I visited with a friend of mine. We’ve both been before, with a gap last year, and afterwards we agreed that the Show this year seemed sparser and more low key with hardly any students around to talk about their work. Even so, I found some interesting work to admire.
There was a project by Charlotte May, (Graphic Communication). Exploring Visual Artists with Neurological Disorders. She produced three books – two research books and the dissertation which were beautifully hand bound and stored in a wooden case, embossed with the title of the Project.
The work was influenced by her grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and she wanted to find out more about the disease and if there was any relevance between this and art, studying three artists for her dissertation. It seemed to me a wonderful combination of informative research and beautiful presentation, all with graphic communication in mind.
Oliver Juster, (Arts & Media) created a life-size boneless ‘skeleton’ showing all its internal and external organs, with a chart providing information about them.
Denise Walsh (Fine Art) specialises in sculpture. Her artist statement emphasizes how much of her practice is energised by nature. For her Degree Show, she produced an installation Mark of Effort that displayed the results of a collaborative venture achieved via the Walking Artist Network (WAN). This Network is for anyone who defines themselves as a walking artist who is interested in walking as a mode of art practice, as well as related fields. In February this year an open call was advertised on WAN requesting assistance with a proposal and 15 artists responded, 14 from around the UK and one in Newfoundland, Canada. From the Installation information sheet:- Each artist was sent a colour, 27 exposure disposable camera, together with a stamped addressed envelope and a guidance and information sheet.
Their task was to go on a solitary walk, and whilst walking, to take photographs of what ‘Mark of Effort’ meant to them. The cameras were then posted back together with particulars of each walk. In addition each artist was asked to write what ‘Mark of Effort’ meant to them, and why did they go on solitary walks?
A fascinating collaboration and I was again reminded of our own Nearest Faraway Place project and the outcome of the work that Anna and her colleagues have done in exploring Dartmoor in the footsteps of the artists W. and F.J. Widgery. We asked ourselves questions as we looked at the installation such as How was it all put together – by tone, colour, mood, alphabetically by artist? Will add if I find the answers.
Michelle Margaux (MFA Photography) presented her project Woolton Hall : Listed & Lost some quite haunting work in deep, rich colours that gleamed against the painted brick wall of the corridor in which it was presented.
Lucy Yates (Photography) The work presented was Men Are Like Venus -an interesting reversal of the male gaze with men posing as Venus “By placing the male subject as Venus, they are seen in a different light, taking away their masculinity and bestowing upon them fragility and femininity”. Have a look on her website. There’s certainly nothing sexual about these images. It’s not a woman looking with sexual longing at the male figure; their masculinity isn’t portrayed with musculature etc but, to me, neither do they look feminine or fragile. I don’t know whether this was also part of her intention but, to my eyes, this is an ironic piece of work. I’m made more aware of the coyness of the posing of female figures and how unnatural they can look. There is some other work Nudes on Lucy’s website that is very much more about form and shape of both male and female bodies and this made me look closer. Her work there was influenced by Lacan’s The Mirror Stage.
Charlotte Willbourne presented her project Southampton Square Looking at the way people present themselves in different communities with the focus here on square dancing. All dancers posed on the dancer floor itself, standing against a white backdrop – not exactly the same pose or deadpan. Each of them showing individuality through their choice of ‘costume’ as can be seen from her website. I enjoyed looking at them, There’s a quirkiness about the project that brings it to life. Charlotte’s handmade book includes shots of her subjects dancing and also smaller images with quotes from them about their life, in individual handwriting, and what they gain from square dancing.
I think she achieved her aim of hoping to capture something unique about people in her images and noted that she is influenced by Rineke Dijkstra.
Melissa Michel is influenced by the work of Sophie Calle and artist Candy Change. She exhibits her work Lie With Me which explores the betrayal and the aftermath of infidelity. The explanation says the work is based on a discovery by Melissa of a collection of love letters addressed to her grandmother and found after her death. They tell of an extramarital affair in the 1950s with a painter called Mati Klarwein and the letters reveal that he painted a portrait that hung in her grandmother’s home until her death. “The collection of love letters are echoed by anonymous letters addressed but never sent to unfaithful partners that Melissa collected and the final letter is written by her mother describing how she felt on discovering the letters.
A complex, layered narrative with image and text put together in a way that invites exploration and imagination. At first I thought it was fiction, but there was a painter called Mati Klarwein so maybe …… .
I’ve moved now from thinking the Graduation Show was sparse to feeling inspired by some of the work shown and I’ve put myself on the newsletter list for the Walking artists Network. I’m also reminded again of my original anxieties regarding ‘being influenced by’, referencing’ ‘in the mode of’ and whether this is imitating or copying; but how, with a firm concept, all this disappears into pieces of individual and unique pieces of work.
4th June 2015