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:
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’:
Miles’ statement reads:
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:
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:
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:
Whereas the cards, print and the image on her website is:
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.