Class of 2016: The North-West’s Top Fine Art Graduates Revealed

CLASS OF 2016: UCLan (University of Central Lancashire): Sam Pickett

Up and down the land, Fine Art students are preparing their final, graduate exhibitions. But who really stands out across Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside? Jack Welsh asks the tutors to pick their best and brightest…

It has become a TDN tradition: asking Fine Art tutors, around the April/May period, and from universities across the North-West of England, to select an outstanding student from their respective courses.

The nominated students for Class of 2016 haven’t just successfully resolved final outcomes; they’ve cultivated their own artistic voices over three years. Each has demonstrated a commitment, hunger and desire to forge their own path outside of the safe-haven of university; it’s notable that several are already active, with shows and residencies lined-up this year.

While Degree Shows are a time for celebratory reflection they also act as catalysts, not ends. The tutors acknowledge this in their selections.

So, without further ado, here is our Class of 2016, and in chronological order of degree show date…

“Each has demonstrated a commitment, hunger and desire to forge their own path outside of the safe-haven of university”

Helena Denhelm

St Helens CollegeHelena Denholm (above)

Nominated by Wayne Robinson, Head of BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting, and James Quin, Lecturer in Painting 

Focusing on her recovery from recent surgery, and a fascination with the temporality and remnants of the healing process, Helena Denholm produces pixelated “colour-scapes”.

Naturally occurring, these colour-scapes are photographically pixelated, before being carefully choreographed into new painterly forms. The status of her paintings as “made” objects is important to the reading of the work and its intended messages.

See the University Centre St Helens Degree Show 2016 at The World of Glass, St Helens: on from now until Friday 3 June 2016, 9.30am to 4.30pm

“Jade Stowell’s video work takes viewers on a psychedelic journey through the urban hinterland”

CLASS OF 2016: Wirral Metropolitan College: Jade Stowell

Wirral Metropolitan CollegeJade Stowell (above)

Nominated by Vincent Lavell, Course Leader

Jade Stowell’s video work takes viewers on a psychedelic journey through the urban hinterland.

For her degree show work, Stowell will present a video of the planned destruction of a Seaforth residential tower block. By weaving together richly saturated images of the urban landscape, possessing the same juddering aesthetic of Google Maps street view, Stowell proposes a darkly phantasmagorical vision of urban futures.

See the Wirral Met College BA Fine Art Degree Show at Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead: on now until Monday 6 June 2016, 10am-5pm


Liverpool John Moores University: Amy McSavaney (above)

Nominated by Rory Macbeth, Head of Fine Art

LJMU have departed from a traditional degree show format, instead encouraging students to devise and implement their own curatorial strategies to develop a cohesive exhibition.

With wall displays vetoed, the outcome is derived from two years of students developing an intuitive and complex understanding of each other’s work.

This ethos is seemingly reflected in the work of Amy McSavaney, who has become a minister for the Universal Life Church as part of her degree. Astutely responding to the environmental nuances of the art school atrium, McSavaney’s installed video and leaflets suggest a strong awareness of the wider context of her practice.

“Amy’s work”, Macbeth says, “has a subtle and understated rigor that is essentially political in nature, investigating information systems and communication, institutional critique, feminist debate, and belief, with a lightness of touch and carefully calibrated humour.”

The show will be accompanied by an experimental publication offering an alterative map – and reading – of the entire exhibition.

See the Liverpool School of Art and Design Degree Show at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, Duckinfield Street, Liverpool: on from tonight’s preview, Thursday 26 May (5pm until late) until Friday 10 June 2016 (weekdays 10am-6pm, closed Monday 30 May; weekends 12-6pm)

“In Jackie Owen’s work, a mundane shopping trip to town becomes a tortuous ordeal with the addition of 20kg concrete boots”


University of CumbriaJackie Owen (above)

Nominated by Jane Topping, Programme Leader of Fine Art

Jackie Owen uses performance and film to create scenarios that subvert everyday domesticity; a mundane shopping trip to town becomes a tortuous ordeal with the addition of 20kg concrete boots.

While Owen’s films document these arduous journeys, they also reveal how the absurdity of the situation acts as a catalyst for conversations with passers-by; incredibly personal stories of everyday anxiety, physical and mental difficulties emerge through her performance.

See the wider school Degree Show, FORM, at Brampton Road Campus, Carlisle, University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts. The Fine Art show, EMERGENCE, opens Saturday 4 June (6-9pm) and then continues Monday 6–Friday 10 June 2016 (10am-4pm)

Steph Miello

Liverpool Hope University: Stephanie Miello

Nominated by Lin Holland and Tony Smith, Senior Fine Art Lecturers

Stephanie Miello experiments with two specific disciplines: sculpture and installation. Often working in response to the existing qualities of the surrounding space, Miello aims to broker a physical connection between viewer and the environment.

Miello thoughtfully employs delicate and ephemeral materials such as light, projection, shadows, string and glue to emphasise the spatial qualities of a single line. Ideas are often explored through the concept of three-dimensional drawing, which develops responsively, without a pre-determined theme.

See Liverpool Hope University’s Fine Art and Design Degree Show at the Cornerstone Campus, Shaw Street, Liverpool: open Friday 28 May-Tuesday 7 June 2016, 10am-5pm. Preview Friday 28 May 2016, 5.30-8.30pm

“Steve Wilson’s bottle of Courvoisier rests seductively on lush purple fabric. Is it the latest advert, or something more sinister?”

