you don’t think you’re quite right for the application or vice versa, have a pop at it because a lot of these things are pretty flexible.

Brush off the rejection e-mails. With lots of applications, come lots of rejections. If you compiled a list of all your favourite artists and had to choose just one… it’s really hard! Just because you didn’t get it doesn’t mean your crap. Keep the faith and keep working.

Do what you want. Don’t feel confined to the art you made at University. I’ve met ‘established’ artists whose art totally contradicts their personality and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been pigeon-holed into a type of work for which they are admired but they don’t necessarily like themselves. To me that seems sad like sleeping through your holiday.

Don’t be a pushover but don’t be a dick. This comes from personal experience and interactions with galleries; If you have a vision, don’t feel embarrassed to re-iterate instructions that are important to you. However, be considerate, respectful and generally an all-round lovely person because that helps with everything.

DF: Do you think it is important to encourage emerging artists and do you think that they have a place in society today?

 FG: Absolutely. We are definitely outcast a little and that’s mostly because people are fearful of those they don’t understand but all you have to do is talk about your work in layman’s terms once in a while.

DF: Do you have any plans for the future?

FG: I’ve just come to the end of quite a busy period so I’m just starting to make some new work and properly enjoy my new studio http://thenumbershop.org which coincidently will have a few shows on this summer.

TH4Y

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

Meetin Marina; 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery

I remember the first time I heard the name Marina Abramović. It was during a lecture in my first year of university – I’d opted for a term of performance art workshops, with the intention of throwing myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible (I knew I’d chosen correctly when our tutor’s first instruction to the group was to walk through the university’s campus barefoot and in single file).

As that particular week’s session was coming to a close, our tutor handed us all some additional reading material – a stapled booklet of photocopied excerpts from several articles about the work of Marina Abramović. Later, as I began to skim through the text in the silence of my bedroom, I quickly became engrossed in the story of someone who not only created art work but seemingly lived it out.

Now pegged as a matriarch within the realm of performance art, Marina Abramović has fostered a career spanning the last 40 years. In that time, she has repeatedly challenged her audience as well as her own body, carving out an area within art that requires both physical and mental endurance. Some of her most famous works required Abramović to push her body to its limits, sometimes until she lost consciousness and was unable to continue. A piece, part of her ‘Rhythm Series’ literally left her life in the hands of her viewers: providing a table of objects and implements (which included thorns, a blade and a gun with a single bullet) she resolved to stay passive for 6 hours, while the audience could use what they pleased on her. Despite what might sound confrontational to some, I don’t believe her work revolves around the danger or even the risk but would say that it is rather concerned with the very nature of being alive; of being conscious and present and with the point where you can no longer maintain this state.

It was the 2002 work A House with the Ocean View that I was first reading about – for this piece, Abramović spent 12 days in the Sean Kelly Gallery, consuming nothing but water. Her dwelling place consisted of three raised ‘rooms’ that acted as bedroom, bathroom and living space, each of them open to the public’s gaze. When talking about her desire for the exhibition, Abramović has said that by cleansing her own body through fasting and ritual, she was opening up a space in which anyone who entered would be free of time and purely in the present. By dedicating the gallery in this way, she even hoped to affect the space on an atomic level. I’d never before heard of an artist who confronted their audience so powerfully (and literally) while remaining so vulnerable.

In the hour that I stood awaiting my entrance to the Serpentine Gallery – on the opening day of Abramović’s new exhibition 512 Hours – I could feel the anticipation of the event building. Being in the present; what does that really mean? The question swirled in my mind as I stood with the friend who’d accompanied me, both of us speculating as to what we might be about to experience. I wondered if it would be similar to her 2010 MoMA performance The Artist is Present; a one on one encounter, sat facing the artist herself. I’d heard that that particular work had evoked tears in many of the people who came to sit with her; I wondered if I would cry, if that was what was to happen.

