University of Brighton Faculty of Arts Graduate Show 2013

We visit the annual exhibition of over 500 graduating students’ work

James Cowland
James Cowland

We visit the annual exhibition of over 500 graduating students’ work

1st – 12th June

Grand Parade and Pavilion Parade

One of the biggest open studio events in or outside Brighton showcases the work of over 500 new young artists in many disciplines over the next two weeks.

Starting with coffee and cake in the quad, we reflect that it’s a hideous building for art, design, fashion and architecture and the way things look [and it could do with some shade], but the temporary big wooden arched tunnels housing the Architecture exhibitions look great, and there is a terrific swing made of joined wooden hoops, too.

Starting on the third floor and working downwards, some impressions follow …

Fine Art Printmaking

Loved the BA Fine Art Printmaking catalogue – a big sheet enfolding a sheaf of prints, one representing each student.

There’s a fashion for the minimal and the monochrome this year; a lot of white space on pristine paper.

Graphic Design and Illustration

A sense of the commercial, advertising, packaging and comic books, drawing designing, storytelling and image-making here. A mass of images all crowding together, and a giant bird made of plastic forks.

Fine Art Painting

Pick up the smart red catalogue.

They really don’t do pretty! There’s a great deal of paint on some very big canvases; big, angry, splashy and fast, some emperors’ new clothes, some images of underage porn, some overindulged teen scribbles – and the occasional flash of wow.

Standout trio:

James Cowland “Schism” – oil on canvas, a glowing globe. Muted tones, enigmatic things looking right back at you

Georgia Newton – Big canvases, all airy shapes and fluid curves inspired by the process of thought

Tim Patrick – There’s something happening in each assured and accomplished painting, conversations, inspections even, in a limited palette of greys and beiges. Patrick will soon be exhibiting at Gallery 40, Gloucester Road Brighton.

Digital music and sound arts

Sit with headphones and screens to experience the work. Especially liked “Entoma” – Chiara Fulgoni creates the soundtrack for this wordless animation about a sharp little girl and her insect friend – sound effects, vocal effects and music composed and created in collaboration with the film makers in the USA to illustrate the story, highlighting personalities and mood.

Performance and Visual Art / Theatre and Dance / Moving Image

I found these difficult to deal with. I have to wonder what these University of Brighton courses are for, producing performance, camera work and staging that would not get the graduate cast or employed for stage, screen or audio.

What training are they receiving? If the point of these courses is not to prepare students for work in show business, the acting profession or the film industry, it’s hard to see what they are being prepared for in an increasingly difficult world and uncertain future. There’s a lack of real world awareness here and if training for the real world is not the point, then what is?

I’d call it a triumph of staging over content, if the staging had been better.

The exception is Digital Music and Sound Design – sound track for film and TV requires practical understanding of voice, music and sound and there is some interesting work in this show.

Fashion

Everything comes to a point right here – painting, photography, graphic design, CGI, 3D printing, textiles, printmaking, textiles and business – all these disciplines meet in the Fashion and Textile courses to create the designers of the future.

The past is inspiring the futures of so many of the graduates. I especially noted:

Lucy Lee – 80s Alexis Carrington-style sculpted red peplum dresses …

Jessy Linton – Buffalo Gals prairie dresses …

Faye Baldwin – new pilgrim settler chic …

Katie Ring – Egyptian goddess woven ribbon sheath dresses …

Nneka Uzoigue -Art Deco tunics in laser cut black chiffon over nude chiffon …

Textile Design

Neon brights, fairytale pastel woodlands, bear and reptile skin inspirations, knit, weave, paint, print, embellish – these are the drivers of the fabrics we”ll wear tomorrow.

Mood boards, notebooks and intricately imagined and realised textile sample swatches to play with [carefully].

Sculpture

To the children’s play area next, with tent, bouncy castle, big stuffed toys, skittles and a styrofoam grass-lined wendy house. Flimsy fun, but nothing to last for the future. Where are the sculptors being trained?

3D Materials Practice

This used to be called Wood, Metal, Ceramic and Plastic, and this is where it gets real again – fascinating creations, things to wear, carry, sit on, eat off, read, play, lie on, touch, paddle, grow plants in, stare at, enjoy. The shock of the do?

Architecture

Loved the wooden tunnel, the design project boards [apart from some of the Vogon poetry] and the Leonardo-esque miniature sets for rooms for real people.

So at the end of the trip through the culmination of three years of study and work, I’m left with an odd sense that the University of Brighton approach is split.

At one end there seems a lot of fuss about nothing, some massively overblown puffs with no centre to them in the Performance and Moving Image courses, a parallel universe where the real world has no bearing on what is produced.

At the far end, in the Fashion, Textiles, 3D and Architecture departments, there’s a great sense that the students are being prepared for a world where art and business merge.

With Painting, Printmaking and Photography somewhere in the middle, is there a discrepancy between different departments’ grasp of the real world?

There’s a preparing to practice and starting your own business element going on over the next few weeks – I wonder if this should be addressed throughout the courses instead of bolted on at the end – if it is, there’s little evidence of it from some of the departments.