University of Brighton degree show 2015 part 2 – fine art and sculpture

2015-06-12 18.07.01I think the show this year is exceptional. Forgive me for omissions, with few exceptions, the pictures were all brilliant. They are also diverse in styles and subjects. Thematically, food seems to be important this year. Anna Choutova (left) presents a huge jar of olives; Louis Staples’s avocados (right) 2015-06-12 18.08.16are almost graphic design and  his melting butter (bottom left) positively spreadable. There is a hint Paul Nash about the image in terms of colour and surrealism. Talking of which…

2015-06-12 18.09.40A positive highlight was most certainly some familiar surrealism. Again, the artist’s name was absent, but we were at least given an email address and the name of the paintings. First, then, And onto Man, Nothing Shall Pass (right) 2015-06-12 18.11.14positively dripping Dali. The lion with a zip on its back is intriguing. At first I thought it was a switch. But when I looked again more closely I saw the teeth of the zip. I trust the lion is being zipped up.

2015-06-12 18.12.35The same artist is responsible for An Allegory of Pride (The Seven Vices and Virtues of Tragedy, left). The title invites the return of the lion, this time in a very Magrittian ensemble of characters, locations and colour.

Nettle Grellier presents a delightful picture (below right) simply entitled Outside In. The 2015-06-12 18.15.58theme is flowers, birds, sunlight, fecundity. It has a feelgood factor about it without being overly challenging. It is a bit of a tapestry that, ultimately, asks, what is inside?

2015-06-12 18.20.29It is almost as if Dexter Gonzales (left), gives us a possible answer to that question with his exquisite view of a garret. Many of us have inhabited these kinds of spaces in our lives. This image looks warm and inviting. Often they are neither.  Gonzales cleverly uses frames to limit his images. It works.

2015-06-12 18.30.49Sophie McKenna’s work (left) is beguiling. Look closely and there is not much to say. Move away, and any number of things come to mind, most of them relating to nature. I can see an aerial view of roaming Wilderbeast (or their continental equivalents). I can see bees, trees, clouds. The cloud element is helped by the scratchy swirls that would not be out of place on a weather chart. Probably I write nonsense?2015-06-12 18.31.50

Human identity is a perennial topic for artists. There were, for me, three particular examples of note. First, Alexander Kay’s Existence I (right). This nude is both erotic and tormented. The environment is not friendly, though she may ordinarily 2015-06-12 18.40.04be in some passionate embrace. If she is, this is armageddon. Is is the existence merely feeling human?

Second, is James Hicks’s self portraits (left). The mirror seems to distort the image (not least the impossible walking shoes). It is not a comfortable image, but the artist has some guile in presenting himself in this way.

Finally, Ellie Seymour’s disconcerting portrait (right)DSCF1111 is part of a series entitled Misshapen I-V. As the title suggests, the images are deliberately distorted in a bid to subvert media representations of feminity, without, it seems, rejecting it completely.

Perhaps the darkest and most unnerving work this year is that of Victoria Jenkins (below left). These three enclosed figures are trapped, despairing, claustrophobic. The materials used include a resin that compounds this feeling. Like a tar pool that trapped early 2015-06-12 18.36.38mammals.

There was not much portraiture this year. The most photoreali2015-06-12 18.23.53stic of the small sample was the series of self portraits by Sam Glencross. This one (right) depicts the artist at 17 (though the panel said 21), devoid of neck. Frowning. The eyes are a cold blue and the hair…a problem in later life.

2015-06-12 18.34.52It is worth, briefly, going back to food. These fried eggs (left) by Amber Manser are perfectly edible.

2015-06-12 18.54.03And so to sculpture. Sculpture is not the most accessible form for me. There are three observations from this year’s show.

Robert James Gordon’s, Stay, is simple in its effectiveness. A resin dog sits infront of a mirror. Look into the mirror one can also see his piece, Upwardly Immobile. This piece depicts a very young child in a harness suspended from a not-inconsiderable height. The child is so young that there is a degree of abandonment about it. The title also suggest limited life chances. Suspended between ambition and reality. Hunger, loneliness. 2015-06-12 18.55.12

I must say to the curators of the sculpture exhibition, the aviary with living birds is not art. Please do not incorporate live animals into exhibitions.

The final example of grotesqueness is captured in the work of Rachael Power (right). Essentially, this DSCF1115work is a walk-in vagina installation. The author herself is attempting to reclaim the vagina as an aesthetic entity from the pornographers. She seeks to return the penis to its ‘protective roots’. The installation certainly appropriates the penis and even at the rear of the installation creates a second vagina from the male body.

download_20150615_225544 Finally, Rose Harris (left) presents a spread of wonderful aesthetic prints. The eye is drawn to this lucious example (left). The detail in the leaves is tremendous. It is like a carving. And whilst it was the first collection that we saw, I leave my review with this image as symbolic of the show overall. Apologies to the textile artists. Somehow we both missed the galleries and ran out of time.

1 comment so far

  1. George on

    For anyone who wants to check out Rachael Power’s other work!

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