The MA Degree Show 13:21 took place at Riverlights in Derby city centre. It brought together the work of 13 artists from several disciplines: fine art, film, and photography.
Here's an introduction from Camilla Brown, curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art and photography.
"Not all postgraduate courses are like this, as often students feel ghettoised into one genre or another. This exhibition is a great demonstration of what can happen creatively if you break those barriers down.
"Installation has been paramount for many here who have devised sculptural and immersive environments in which we encounter their work. Many combine moving image, still images, paintings, drawings and sound pieces. Some of the art works are very processed based – combining several layers of mark making or painting. Others have made themselves, or close relatives, the subject of their work - embarking on a personal journey of self-learning while developing their practice. There is also a thread of very conceptually based projects, where the art as object becomes unimportant, as the idea is the artwork.
"Personally, it has been a real pleasure to work with this cohort of students, especially working during such difficult times. I have seen all the students here grow and watched their journey. So many of them have transformed themselves not only in terms of their artistic practice but also through a journey of self-realisation. This confident and visually diverse exhibition is one that they should all be enormously proud of."
Private view highlights
Adam Neal (Photography)
Snookered is a photographic installation centred on the norms of working-class masculinity. It focuses on the 1982 Snooker Championship Final and explores notions of dejection and the loss of control. In turn, it challenges stalwart characteristics of masculinity. Snookered combines photography, film, and sculptural objects. It attempts to address masculine qualities such as bravado and dominance. And how social class has informed the formulation of masculine ideologies.
Snookered operates between environments: the snooker hall, the domestic space, and the gallery. Amalgamating environments highlights the struggle for belonging. And it offers a meditation on how one performs and expects others to perform in these spaces.
Growing up in Northfield, Birmingham, Neal has witnessed a shift within the community, from production to consumption. Neal’s work is concerned with social-class categorisations, especially working-class culture. He assimilates his immediate surroundings through a critically nostalgic lens. And attempts to find masculinity and working-class culture among contemporary societal shifts.
He is more disillusioned and lost with his own identity and performance of it than he cares to admit.
Andy Allen Experimental Cartography Art is an active process. It is continuously moving forward, referencing and learning from the past to push the boundaries of the present. Artists appropriate ideas from previous art movements, taking what is useful and leaving what is not.
This work is influenced and informed by the ideas of the conceptual movement. It represents a thought process which is fundamental to the process. It takes the ideas of reduction, metaphor and a sense of obfuscation from the conceptual vocabulary. And places an emphasis on the idea aesthetic over any visual aesthetic.
Experimental Cartography is a series of work based loosely around the concept of cartography. It employs an interdisciplinary approach, taking information from the geographic and science disciplines, and uses art to challenge the false neutrality of maps. Maps are inscribed with lines that set up limits and confine space. They carry with them a sense of division or separation that assert organised spaces and national identities, defined by these lines. These are not natural divisions of spaces but an artificial separation imposed by political will on a space that was historically more liminal - an in-between space. These lines change the understanding of the space, creating places instead of just representing them. Art is not bound by the constraints of purely accurate representation. This allows for other categories of representations and conceptual thinking, offering a different insight into critical cartography.
The connection between cartography and conceptual work is in the transfer of information. Neither can be judged on its aesthetic merits.
The function of maps is information. The underlying function of conceptual art is the same.
Clare West (Photography)
Untitled (Great Expectations) Looped Super 8 Film
Great Expectations is a short film about the human quest for romantic love and the pursuit of desire. Using a combination of appropriated and original footage, it considers how we form our expectations of intimate relationships through a prism of cultural influences and prescribed notions of gender stereotypes. More specifically, it addresses the modern-day assimilation of pornography into the everyday vernacular.
Sequenced primarily through gesture, the film continues my interest in collective memory (that which is passed down through the generations in verbal and non-verbal ways) and the belief that we carry this lineage in our bodies. Within this context, I am interested in the complexities of sexual politics and how the body acts as an ever-shifting site of projection and a mediator of cultural values.
The sound element contains a re-enactment of an overheard conversation between two male ramblers and a recorded conversation with a friend’s 13-year-old son. The juxtaposition of these two audio clips serves to create a disconcerting space where the concept of a potentially pure and innocent love intersects with the complex nature of human behaviour and the psyche.
"What if I just don’t stop?" I proposed to the counsellor. Genuine question veiled in rhetoric.
Those elongated pauses, those moments of solitude and silence, the slowing of the pace – that was where the difficulty surfaced, where wounds and worries poured open. If movement is life, it makes sense to me that the proposition and possibility of death is strongest in our pauses.
