Nominated by their tutors, Jack Welsh reveals the top art graduates from across the North-West region, from Blackpool to Wirral and everywhere in-between; a snapshot of this year’s ambitious degree show season…
It’s that time of year again… Students feverishly refine works for assessment and public display. The unmistakable smell of white emulsion hangs in the air as well-worn studios hastily transform into pristine gallery spaces. False walls conceal jammed cupboards, windows and extraneous nooks and crannies. Finally, the coup de grâce: a thick coat of heavy-duty floor paint that erases all evidence of a year’s work.
That’s right. It’s degree show time.
One of the joys of visiting Fine Art degree shows is encountering raw potential: promising careers sparking to life before our eyes. Compared to the formal examination processes of other humanities subjects, it’s a very public awakening.
In the North-West, we’re fortunate to possess a plethora of Fine Art BA (Hons) courses. However, there is an arguable tendency to localise graduate exhibitions to the M62 corridor and a few well-trodden offshoots.
Until now… as preparations draw to a furious close, we approached senior lecturers from all these North-West courses, asking them to nominate one student who has demonstrated rich verve and ambition. In doing so, we aim to present a more holistic perspective of the arts education on offer, in addition to providing a bumper ‘ones to watch’ list.
So, jump on a train, explore new campuses and show your support for the Class of 2015…
University of Salford
Ben Gardner (above)
Nominated by Brendan Fletcher, Programme Leader, Visual Arts
Ben Gardner works with fluorescent light bulbs to create sculptures/installations that pay homage to the canon of art history, conceptualism and minimalist art practice but with irreverence and wit.
Gardner also wants the work to address “the tendency for light to be always seen as a facilitator” in the appreciation of works of art, and instead to explore the properties of the medium in its own right, investigating “the physicality of light”. Gardner exhibited work at Slice, a recent group exhibition by University of Salford students at the now defunct Federation House, Manchester.
See the University of Salford’s Visual Art Degree Show in full at Allerton Studios, Frederick Road, Salford, M6 6PU
Open Thursday 18-Tuesday 23 June 2015, 10am-4pm (closed Sunday 21 June). Official opening party Wednesday 17 June, 6-9pm
Blackpool and The Fylde College
Ronan Smyth (above)
Nominated by Hannah Allen, Lecturer in Critical Studies in the Creative Arts, and Ann Carragher, Lecturer in Fine Art
Ronan Smyth works across a variety of media in an interdisciplinary exploration of his subject matter. Combining painting, appropriated material, new technologies and performative strategies, Smyth’s practice questions the limit of camp taste, highlighting the process of “coming out” and transitioning through working class environments that jar with homosexual expression.
Fuelled by our constructed online personas, notions of the fake and fantasy also feed into Smyth’s subversion of the macho within the context of gay culture, including Bear and Skinhead movements, which are used as devices to investigate fragmented strains of masculinity within homoerotic ideology: camp aesthetic as the act of artistic subterfuge.
See the Blackpool and Fylde College Degree Showcase Freshly Squeezed at the Old Granada Studios, Quay Street, Manchester, M60 9EA (see here for Google Map)
One day showcase: Tuesday 2 June 2015, 12-9.pm. Official opening party 6-9pm
Joel Chan (above)
Nominated by Pip Dickens, Lecturer in Fine Art (Painting)
Working primarily in kinetic sculpture and drawing, Joel Chan is captivated by the human condition. Finding inspiration from sources such as second hand objects, old photographs and his own experiences, Chan consciously blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, offering an alternative reality through his works. Dark humour adds a disconcerting twist to Chan’s take on real subject matter; the result is a flux between reality and an imaginary, uncanny world.
See Lancaster’s Fine Art Degree Show Unearthed at the Peter Scott Gallery, LICA building, Bowland Annexe
Open Wednesday 16-Wednesday 24 June 2015, 11am-5pm (until 4pm on Sat 20 June). Official opening party Tuesday 16 May, 6.30-8.30pm
Liverpool Hope University
Ant Hamlyn (above)
Nominated by Lin Holland and Tony Smith, Senior Fine Art Lecturers
Inspired by the sensory language of funfairs, arcade games and other playful encounters, Ant Hamlyn seeks to trigger physical and emotive responses between the viewer and his sculptures. Hamlyn does this by inviting viewers to move, engage and interact with his works through devices such as levers and buttons. A rigorous research and development process underpins his DIY aesthetic: basketball hoops, electrics and wooden structures combine to create a sense of intrigue and partial recognition.
See Liverpool Hope University’s Fine Art and Design Degree Show at the Cornerstone Campus, Shaw Street, Liverpool, L6 1HP
Open Saturday 30 May-Friday 5 June 2015, 10am-4pm. Official opening party Friday 29 May, 5.30-8.30pm
Liverpool John Moores University
Meg Brain (above)
Nominated by Peter Appleton, Fine Art Lecturer
Meg Brain’s work sets up situations that attempt to disrupt our experience of time. Looped sequences of a non-narrative nature often include minimal and delicate movements of filmed objects, recordings of screens, regimented patterns and cropped sections of reappropriated works.
Recordings are projected within installations that can employ a combination of given architectural fixtures, modified structures and sculptural forms. Contradictions arise between flat pattern and the illusionistic depth of recorded video. Perspectives are disrupted, creating gently transformative experiences for the viewer.