Marina Abramovic

Image courtesy of Serpentine Gallery, Laura Ferrari, Rahi Rezvani and Marina Abramovic.

A gallery staff member was moving down the queue, informing all those waiting, of the exhibition guidelines: we were to remain silent and to leave all bags/watches/technological items behind before entering. We edged closer to the front of the queue, excitement sparking as if we were about to be let on to a rollercoaster. When it was our turn to go inside, I felt my heart leap in my chest as we briskly moved through to a locker room. Already the air was different; the assistants gestured in silence, their faces warm and calm. Feeling already naked without the objects I’d come with, my friend and I exchanged an inquisitive glance and quietly crossed into the main gallery space.

People; just people. My eyes darted around the room, searching the space for an understanding of the layout. Standing facing the walls, sat on chairs, drifting in the open – I could not fathom the reasons for the different stances people had assumed. Then, like a sweeping breeze, a hand took hold of my own. I immediately felt safe; open. Leading me gently, this woman and I were gliding through the space, past other linked pairs, past poised figures staring ahead pensively. Another figure began to come into focus – an unmistakable face. Marina Abramović’s long, dark hair swayed in a straight plait as she too guided someone by the hand. Based on my track record of star struck gawking even when in the presence of fairly minor celebrities, I was surprised when I was able to take her in as if with no prior introductions. But her presence was strong and my eyes remained fixed to her until I was led into an adjoining room. How long would this hand be in mine? We come to a thick, white blind hanging across a section of the gallery’s large windows with our faces just centimetres away from its surface. I feel the presence of other people swell and fade away into the distance. A pause and then a whisper: ‘You may keep your eyes open or closed, but stay here for as long as you can. Just breathe.’ She let go of my hand and pressed her palm to my back for only a moment before leaving me there; I felt my breathing slow as the feel of her touch evaporated. I stayed in that spot, my gaze roaming the white light of the linen barrier before me. Just breathe, I thought.

I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her hands on my shoulders, their weight softening my posture. Now in the main space once again, I was watching the movement of people on a square, raised platform in the room’s centre. For a while, Marina Abramović was leading several people, one by one, onto this slightly elevated stand. I failed to decipher what she whispered to them but many closed their eyes and stood for some time. She moved like a river, gently meandering between people and moving some as she went. It seemed as though energy was being transferred from body to body, like electricity that soothed and quieted those it touched.

We left not knowing how long we’d spent in that space. As the Hyde Park sun filtered across our faces, we both remarked on the state of calm we felt even then. ‘Not like a religious experience,’ my friend commented, ‘but still an energy.’ I wanted to let the encounter sink in; to ponder what this very different gallery experience had been. ‘They are my living material; I am their living material’; Marina Abramović’s words prior to the exhibition’s opening. In that space, I had been the same material as I was now. Maybe I was more aware of myself in that space; someone had given me permission to breathe, to be stood where I was stood. Someone had given me the opportunity to leave my belongings somewhere else; someone had let me be without distraction. Someone had asked me to be present.

Brighton Degree Show – Art Fare

The degree show is a very awkward tradition set in place by the institution as self-branding for themselves and upcoming graduates. This conventional expectation takes place every year, whereby every student is expected to muster up a penultimate creation to sum up their entire art school education. Its safe to say that this is a doomed prospect from the outset. This almost unquestioned element of art education is what I wish to explore in this article – do we make work that plays to a high traffic public, rather than question what it means to present a defining artwork vital to our exposure as an artist?

My feelings towards the degree show, admittedly, stem from the nature of my course. Fine Art: Critical Practice at the University of Brighton which places theory and practice as equally important, where you develop a practice which tests itself against discussion and analysis, considering the mode of authorship, the context of the work and how it engages with an audience and society. As part of a group of fourteen students, we all agreed that it has always been a flawed process whereby each year the studio is transformed into aquasi-gallery space, purely to accommodate the degree show. I just want to clarify that we were all aware the necessity of a degree show (for logistical reasons) and the platform it gave us to expose our previous post-studio show, Art Fare.

