Today, I took my seven-year-old son to see the Wolverhampton Art School MA Show 2017 at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
We spent an hour looking around the artworks on show.
Later, over lunch, I asked him what his favourite piece had been. I predicted incorrectly. I thought his favourite piece would be by Travis Booth, who has just finished his MA in Digital and Visual Communications. One of his pieces of work is a Virtual Reality motion device, to be held against the eyes, which my son appeared to love exploring.
In fact, his favourite piece had been the same as mine, more anon.
My main focus in this review is on fine art so most of my comments here refer to the pieces exhibited by the fine art students. The overall feeling I had from the fine art pieces in the show was an impression of size, or lack of it, of the works on display in comparison to the recent BA in Fine Art Degree Show, which I took part in as a graduating student. However, one very important lesson I have learnt in my art journey so far is that size isn’t everything; quantity is not the same as quality (unless part of the message is quantity perhaps). What counts, is the research, the message and the effect.
The pieces I saw showed depth of thought, a lot of it, and depth of research, and most of all, originality in a specific aspect. What I mean by this is that the graduating students seemed to be attempting something ‘new’ using something ‘old’. The media and techniques were not new, but the desired effect, perhaps was. There was a feeling of tentativeness about their work, but also courage.
Back to my son’s favourite piece, which happened to be also mine. We both were most taken by a set of four paintings by fine art soon-to-be graduate Roman Malinowski. My son and I agreed that we found these paintings utterly absorbing. We spent quite a long time looking at them. Examined up close, they were works of pattern, line, shape, form, abstraction. Examined from a distance, they were works of figures, light, sense, essence and mood. We kept standing first up close, and then away; close, and away, just to look and think and look some more and think some more. We were absorbed. These paintings definitely had that rather elusive quality of ‘essence’ so well-described by Jacques Derrida as far as both of us were concerned.
One phrase in the description that accompanied these paintings struck me as pertinent to what we thought is the following: ‘The paintings seek to build the light on the canvas by painting matter as specks of colour as if dispersed in the air.’ All I can say to that is: yes!
We also both quite liked the work of Richard Bruce. We didn’t quite understand the concept, but we like the interesting depiction of not-quite numbers in interesting configurations. I asked my son to describe what he saw in the paintings and he immediately was able to describe various types of figures and shapes. It intrigued me that he felt it natural and not at all strange to imagine a narrative out of the images. It is a child-like quality that perhaps many retain as adults, but not all perhaps. I hope that I do.
The final pieces I want to highlight were by David Fletcher. His work explores death and decay, but the resultant drawings and sculptures were haunting in their impact, and very beautiful and moving.
There were other pieces we felt an impact from, including some digital ‘paintings’ and sheets of painted metal with perspex embedded into them. Many works appeared to be attempting to merge the boundaries of 2D painting and 3D art, doing so very effectively.
I left the MA Show feeling inspired and energised. I will be exhibiting here in two years’ time. I have no idea what I might be showing, either what concept I will be following or what media I will be using, but that’s a good thing and it is that which is what is getting me energised right now. The great unknown lurks ahead for me, and it is exciting and frightening and that’s a great combination to be facing.