CLASS OF 2016: Blackpool and The Fylde College: Steven Wilson

Blackpool and The Fylde College: Steven Wilson (above)

Nominated by Ann Carragher, Fine Art Lecturer, and Nick Kowalski, Programme Leader Fine Art

A bottle of Courvoisier rests seductively on lush purple fabric. Is it the latest advert, or something more sinister? Steve Wilson recreates pervasive spectacles that explore themes of power, class and social mobility.

Through a Baudrillardian perspective, Wilson recontextualises iconic images, sounds and brands which encapsulate and embody our relationship with “non-human things”. His works reinforce aspirational ideals, created and consumed through a system of proliferation, seduction and commodity fetishism.

Wilson has previously exhibited at Supercollider and is currently in residency with UNIT Projects, Blackpool, he is also due to take part in Abingdon Street studio’s ‘graduate residency programme’, supported by Blackpool & Fylde College.

See the Unfold Private View at Granada Studios, Manchester, Wed 7 June 2016,  6-8pm

Final Degree Exhibition Private View 12-2pm, Saturday 18 June, at the Palatine Building, Blackpool & Fylde College, University Centre. Open to public 20-25 June 2016 10-5pm

class of 2016: University of Salford: Cecily Shrimpton

University of SalfordCecily Shrimpton (above)

Nominating by Brendan Fletcher, Programme Leader: Visual Arts

Working across sculpture, printmaking and new media, Cecily Shrimpton’s work adopts the fluid approach of contemporary art practice to take an assured, nuanced look at motherhood.

A recent dual screen video work depicts a solitary metronome on each screen. The first metronome represents the average heartbeat of a child in the womb; the second is that of a pregnant mother.

“Watching and listening to the two metronomes in syncopation is profound and moving”, says Fletcher. “Shrimpton’s works exhibit an assurance, sophistication and maturity rare at undergraduate level.”

See the University of Salford’s Visual Art Degree Show in full at Allerton Studios, Frederick Road, Salford, from Thursday 9 June 2016 

“Acknowledging the Anthropocene, Sam Pickett examines the implications of globalisation”

CLASS OF 2016: UCLan (University of Central Lancashire): Sam Pickett

UCLan (University of Central Lancashire): Sam Pickett (above)

Nominated by Fine Art Lecturers Victoria Lucas and David Mackintosh

Sam Pickett’s work evolves out of an investigative process and is inspired by the myriad of connections between science, nature and the human condition. Acknowledging the Anthropocene, she examines the implications of globalisation and its fundamental impact on our environment.

Results develop out of an interrogation of ideas, formulas and materials, culminating in a laboratory of invented scenarios that attempt to extract the inevitable associations that exist between the sciences and the psyche.

See the Fine Art Degree Show at the Hanover Building, University of Central Lancashire, Preston: preview on Friday 10 June, 3-8pm.  Open to the public from Saturday 11 June-Friday 17 June 2016, 10am-5pm

 CLASS OF 2016: Manchester Metropolitan University: Anna Glinkina

Manchester Metropolitan University: Anna Glinkina (above)

Nominated by Ian Hartshorne, Subject leader Paint/Print

Multi-layered and spatially combative, Anna Glinkina’s expanded paintings are a direct affront to Greenbergian claims of the limitations of painting.

By disregarding the conventional approach of applying paint to a canvas, Glinkina attempts to evoke the language of painting by reducing painting to its principal elements.

With suggestive undercurrents of Russian Modernism, Glinkina activates the neglected space between the canvas surface through sculptural modifications, however the work is anchored by traditional mediums and techniques.

See the Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2016 at the Benzie, Grosvenor and Chatham Buildings, MMU All Saints Campus: open from Saturday 11 June-Wednesday 22 June 2016 (Saturday/Sunday 10am–4pm / Monday–Friday 10am–6pm). Preview Friday 10 June, 5.30–9pm

“Elizabeth Lindley creates fleeting assemblages, using salvaged, defunct and discarded domestic materials”

CLASS OF 2016: Lancaster University: Elizabeth Lindley

Lancaster University: Elizabeth Lindley (above)

Nominated by Pip Dickens, Lecturer in Fine Art (Painting)

Elizabeth Lindley’s work arises from an anxiety surrounding prevalent concerns regarding immigration, diaspora and homelessness.

Lindley creates fleeting assemblages, using salvaged, defunct and discarded domestic materials, that are then destroyed and reconfigured in an ongoing process. This empheral dynamic resonates with the fabric and images of domestic shelter yet are infused with restless displacement.

See the Lancaster Fine Art Degree Show – Omnia XLIV –  at the Peter Scott Gallery, LICA building, Bowland Annexe: preview 14 June 2016, 6-8.30pm. Opening times from 15 June: weekdays 11am-5pm; Saturday 11am-4pm; Sunday CLOSED

CLASS OF 2016: University of Chester: Joe Brassington

University of ChesterJoe Brassington

Nominated by Maxine Bristow, Reader in Fine Art, Programme Leader: MA Fine Art

Joe Brassington investigates the variety of marks that can be achieved using thread.

Interested in the delicate and intimate nature of thread, Brassington uses it to draw on canvas. However, it’s the marks that occur unintentionally on the reverse of the canvas that Brassington is more interested in. Generated through a process of chance, their imperfections evoke more curiosity than the original drawing.

Each reverse thread drawing is selective and autonomous, with the final forms strikingly architectural.

See the University of Chester Degree Show 2016 at Kingsway Buildings, Kingsway, Chester: open 6-9pm on Thursday 16 June 2016; continues until Weds 22nd June 10-4pm.

Jack Welsh

Check out our Class of 2015 and Class of 2014

This article was origianlly published on The Double Negative.

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