I reached my front gate and chose between left and right – both led to life.
The work is a 112 mile run performed over seven days – no predetermined route. The work is a reflection of the act. The work is a pause, a realisation. The work is spoken, repeated, redrawn:
“You’ll never fall. You’ll never fall if you don’t slow down. You’ll never fall in love if you don’t slow down. You’ll never fall in love with a place if you don’t slow down. You’ll never fall.”
The work is a criticism of running as an artistic medium and as a life practice. The work is a consideration of the possibility of a slower, reflective, more connected pace, and a meaning for survival.
Colour and texture are always at the heart of my work, and a storyline that includes autobiography which connects me to the world outside. My work is generous and inclusive, acting like a type of therapy, offered to the viewer with gentle humour.
Communication is made through the language of colour, symbols, fabric, thread, haberdashery, and the use of humble, household materials. These are used in relevance to my narrative and belie an unexpected grandeur. The methods I use are traditionally craft related: collage, stitching, knitting, weaving, crochet, papier-mache, all familiar activities we learn from childhood.
My passion is for fabric and stitch and my background is in illustration, fashion, and hand-embroidery. More recently, my practice has grown. I use new methodologies now to create large-scale installations and interactions.
My work encompasses many media, including sculpture. I create costumes which I wear for filmed performances that include commissioned music. These costumes and multi-dimensional installations intend to stimulate dialogue, and provide enough space and freedom for viewers to experience the artwork from their own perspective and timescale.
The Unseen in Nature - learning to live symbiotically
My painting practice responds to place, memory or locale. It’s an instinctive, intuitive process. The connection to nature stems from early childhood encounters within the natural world, where ‘magical’ experiences led me to explore and encapsulate the surreal qualities of plant life and different species. Painting provides me with a psychological space where I can slow down time and connect with a mystical, abstract, and surreal visual language.
Working with this fluidity, shapes and figures emerge in an automatic, unconscious and organic way, and are connected to concerns on environmental issues, such as deforestation, the ‘urban rural’ and need for nature corridors and re-wilding.
Painted installations that form narratives on these themes fuel the fire of my process-based painterly practice, immersing the viewer into a surreal-like environment that encapsulates the visual field, forming an indeterminate organic outcome. This, in parallel for concerns on our own Earthly environment with climate change. We are in a state of flux. Learning to live with and in nature is key to our interconnected symbiotic relationships for future wellbeing.
Utilising colour, line and form evokes the imagination. Symbolism and motifs form the visual language which aims to engage the viewer to take time out and see anew. Abstract forms washing over the psyche allows for opportunity and visual memory to engage the viewer's perception of the work.
The ‘Unseen in nature’ refers to the invisible worlds, ecosystems, and microscopic biodiversity that go hand in hand to living symbiotically with and in nature.
My work within mental health started off as doing something to help build awareness for charities and help people to gain the confidence to ask for help. It has become more of a healing process for my own mental health over the past few months. My overall aim is for my work to help people understand and process their own issues or understand how others could be feeling.
Turning the camera on myself was hard but it gave me the chance to look at my life and understand where I end and my artwork starts to take over. This piece is almost a full circle from where I started a few years ago as my work is now not only hopefully helping other but also helping me.
The title EUGOMA comes from the name of my family's first caravan and is a compilation of my grandparents' and mother's names: Eunice, Godfrey and Amanda. My family would take countless trips to the seaside, which quickly became a second home for them.
My work explores the traditional British seaside holiday depicted through my family archive and my own revisiting of Skegness. These moments and memories survive through the archive and that allows us to re-experience them. Through my revisiting of Skegness, I wanted to rediscover these locations that brought so much joy to my family.
The realisation that these moments have slowed to a near stop has driven me forward to create work that not only revolves around the concept of recapturing moments in a archival context, but also providing closure for a timeline within my own familial records.
My artistic practice is driven, at its heart, by a passion for the natural world. Interested in the relationship between human culture and nature, I create work which addresses ecological subject matter, aiming to give a voice and visual context to ecological concerns.
Focusing on the juxtaposition between both natural and synthetic objects and materials, After Nature consolidates several different projects. It encompasses both digital and alternative photography, small sculptural pieces, and installation work, all underpinned with ecological themes centred around issues such as environmental pollution, or biodiversity and species loss.
Created through exploration of my local natural environments and green spaces, such the Erewash canal, public parks, woodland trails, all within walking distance of my home, and including my own garden, the work aims to bring wider issues into view.
