The University of Wolverhampton School of Art Fine Art Undergraduate Degree Show has started. Another year has passed since the last one. Time passes quickly. Time is repetitive. Time is cyclical, but it is moving upwards and onwards, always. A new group of artists are ready to launch themselves on the world, and disperse.
Seeing the show up and running, I suddenly feel as if I’ve been here a long time (four years). Of course, it is just a matter of perspective, I haven’t really been here that long. There have been 50 degree shows in this building in total. And anyway, soon I won’t be here any longer. It feels as if there is no end as time circles around each year, but there always is.
In those four years, which is a mere snip of the total, I’ve seen quite a change in direction and style in the undergraduate degree shows. Each year seems to build on the previous, trying to get closer to something, that allusive notion of perfection. Of course, this is an illusion, perfection doesn’t exist. It is all just a journey. It is ‘difference’ we are all striving for.
On first glance, the work this year appears more subtle, less ambitious in terms of scale, more traditionally executed perhaps and, for want of a better word, physically smaller, than the work on show on previous years. However, this is part of the beauty of it. Looking closer and looking at each individual piece in turn, taking time to consider each work, I realise that the art objects on display are buzzing, vibrating even, with power and emotional force. You can almost hear it, if you get close enough.
I harp on rather a lot about feeling or sensing the ‘essence’ within an artwork. This is that idea that for an artwork to be pure, it must harness the essence or force of things within it, and the viewer must be able to feel that essence or ‘force’ of life. The students graduating this year have managed to harbour that essence in a new way. I don’t just mean the essence of objects, which is what my practice is about, I am referring to feelings, humanity and thought as well (although they are all ‘things’ too). I felt this again and again as I walked around the show.
On the evening of the show, the following phrase kept popping into my mind: Less is More. Less is More. Less is More. My own degree show piece, two years ago, was the opposite of this. I exploded my ideas visually on the walls to translate my message. I was criticised for this by the Wolverhampton Express and Star. In my case, I was trying to bamboozle the viewer with information to make a point: my project was about repetition and saturation. However, perhaps the punch I was trying to give wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. I diffused it over too great a surface area. Maybe it is true that if you are going to punch, then one punch, executed with more force, more energy, more technical skill, and less surface area is more effective than a barrage of punches.
Whenever I try to review the degree show, I am always torn as to which pieces to highlight. The level of technical skill as well as the ability to ‘punch’ with a message has truly impressed me this year and I feel making a choice is almost impossible. The below works are just a taster.
Tariq Evans’s haunting drawings mesmerised me, to the point I keep returning to them even now as I am here in the studio. I just want to feel the strength of anxiety and angst he has put into them as I relate to that in my own life. It is incredibly powerful. I feel it every time I look at the drawings.
Equally, the digital portraits of Hayley Bowker keep drawing me back to take a second, third, and now fourth look. It is her technical skill that sucks me in. I am interested in the blend of the digital and the real and her drawings, made digitally, illustrate that there really isn’t that much difference between the two. It is possible to ‘punch’ with data.
I was attracted to the work of Charlotte Nock for it’s simplicity and it’s theme which is similar to mine when I graduated: repetition, anxiety and creativity. I felt that force very strongly through her simple pieces, illustrating the point effectively about the power of the punch.
Alexandra Fitzgerald’s two contrasting video image and footage – one moving, one still, one on black, one on white, one in day, one in dark, one in a generic city, one in a specifically English location – spoke to me as well. We are all guilty of invisibility cloak syndrome. We look out, but we are also being looked upon. There is tension there. It is constant too, in the real world and the virtual one. It applies on the macro level more so now then ever, and on the micro level also of our interactions with everyone we pass by.
So, I am inspired now to think of a way to punch for my own final show in October. The art journey continues. Onwards and upwards.