See the Liverpool School of Art and Design Degree Show at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, Duckinfield Street, Liverpool, L3 5RD
Open Friday 29 May-Friday 12 June 2015, 10am-6pm. Official opening party Thursday 28 May, 5-9pm
Manchester Metropolitan University
Louise Giovanelli (above)
Nominated by Ian Hartshorne, Subject leader Paint/Print
Louise Giovanelli (who was awarded second prize in this year’s Saatchi Art’s Showdown prize) is a painter concerned with the visual and aesthetic energy of the painted surface. Oscillating between representation and abstraction, her work is an examination of the sensorial possibilities of paint. Giovanelli engages with perceptual aspects of the medium, attempting to foreground colour, shape and form, movement and tension in her paintings. Her paintings originate from staged photographs; starting points to be transcribed by paint.
Open Saturday 13-Wednesday 24 June 2015 (10-6pm midweek, 10-4pm weekends). Official opening party Friday 12 June, 5.30pm-9pm
St Helens College
Michel Logan (above)
Nominated by Wayne Robinson, Head of BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting and James Quin, Painting Lecturer
Michel Logan’s paintings are derived from the everyday journeys made in and around his home. His works engage the viewer with concerns of place, scale and the heightened beauty of the everyday. Underpinned by research into psychogeography, Walter Benjamin and Xavier De Maistre, Logan creates ‘ribbons’ by combining acrylic and PVA paint. These objects extend the materiality of painting into sculpture and critique the traditional flatness of painting. Logan subtly suggests paths and passageways that define our daily, well-trodden, domestic journeys.
See St Helens’ BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art Painting Exhibition at the SKB Building, Town Centre Campus, Brook Street, St Helens, WA10 1PP
Open Friday 19 May-Friday 3 June 2015 (Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm). Official opening party Tuesday 19 May, 6-8pm
University of Bolton
Steph Shipley (above)
Nominated by Alan Buckingham, Programme Leader BA/ MA Fine Art
Steph Shipley explores the nature of sites and spaces through photography, projection and printmaking. Shipley is interested in familiar sites that represent ‘other’ places, such as fairgrounds, caravan sites and prisons, and captures them photographically using a Polaroid camera. The resulting image is then re-interpreted through novel approaches to printmaking, purposefully leaving traces of the original Polaroid image to ruptures the viewer’s experience. Shipley currently has two works on display at Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno, and is developing a public art commission with Transport for Greater Manchester.
See University of Bolton’s Creative Degree Show at the School of the Arts, University of Bolton, Deane Road, Bolton, BL3 5AB
Open Friday 12 and from Monday 15-Saturday 20 June, 10am-4pm (12pm – 2pm on Saturday 21 June). Official opening party Thursday 11 June, 6-9pm
UCLan (University of Central Lancashire)
Sophie Barrott (above and main image)
Nominated by Fine Art Lecturers Claire Hope, Victoria Lucas and Maeve Rendle
Sophie Barrott’s site specific dual screen video installation The Reoccurring Dream (2014) features faceless protagonists that drift from motel to freak show. Images of road trips, sexual encounters, death and escapism are juxtaposed, combining lived experience with filmic hyperreality.
The result is a disorientating portrayal of time and space, with narratives, characters and landscapes that are visually teased and tormented, but ultimately destroyed. Relationships and encounters are never fulfilled, and no wider truth ever achieved.
See the Fine Art + Foundation Art and Design Degree Show at the Hanover Building University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE
Open Saturday 13-Saturday 20 June, 10am-5pm. Official opening party Friday 12 June, 6-9pm
University of Cumbria
Nominated by Jane Topping, Programme Leader of Fine Art
Jacob Jones constructs installations that investigate notions of authoritarianism, institutional governing and man as commodity. He appropriates imagery from various dystopian films and literature, such as Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, to create interactive spaces which are both unnervingly familiar and familiarly alien. Jones’s most recent installation explores an alternate post-apocalyptic 1950s that draws heavily on the aesthetic of that era.
Open Friday 1-Sunday 7 June 2015, 10am-4pm. Official opening party Thursday 30 May, 6-9pm
Wirral Metropolitan College
Felix Leyland (above)
Nominated by Vincent Lavell, Course Leader, Fine Art
Felix Leyland is obsessed with parts of the city that most people would avoid. With a cinematic sense of drama and composition he makes large, ambitious paintings that have all the physical presence and gritty realism of these liminal spaces. Abandoned chairs and other references to human presence lend these images drama and suspense. The paintings themselves are very physical, being made from a combination of photo images and worked paint surface.
See Wirral Metropolitan’s Degree Show at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Slatey Road, Birkenhead, CH43 4UE
Open Saturday 23 May-7 June 2015 (Wednesday-Sunday), 10am-5pm
University of Chester
Jodie Lane (above)
Nominated by Maxine Bristow, Reader in Fine Art, Programme Leader: MA Fine Art
Inspired by the aesthetics of everyday objects, Jodie Lane combines various materials to create intricate detail of layers and textures. With an interest in exploring non-verbal communication through assemblage, Lane works within a sculptural language that seeks to provoke feelings of abjection within the viewer, touching on what she deems ‘the ignored elements of ‘normality’. Plaster of Paris, foam and textured surfaces are carefully built up to create Lane’s works.
See the University of Chester Degree Show 2015 at Kingsway Buildings, Kingsway, Chester, CH2 2LB
Open Wednesday 17 June-Wednesday 24 June 2015. Official opening party Thursday 18 June 6-9pm
Jack Welsh is a researcher, writer and artist based in Liverpool. He is a Lecturer in Fine Art Tutor at Liverpool Hope University.
Read the a-n art news Degree Show Guide 2015
This article is reproduced in its original form, as published on The Double Negative, 5 May, 2015.