Degree shows can inspire | The Open College of the Arts
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Degree shows can inspire

I had a meeting at Bucks New University recently and visited the degree show in Furniture design (a real strength), Textiles Surface Design and Fine Art. Fine Art was really stimulating. It really struck me how useful it would be for OCA students, if at all possible, to get along to any degree shows in your locality. There are typically poorly advertised, but many are on right now, so do find out if there is one near you. The Bucks Fine Art show was refreshing in a number of respects: but mostly because there was a whole range of work on show, from the figurative (painting), through to conceptual installations. It was good to see that students had clearly been encouraged to follow their own voices rather than adopt a ‘house style’ that so often happens in art schools.
A few students’ work stood out for me, three of them mentioned here. First were works by Hilly Raphael, the rather lovely folded brown paper sculptures of torsos and limbs. All were secured with pins, and hence had echoes of dressmaking. Each life sized piece had hundreds of pins securing the paper in the form it was directly ‘cast’ from: close friends and members of the family. Quite an intimate procedure, the making of the pieces was itself part of the art experience. Also on show were Suki Berwick’s paintings that explore the relationship between abstraction and figuration, and surface and illusory space. They look like fleshy figures fragmented, rather in the style of one of my favourite artists Cecily Brown.

Claire Cunnick's 'Ringers'

Finally, perhaps one of the most moving works was one by Claire Cunnick She used alarm clocks to create a universe of moving objects, circling each other as if in space, guided by the hands of clocks, some in groups, some isolated and some in pairs, a planetarium of life. The objects hanging from the ceiling were made up of two cupped alarms from the tops of clocks, hanging by threads to the ceiling where clock hands gently ushered the ringers round the circle of life. I think Claire’s work is a fine example of subtle and rather beautiful conceptual art. Generally I prefer semi-abstract work with a foot in figurative painting, but this surprised me in its charm and multi-layering of concepts.

Posted by author: Jane Parry
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2 thoughts on “Degree shows can inspire

  • I agree totally. I was fortuate to be in Manchester this weekend, which coincided with the Graduate Show at The Manchester Metropolitan University. Rated by Artist and Illustrators Magazine recently as one of the best to visit for Painting, which is what I’m studying with the OCA. It was useful to see work that I could rate mine against. Is this the level I have to aim for? I was relieved to see a range of work from figurative through to abstact. And it was fantastic inspiration, not just the painting show, but all the other work too.

  • I also saw the BNU show and agree that there were some very inspiring pieces there. Great to see examples of conceptual art that are subtle, beautiful as well as powerful and original.

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