Adopting scientific and museological methods of documentation and display, such as the naturalist's field journal, the natural history diorama, and the curiosity cabinet or specimen drawer, the work serves to demonstrate nature impacted by human intervention and considers the wider ethical and ecological implications of human activity upon natural environments and the wildlife therein.
Exploring the contradiction between offering initial aesthetic attraction while subsequently presenting ecological messages of concern, I seek to create beauty where it might otherwise not exist, from the banal, mundane traces of humanity, or objects of detritus and waste.
Combining the natural and the artificial, the real and the imagined, After Nature examines narratives of past, present, and future to explore ideas concerning the loss of nature, or the loss of the natural.
I have always found it particularly difficult, virtually impossible, to photograph my own family and friends. I think it’s because of the baggage each side of the camera brings to the moment. It’s much easier to photograph someone you only know slightly.
My mother is 95 years old now and I decided that I really ought to make an effort to document her and her life before it’s too late, however difficult and awkward the process might be. These images explore her body and her skin, perhaps in the way a baby first discovers its mother, in small, bitesize pieces. Each fragment being a partial truth which together form a whole. The images highlight how time has left its mark on her, not just in terms of old age wrinkles but scars from the cancer and broken hip she has had to endure and overcome during her life.
This series subjects how the racialised body or the "other" has been seen and represented. Throughout an institutional archival document of her grandfather, which presents how identity can be negated in multiple ways, such as a non-white body in a colonial context and afterwards fighting for independence. Sofia began this series out of thoughts about her grandfather's path and her own path as a black woman - creating an intergenerational bridge, this time without the archive. Instead, the artist decided to create her own "archive" with a collection of blurred photographs in black and white to create a dreamy small fiction that reveals this long journey of self-acceptance.
Inspired by Zanele Muholi, Carrie Mae and Sophie Calle, Sofia decided to collect two essential elements for this journey, a radio and a mirror. The artist assumes that the actual projections of being are inaccurate or that it should be fluid. The artist searches for a connection by reconnecting her body's fragments and understanding that it does not have to match the convections. She embodies her experience by channelling it to an alternative story. This practice includes a metaphorical radio that aims for a channel but does not conform to the existing "channels", perhaps there is also the option to turn the radio off. The mirror represents self-acceptance or the continuous search of recognition of a non-categorised body. A universal and spatial awareness might come when playing with mirrors in domestic/public spaces and satellite connections.
Through an exploration of fragile surfaces and the vulnerable nature of architectural structures, Art-chitecture highlights the importance of conservation, and the historical value of traditional gothic architecture from a personal response. In this work, a dialogue of questions are raised of reasons why historical landmarks are restored and renovated and will modern buildings be maintained in the same way, or will they be demolished or replaced in years to come?
My practice solely relies on mark-making and drawings that allow me to study the progression of decay from the site’s original state. Original blueprints, and floor plans from landmarks such as Hardwick Hall, Chatsworth House, and other gothic architectural forms are layered between gestural and controlled marks to relate to the term palimpsest. Palimpsest, in this case, allows the viewer to observe each individual layer from the natural, man-made and accidental marks created.
For this, process is an important aspect of my work that starts with a graphite frottage source material of the exterior wall surface. The negative space from the source material relates to the level of decay and the protruding marks show the building’s original state. Accidental marks that I have created when producing the frottage are also recorded in this artwork. To then develop this further, I enlarge and abstract the marks from the source material by using graphite and charcoal. These materials are added on top of and in between paint layers onto mirror, perspex, and glass fragments as Hardwick Hall is known for being ‘more glass than wall’.
I Send Forth, I Promise is an ongoing project that is exploring the future-fiction of post-Earth inhabitation by coining the term and examining The Promittocene (a post-anthropocentric epoch). While currently traversing the Anthropocene (the current epoch), the human species is set on a path of self-destruction. Having existed for decades in an ideological capitalist society, planetary resources are being depleted, environmental disasters are becoming more common and the homeostatic condition of the planet is out of balance.
This work not only questions whether a colony on Mars will mark the beginning of The Promittocene epoch, the era in which the human species is no longer a single-planet organism, but also questions the role that photography plays in recording scientific and technological developments as fact.
The Latin etymology of ‘Promitto’ is from where this project draws its title. But it also shares linguistic similarities with Prometheus - the Titan of Greek Mythology that stole fire from the Gods and gave it to the human race. This spark that started the technological advancements of the human species will have to be struck again once a new colony is established on a second planet. There will always have to be the first flame, both literally and metaphorically.
Through photography, video, installation and sculpture, I create spaces in which visitors can unravel clues and suggestions, research and scientific data, and question suggested future-fictions that are shared through news headlines and fan the flames of hoax and science-fiction myth.