Each year the degree show seems to come around quicker than the last. I said as much talking to a tutor in the middle of the DMJ space. Kitted out like a modern newsroom with rows of screens set into a false wall, tablets and other handheld devices propped up tables, it all looks very hi-tec. A world away from my 1950’s recreation: heavy oak writing desk, G.P.O. phone and BFI footage: class of 2012…
I usually enjoy the HSAD Fine Art show and this year is no exception. Set up under the banner We Are Not Famous Yet. The twelve graduates pose questions about the world we live in and how they see it.
On the first wall is written what appear to be each of their responses to the question ‘Why’ (Repeated in the handy newspaper accompanying the show. Good to see print making a comeback through models such as Newspaper Club)
‘I am not famous yet because I am a thief; a mediocre thief.’
‘I am not famous yet because I am not Hugh Grant.‘
And my particular favourite… ‘I am not famous yet because fame is the thirst of scoundrels and youth; my own genius is enough.’
After viewing all the work and creating some mental picture, perhaps you can go back and assign correctly, the responses to their owners?
Having had my attention piqued by a snap on my newsfeed, I went first in search of Helen Chance‘s installation. It was outside, away from the rest. ‘Work In Progress‘ exists in the mind of the viewer. It, whatever it is, is obscured from view by an infuriating layer of whitewash, the sort you find daubed on abandoned shop windows on the high street. It is made of a sort of chalk mix, I didn’t know that. The work is further out of reach being that it is behind the window, you can’t get inside. On hands and knees face pressed against the glass, I glimpse something orange that is further obscured by a plastic sheet. I am pleased to have understood the appearance of the whitewash in a building’s lifecycle but I am ultimately left frustrated and then in turn amused at my frustration, by this piece.
Things on walls greet me next. Paintings, drawings and more. I see a piece by Nikki Mclaren that puts me in mind of the Blake prints consumed by Ralph Fiennes, in the film version of Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon. Having watched it earlier the same week, the comparison might have been reached all to easily.
A curtain with an age restriction attached, tempts me in and nightmarish faces greet me at every turn: cartoonish drawings of depravity and sadomasochism. Seeing the erections on some of the figures, the line ‘pain is close to pleasure,’ comes to mind. I’m not drawn to the work and I leave Shannon Dixon‘s tortured world behind me.
There are more depictions of the nude female form on walls: posing, posturing but it is just the one image which I am drawn to. It contains a mirror or reflected image of a face, it is one to which I need to return, to understand why this painting by Ria Marshall stood out for me.
I noticed the peg and ceramic pieces on interlocking floor mats but aside from a fleeting glance they didn’t grab me. Likewise the abstract line drawings at the start of the show I’m not good with abstract, never have been. I like narrative, work that has a story, or from which I can create a story around.
I liked being in the central space that was essentially an artist’s studio with materials on the desk, the paint encrusted shirts hanging on the pegs, the sketches and images creating a path through layers of inspiration and research.
I also like the oculus app (possibly not its actual name) which I think was Matthew Hopper‘s creation. The application if not the actual digital app. He invited me to look at a rural landscape with a few buildings and trees, through the handmade viewing device. This I did and I thought I could detect a slightly altered dimensional effect. It wasn’t quite the 3D of the cinema blockbuster but it was there. He invited me to walk around in his painting, which I did and then I kept walking, until I was facing the opposite way, but I could still see the painting. In fact wherever I looked I could see the painting. It was wrapped digitally all around me. I had fun with this one.
I am stopped in my tracks by what at first, I believe to be a typewriter, but on closer inspection looks more like a cash register. It turns out to be an old adding machine found on the Lord Line site by artist/archivist Katie Wilkinson. Her collection of found and made objects has their own handmade booklet to accompany them. Inside, amongst the many layers of art speak, imitating the layers of earth and rock from where Katie plucks her artifacts, are shots of the iconic site, images of process and materials. The handmade brochure looks good in my collection.
I have just days before, seen Katie’s name in the local press, an observer of and commenting on, the recent fire on the second floor of the main Lord Line building. Looking through the booklet I wonder what, if anything at all, she would make of my own recent explorations surrounding place and identity: the possible damaging effect to the psyche, from rapid architectural change.
A second enclosed space, wittily called ‘Haus of Fraser‘ has been recommended to me at least three times, before I find my way to Fraser Briggs’ offbeat retail experience.
I write in my notebook…
‘Art school in jokes, out and out art jokes, inside out marketing with no guarantees…‘ feeling pretty pleased with what I have just written, I quickly close my notebook.
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And whether or not I’ve mentioned your name or piece specifically, I look forward to seeing some of you exhibiting and/or visiting Red Gallery in the months to come.