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Fine Art Degree Shows: compare and contrast

As things worked out this week I was able to visit two Fine Art Degree Shows on consecutive days. On Monday I took a look at the De Montfort (DMU) show and on Tuesday I was in Sheffield and had 20 minutes to spare before catching the train back to Leicester. So I had a quick look at (some of) the Sheffield Hallam University Fine Art Show.

What a contrast between SHU and DMU.

I didn’t know anything about the Sheffield course, but it was clear straightaway that it is concerned with conceptual art.  The work on show mainly took the form of installations, videos, and objects and three-dimensional work. Conceptual art often leaves me cold, so not surprisingly one of the displays that made the most impact on me was a non-representational painting by Jessica Box; she had included a textured surface  of rough and fluid shapes, possibly made from plaster, and used translucent paint – I think water-colour. The result was delicate but full of depth and movement. The other work I liked – I didn’t make a note of the name of the student – was an old book-case, with books on and a tea-cup, but tilted at a gravity defying angle. Really simple idea but it worked somehow. Sorry I didn’t have my camera with me. But here is a link to the SHU degree show gallery

DMU doesn’t have such a strong house style, and makes a virtue of this. It was clear from looking at the work, however, that many students were concerned with  formal elements such as colour and light, form, composition. This was definitely more in my comfort zone! The work was mainly sculpture, painting, some installations and videos, but hardly any prints.

The DMU students each put up a statement about their work, and which artists inspired them, but SHU didn’t do this. So at Sheffield the viewer is forced to think for themselves and try work out what is going on (if they can be bothered), which recognises that what the artist intends isn’t necessarily what the viewer sees.  However, as I’ve just finished doing the Art Foundation course, I was pleased to read the DMU statements as some resonated with the same ideas I had been tackling. The works that made the most  impact included Sharon Davies (exploring colour and light very effectively, but overall the images were a bit cool and unemotional); Jessica Dickens – this was an installation showing the film ‘Modern Times’ in a charming and quirky way using a motorised tricycle going round in circles; I also liked some non-representational paintings by Joy Hockney – I liked that she said she was concerned with challenging her own instincts and pushed herself into taking risks with her painting; finally Chloe Hamilton created an installation which looked like a sea of  jelly fish suspended in air, except you could walk through it. 

DMU’s gallery

One final thing – Richard Diebenkorn’s name cropped up several times in the statements so I’ll have to look him up.