Art Fare was a two-week exhibition attempting to remove contemporary art from inside of the gallery, and took place across the in-service Brighton and Hove buses. By engaging with a wider audience in a public and accessible space, the exhibition explored the value of art in the everyday. Many works were advertised, whereas others deliberately slipped under the radar, allowing an element of uncertainty on some journeys. Due to the unique transit, post-studio nature of this exhibition, the works were difficult to capture in its entirety. This exhibition captured the ideas we wanted to challenge; so to then create a degree show two weeks later would always exist in the shadow of Art Fare.

Being aware of the exposure the degree show presents allowed us to collectively produce a documentation show of the exhibition. We did, however, actively refuse the conventional form of a documentary gallery exhibition and instead we continued the trajectory of show through Art Fare: The Shop. For those who saw the bus-show, the items in Art Fare: The Shop functioned as souvenirs, and for those who didn’t see the show, they were compensation for the missed opportunity. The work in the show took the understated forms of postcards, key-rings, cushions, posters, and other merchandise – each documenting the essence of the context-specific works.

The exhibition was inside a purpose built white cube, set inside the studio and leaving the majority of the space empty to place emphasis on the structure. Often there is no acknowledgement of its role for the previous three years as a functional, cluttered studio – it was this exact issue that we firstly wanted to avoid, and then came to directly address in our show. Aspiring to this, the white cube structure played on the false pretence given during the degree show; that the work is in a legitimate gallery environment, when in fact it has just been remodelled to appear so.

It often seems that London art schools set the precedent for expectations for work within a degree show – most likely instigated by the YBA’s. Through their use of shock tactics, throwaway materials, and wild living, they achieved considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the 1990s. Famously, many of the artists were supported and collected by Saatchi. For many people, the degree show acts as a platform to uncover their identity as an artist to collectors, potential employers and the press. Now don’t get me wrong, this works very favourably to a lot of people, I just think it leaves a strong reputation for expected spectacular works of art like Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine, and Tracey Emin’s My Bed, a disheveled double bed surrounded by detritus.

Brighton Art Fare

 

 

Ciaran Jones – Featured Artist July 2014

To tie in with our degree show special our featured artist section will be be split between three talented graduates of this year,  here we are celebrating University Of Derby graduate Ciaran Jones.

 

Ciaran Jones art

 

Artist Statement

‘The images are created by placing negatives inside a pair of shoes and going for a walk. The shoes have holes in the toes and sides. This combination of light leakage and the friction caused by the repetitive physical action of walking has the double effect of both exposing and wearing away at the emulsion at the same time’.

 

Ciaran Jones art

 

 

 

Amy Collins – Featured Artist July 2014

To tie in with our degree show special our featured artist section will be be split between three talented graduates of this year,  here we are celebrating Fine Art SHU graduate Amy Collins.

Amy Collins Art

 

Amy Collins Art

 

Amy Collins Artist

 

Amy Collins Artist

Huw Noble – Featured Artist July 2014

To tie in with our degree show special our featured artist section will be be split between three talented graduates of this year,  the first of the three is Fine Art SHU graduate Huw Noble.

Huw Noble Art

Artist Statement

Process and the relationship between the maker and the materials used is something that I find intriguing. Through the juxtaposition and joining of contrasting materials I am granted an insight into their properties. My fascination lies within the reaction that the materials have to this joining. The usual focus of my practice lies within the realms of moving image, sound and the three-dimensional form. Much of my influence is drawn from nature and its ability to adapt to change.

 

‘Material Dichotomies’ is an ongoing series which explores the energy that forms on the assembly of contrasting materials. The work considers points of tension that form from an amalgamation of angles, weight and balancing points. These points allude to the properties of the materials but also open up a dialogue between the forms and the space. The addition of sound allows for a deeper insight into the core reaction of the raw material