UCS art degree show pushes the boundaries

This weekend sees the opening of the UCS Fine Art Degree show – the annual exhibition by fine art students which is mounted as part of their degree show.

The show is a wonderful celebration of the diversity of the work carried out by the course which has its roots in the old Ipswich Art School which is currently having a new lease of life as a gallery.

This year’s exhibition, being held in the studios of the UCS art department, opposite the main building, has a strong conceptual art element – although it still demonstrates a strong understanding of the traditional art skills of painting, drawing and sculpture.

Many of this year’s exhibitions also have an inter-discipline theme, using different media to explore a central theme.

Ipswich has always had a great reputation for its fine art degree and this exhibition shows that the current students are still just as tho0ughtful and just as keen to push the boundaries as their predecessors were.


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Chrissie Harrington, head of school said: “I really look forward to our degree show. I love to see the range of exciting work that marks the culmination of a learning journey with us.

“They develop and explore new techniques and technologies, tackle problems, investigate issues and ideas, engage in critical debate, take risks, create and innovate.”

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She said that students are also given help in entering the outside world. Some are looking to continue their art education while others are seeking work. The exhibition makes a great calling card.

Course leader, David Baldry added for him the exhibition was a welcome opportunity to take a step back and view familiar work afresh.

“Each year I am asked, ‘is this a good show’ and ‘who are the best students’? My usual response is that at this point in the year, I just don’t know. My familiarity with the work and with little time for reflection or thoughtful comparison means that I am unable to make such a judgement.

“What I do know is that each one of the students, in their individual way, has had to deal with their own particular creative struggles during the past three years. Each student’s struggle for excellence has drawn together insightful and eclectic sources, both current and historical, demonstrating their understanding and their ability to identify and avoid the banal in preference for the meaningful.”

He said that that he remains delighted with the commitment and stamina shown during the three course and students constant ability to delight and surprise.

Among the exhibitions this year, is an exploration of Buddha, a startling series of wax sculptures, a meditation on a room with a brick wall as a view, an audience with a room full of spectacles, a look at our relationship with dolls and some unusual uses of videotape.

Natalie Bernthal said that she used tape of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys to construct her 3-D designs which were reinterpreted with the use of mood lighting and the use of a fan.

“I use non-traditional materials. I thought I would use VCR tape in a series called Magnetic Rhythm. It looks at the fragility of life and how materials become obsolete.” She added that the use of space within the exhibition and the use of shadows as well as the rise and fall of the VCR tape in the fan’s air-steam was all part of the overall experience of the show.

Next door Paul Fisk also utilises space to create a world in which to explore Buddha in Contemporary Art. A glass-topped table and chair is mounted on a wall. The table has a hole cut into the centre, through which is placed a scroll containing 376 poems. On the opposite wall the bare-bones of a bed hangs with an over-sized, half-burned spoon resting on the mattress-less springs. On a third wall a portable television is showing a close up of a disembodied torso holding a revolver. It’s a fixed, seemingly unchanging view but as we talk the gun suddenly fires and smoke is then seen floating up from the barrel.

Elsewhere there are various images of Buddha is various different forms. Paul said: “I try and create an abstraction because otherwise you are putting yourself into a box because people come with their own ideas.”

Upstairs Laura Leahy has produced a series of images of the room where she worked, a room with only one window which looked out onto a solid brick wall. Her display includes various views of the room and studies of the brickwork.

Some of the studies are illuminated by light boxes which changes how the room is viewed. A dark room suddenly appears much sunnier.

Emma Neave said that during the course she became fascinated with the human relationship to objects and in particular how dolls occupy a place in people’s affections. “I am intrigued by the fact that an object can mean so much to one person without physically having to change it. It is an emotional investment. What is lump of plastic to some people is something to be loved and cherished by others. I have taken this idea to the extreme.”

Creating physical experiences are Craig Hudson and Melanie Read. Craig has created an exhibition space which mirrors his sculpture workshop. Artefacts of the construction process inform the final exhibition which combines wax and bronze.

Meanwhile Melanie’s exhibit takes the visitor through a narrow dark space before being confront by a brightly lit white room with hundreds of pairs of glasses mounted on the walls and staring back at you.

Both said that their work revolved around the notion of identity and a sense of self. Melanie works with found objects while Craig utilises items of his own wardrobe or parts of his own anatomy.

The UCS Fine Art Degree Show runs at the UCS art block until June 19. There maybe images within the exhibition which some may find disturbing.

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