Degree shows are always interesting, because they offer a small glimpse into where art is heading in the future. This past week has born witness to a number of masters’ level (MA) degree shows within the Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon (CCW) trilogy of art colleges. Artlyst decided to pay the CCW shows a visit, to get a better sense of what student art currently lies in the pipeline.
Somewhat poignantly, this year’s student exhibitions take place against a backdrop of significant funding cuts in the culture and education sectors. There is little doubt that the climate of austerity and the hike in student fees will radically change the face of art education in the UK. Fairly soon after the dust surrounding the impending increase in student fees had settled, the University of the Arts London (UAL), under whose umbrella the CCW colleges fall, announced that it would raise undergraduate fees for the 2012/2013 academic year to the maximum permissible annual limit of £9,000.
It thus came as no surprise when the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) indicated that applications for arts and design courses had dropped by a sixth. According to Arts London News, UCAS official figures show that 227,729 applications were received for courses starting in September 2012, compared to 271,931 during the previous year. This represents a total decline of 16.3%. UAL faired slightly worse than the national average, with overall applications plummeted by a whopping 19%. While the decrease in aspiring university entrants undoubtedly owes much to the increase in fees, UAL does not fare as well as it should in the university league tables: the Guardian’s latest ratings place UAL 16th in the overall category for art and design – behind UCL (University College London, ranked first) and Goldsmiths (ranked eighth).
Undoubtedly in response to the funding cuts, the CCW graduate school has opted to reduce its course load in the 2012-‐2013 academic year, by cutting back on duplicate courses across the different colleges. The MA fine art degree at Camberwell will be one of the casualties of this process (the course is being absorbed into the Chelsea MA). There do not seem to be any similar plans to consolidate the fine art MA programme at Wimbledon with Chelsea (at least not yet). One of the fine art graduates that we spoke to could not hide his disappointment that the MA degree at Camberwell was soon to be rationalised out of existence. And how can one blame him? The independence of many former self-‐standing art colleges has slowly been eroded by consolidation within the British tertiary education sector over the past few years. These latest developments at CCW mean that post graduate art training in London is set to become just that bit less diverse.
Scattered across London as they may be, the CCW MA exhibitions are well worth a visit, if only to experience how the different approaches that each college takes to art and design are translated into practice. Most notably, Wimbledon and Camberwell College do things a bit differently from most other art schools in the UK, which reflects in their degree show output in turn. Camberwell and Wimbledon break up their fine art degrees into distinct disciplines (the menu of courses on offer includes painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and time-‐ based media). This is unusual, as many of the big brand art schools in London have abandoned specialisation in favour of a more cross-‐disciplinary approach. For example, Chelsea does not distinguish between pathways, and neither does Goldsmiths.
Also significant is that the CCW MA shows bring work from all departments within each college together under the banner of a single exhibition. Accordingly, visitors who are looking for more than a cursory once over are well advised to block off the entire day. The disciplines being showcased extend far beyond the confines of fine art, and range from bookmaking to animation, to interior and spatial design, just to mention a few.
Because the work on show is so diverse, we thought that it would be more useful to give you, the audience a summary of some of the highlights of the CCW exhibitions. In the visual arts, pictures so often speak louder than words.
Youn su Kim
“Ceremony for Birds” (porcelain paper clay) MA designer maker, Camberwell
Undoubtedly one of the showstoppers of the CCW MA exhibition is Youn su Kim’s homage to ceremonies for dead birds. In porcelain, the artist reproduces the traces of the fluttering movement of living birds. The delicate feather-‐like structures are made with incredible skill (a commentary on the fact that humans throughout the ages have deployed craft-‐based skills to ensure their survival). In turn, people acquire and hone their skills by repeating the same action many times. The circle of life itself is a repetitive process of birth and death, as represented by the circular pattern in which Youn su Kim has arranged each constituent ceramic component of this piece.
Installation view of “Face Restored” and “Sock Puppet” (mixed media) MA Fine Art, Camberwell
Murray Anderson’s practice is primarily concerned with the grey area between inner and outer experience, fact and fiction and drawing parallels between scientific discovery and humankind’s own, subjective beliefs. In the MA exhibition, Anderson has chosen to exhibit a bizzarely surreal mixed media piece that explores the relationship between human beings and the objects of their making. The installation juxtaposes objects as incongruent as a dipped sock, a half-‐human torso perched on a metal stand, and an unidentifiable object cast from jesmonite in a bucket, over which a bluish, algenate-‐like substance has been poured.
Title not apparent at exhibition (paper and mixed media) MA Fine Art, Chelsea
Juhee Hong’s work primarily concerns itself with paradoxes associated with Buddhist philosophy, in this case, the paradox that “form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” In this work, the negative images of Chinese (?) characters have been cut out onto scrolls of paper. Positive images of yet more characters are projected onto the scrolls to convey the sense of dualism between substance and nothingness.
Chelsea MA Show
Unnamed photograph of street art
This anonymous piece of street art caught our eye as we were heading on our way into the main building. The work consists of a photograph of a graffittied door that could have been spray painted anywhere in the world, pasted onto one of the outside walls at the Chelsea campus. True to the tradition of street art, no details of the artist or photographer are given, whether in the form of an explanatory plaque or in the accompanying degree show guide.
MA Fine Art, Wimbledon
(Title not apparent at exhibition)
Alice Eikelpoth is a German artist who draws inspiration for her subject matter from personal experiences, memories and thoughts. In her work, she collages found images and other graphic material into her own compositions. In her exhibition piece, the print of a man, his face erased, is intriguingly suspended between the edges of an empty picture frame.
Wimbledon MA Fine Art, Wimbledon Title not apparent at exhibition
Borges is a Spanish artist who uses eerily lifelike anatomical sculptures of wax to recreate disembodied human forms. His imagery references prosthetic legs, false teeth and glass eyes, which he combines to create awkward and new hybridized humanoids.
Words and images: Carla Raffinetti © Artlyst **** Star Covering image: Angela Ho, MA Drawing, Wimbledon, © Wimbledon College of Art