UCA BA Degree show 2013

Not sure why I thought this was going to be a lot different to the Brookes Oxford Show I went to recently, but I came away a little disappointed. There were three big differences between the shows, UCA is much bigger, they (the UCA artists) promote themselves better and the UCA students seemed, well, much younger, on the small sample I saw/met/spoke with. Housed in some 26 rooms and along some of the corridors, there is a lot to take in. I focussed on Photography and Fine Art that combined took up 6 large rooms, most of which had either individual installation rooms (Fine Art) or gallery type areas (Photography) with either print or projection. The University should be commended in it’s activity of encouraging the student to market themselves – some do as artist AND models – I came away with any number of business cards, leaflets, postcards, individual freebie prints – I say ‘should’ because there were instances where the reproductions in the ‘giveaway’ media seriously let the prime work down – more later.

The Photographic work didn’t seem to push many barriers. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, but whereas Brookes had artists who were prepared to question the  age old tropes of gender, feminism and so on, the UCA photographers were more interested in image, either image as a medium to be investigated or image as means of self promotion. For example Raj Khepar looked at the image of women in this series:

copyright Raj Khepar, reprinted by kind permission of the artist www.rajkhepar.com

copyright Raj Khepar, reprinted by kind permission of the artist http://www.rajkhepar.com

I asked the artist about whether this work was discussing feminist ideas, about female representation, but apparently not, it is solely about the use of photoshop in today’s media and how its use obscures our perception of the face. Raj had tried to do some similar work with males, but couldn’t overcome the difficulties with stubble. I thought about suggesting he asked his male sitters to shave, but decided against it and moved on.

Miles Holden had three images from his series ‘Final sitting’:

copyright Miles Holder; reprinted by kind permission of the photographer

Ken, copyright Miles Holder; reprinted by kind permission of the photographer


Miles’ statement reads:

The Final Sitting

The Final Sitting

I spoke to Miles about the work, about how the sitter had, through these beautiful portraits, had been objectified in a very tender way. Miles said that he wanted to be able to provide nice photographs for the sitters and their families/loved ones. A very laudable aim no doubt, but I felt there was a missed opportunity to investigate, through, as Miles’ project states quite poetically, how the ‘arrestment of time’ would have allowed the sitter or the photographer (or both) a significant moment with which to reflect about the immediate future or the past leading up to that moment. Or perhaps that is the role of the viewer in an exhibition setting…..

Beauty was all around though and these portraits were by someone whose name I didn’t collect:

After Goya?

After Goya? My description..

I was though particularly impressed with the Fine Arts work on display, and maybe this could be deemed comparable to the work at Brookes. Lots of interesting ideas/concepts some of which I grasped quite readily, others not. The Photography had a variety of fashion/documentary and some of which could have easily been recategorised as Fine Art. It was in the first ‘Fine Arts’ room that I detected, again, the importance or words. Text is becoming more and more prevalent in the work I am seeing – whether as a sort of subjunctive metaphor for the visual image – be it a two or three dimensional piece – or, more likely as an indicative accompaniment to the same.

Sally Monk’s piece, an installation created from sanitary towels,thread and steel clearly celebrates the ‘otherness’ of femininity in an ephemeral gender specific piece that would appear to float in the air.

One artist to whom words were particularly important was Mali Clements;

The work on her website is worth some investment. And another in the same room dealing with the sexualisation of women is Lisa Batting Lovejoy:

Girl under a box camera sculpture 2013  copyright Lisa Batting Lovejoy www.lisabattinglovejoy.co.uk

Girl under a box camera sculpture 2013
copyright Lisa Batting Lovejoy

I certainly came away with some things to think about. As at Brookes, issues to do with the sexualisation of women, gender and feminist issues were dealt with by women, though at Brookes there was a greater level of discourse on the subject. The students as UCA were more interested in image, and it seems, nearly as much about their own image as anything they used as subjects; this was particulalry so in the photography school. Neither Brookes nor UCA had very much in the way of polemics interupting their creative flow, which in this day and age was a disappointment to me, as I expected more radicalism; but maybe they were there to engage with the society they – at least the UCA students in any case – were about to try and make an impression in.

And talking of making impressions I wondered about how they reconciled some of the poor reproductions in their otherwise, highly professional marketing materials at UCA.

For example the artist Bridget Bloom:

No. 1 - homage to Mondrian copyright Bridget Bloom www.bridgetbloom.weebly.com

No. 1 – homage to Mondrian
copyright Bridget Bloom

Whereas the cards, print and the image on her website is:

No. 1 - homage to Mondrian copyright Bridget Bloom www.bridgetbloom.weebly.com

No. 1 – homage to Mondrian
copyright Bridget Bloom

I have asked the artist about this and will update the post if and when I hear back from her. Update from the artist:

“many thanks for your interest.
Yes, it was rather out of my control in that I had a local photographer take the pix and between him and theprinter they rather screwed up on the colour -and I couldn’t afford to have them done again. But I’m v glad you liked the real thing!”

If I hadn’t seen the original large painting I perhaps would have been still interested in the landscape in the green hues, but I didn’t and they tell a different story to me. Similarly some of the work, particularly the photographic images were unprofessionally mounted, grubby (when placed in frames that were meant to impress – and not, I am sure – as a transgressive act).

And the refectory ran out of sandwiches as well!

I plan to go to Ruskin College’s show in a couple of weeks and will look for differences/similarities and above all, inspiration.


9 thoughts on “UCA BA Degree show 2013

  1. You sound pretty downbeat in this review John….and I have to say given what you seem to have found I am not at all surprised. It seems very surprising to me that a photographer/artist who has latched onto the issue of overuse of retouching of images in advertising and the media but has not linked this to the way images of women are idealised/stereotyped and presented as ‘ego-ideals’ for others to desire and aspire to…Sounds like the fine arts students fared rather better….

    • Not downbeat overall Keith, but perhaps just disappointed at the photography students level of depth. Perhaps if the photographer had photographed the women as men – or men as womoen and blanked their faces it would have been a stronger statement? And yes, I do feel the fine artists were more deeply engaged with the world around them.

  2. Perhaps what you noticed as the emphasis on image reflects the age of the photographers. Interesting for me as well that I didn’t notice it, so I’m wondering how much that has to do with my lesser interest in portraiture and definite lack of interest in self-portraits. I’m obviously going to have to reflect on this when I draft my own write-up.

    • I recognise the age differences between the ones who need to be helped to find their way around ( 🙂 ) and the age of the artists, but I seem to remember that I was engaged in political conversations with my art at ‘O’ level – perhaps it’s more of a statement of general political/radical apathy and not age?

  3. Interesting analysis as always John. You did well to find bodies to talk to – very lacking at the session I attended. I wasn’t overwhelmed either, but then felt rather guilty on the way home as I know I could not have done as well as many of those exhibiting had done .. unless you want photographs of birds or steam engines of course! Probably get put against the bloodied wall of pictorialism and shot for that I would think … !

    • I don’t think you get shot for pictorialism Dave – after all Margaret Cameron is still lionised in certain circles 😉 . I thought there were some technically excellent work on show, it just seemed to lack a great deal of depth for me and for a final year exhibition I expected to see greater levels of engagement. Though I fully appreciate that I could be missing something through naivety.

  4. You are too fast. I just got home not long ago and still collecting my thought.

    I do come back with the idea that it can be better, but I try to keep my mouth shut on this, because maybe I won’t do anything any better myself by the time when I get to level 3. I find myself more drawn to the artist statement than the images/work itself. I think this is something I should reflect more on.

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