Over the course of this year’s degree show season, CR readers will be guest blogging reviews of shows up and down the UK (and beyond). Here, Andy Welsh of MBL Solutions visits the Newcastle Fine Art Degree Show
I was lucky enough to visit the biggest-ever Newcastle Fine Art Degree Show, at the beautiful Hatton Gallery. What I discovered was a complete takeover of every available space, with paintings, sculptures, film and more. It is no surprise that these exhibitions are the most visited in the gallery’s annual calendar.
It is worth noting that the students have curated the show, created and managed the publicity and also part funded it. This level of professionalism and dedication was even extended to ensuring that this year’s event had its own branding, a beautifully designed catalogue (shown above), promotional posters and a useful microsite.
For those in London, a selection of work will be on show at the Embassy Tea Gallery at the end of June.
If the Hatton Gallery was just about managing to accommodate the huge amount of student’s artwork on show, Freya Cromarty’s silver pin sculptures refused to be contained. Like a futuristic, ever-expanding organism, her work could be seen emanating from ceilings and in corridors throughout the exhibition.
One of my favourite spaces at the show was by Ellie McCulloch, which included several mirrored Perspex shapes, beautifully lit and incorporating intricate patterns and text. Centered around the notion of memories, Ellie successfully created a space that encourages you to remember and reflect.
One thing that I did reflect on while in Ellie McCulloch’s space, was the fact that my wife and I have recently had our first child. Martha Aynsley was able to capture the beauty of pregnancy perfectly, with huge oil on canvas paintings. Having photographed my wife throughout her 9 months, I can understand the desire to document this experience. However, not only did Martha do that, I think her paintings were also able to convey some of the intimate emotions that people can feel during this time.
In a side room, halfway down some stairs was Harry Peck’s “Philanthropic Fun Fair”. In a grubby and run down setting, stalls included Donation Darts and a Wheel of Misfortune. The whole thing was a bit unsettling, thought provoking and successfully played upon my own self-satisfied feeling towards the random and sporadic donations I’ve made to charity.
With a quote by Andy Warhol to introduce her work, Georgina Witts takes a fresh look at those controversial figures in the news that are enjoying more than their 15 minutes of fame. Her most successful piece in my opinion was a crate of 6 black milk bottles emblazoned with the words “Thatcher’s Milk”. As we reflect on Margaret Thatcher’s life and career, this simple, striking and timely piece of work, perfectly illustrates the demise of free school milk; one of her most controversial decisions.
Readymade lines is an incredible concept by Hannah Denney. Through the use of some simple black electrical wire and clear nylon thread, Hannah has taken line drawings away from their simple existence on a flat surface and brought them to life, existing as their own floating structure. This provides a unique opportunity to view an artist’s drawing from any angle and distance that you wish.
I am a huge fan of artwork that incorporates grids and repetition so Adam Laing’s work had a good chance of appealing to me. He creates really interesting juxtapositions, by diligently ordering the messy, random bits of waste he finds around studios.
The decision to display Rebecca Blessington’s “Elusive Ground” on a huge scale was definitely a good one. I found myself getting completely lost in each image, trying to work out why everything seemed to be so familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Somehow, Rebecca has managed to turn what could have amounted to nothing more than a series of medical images of the human body, into something so much more.
Siti Munirah Yusop
Finally, Siti Munirah Yusop’s collection of miniature paintings of everyday life provided a fitting end to my time at the exhibition. With such a tiny canvas to work with, I was really impressed with what Siti managed to convey in each painting and the unusual colours and slightly abstract style somehow worked well together. It would be a series that I would be interested to see develop into a full visual diary of Siti’s life.
Many thanks to Andy. If you would like to review a degree show in your area, please let us know here
Pink Floyd fans may recognise the cover of our June issue. It’s the original marked-up artwork for Dark Side of the Moon: one of a number of treasures from the archive of design studio Hipgnosis featured in the issue, along with an interview with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Hipgnosis with the late, great Storm Thorgerson. Elsewhere in the issue we take a first look at The Purple Book: Symbolism and Sensuality in Contemporary Illustration, hear from the curators of a fascinating new V&A show conceived as a ‘walk-in book’ plus we have all the regular debate and analysis on the world of visual communications.
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