Central St. Martins Graduate Shows 2012 – Review

What is happening with Central Saint Martins graduates? A better question perhaps is what is not happening? This is the first year that Saint Martins is displaying their graduate degree shows in their new home behind St. Pancras Station. The building is new and luxurious yet the graduate shows felt old and at times thrown together. This year’s offerings truly highlight the strengths of certain programs on offer at the university, while others struggled to live up to the prestigious title that the university carries in the UK and internationally.

Let us start with the positive things. This year’s show combines both BA and MA courses from a range of disciplines, including the ever popular BA Fashion and lesser marketed courses MA courses in Textile Futures and Industrial Design. The new building space and open atrium give the shows a much needed physical connection even though there is still room for many of the students to forge more collaboration across disciplines. The fashion program was strong and presented a variety of work that was focusing largely on the use of alternative materials and a blast from the past through nostalgic prints and colours.  Special note goes to Erin Hawkes, Winner L’Oreal Professional Young Design Talent Award and the two runner-ups Alan Lee and Serena Gili.  The BA Graphic Design show like the Fashion show is always head and shoulders above the rest.  The show is divided into different disciplines including Illustration, Moving Image and Advertising, with exhibited work including animation, book binding, contextual writing, drawing, fashion, film, interactive design, letterpress, printmaking, spatial design and typography.  Of particular note are Radek Husak and Kate Mcpartland who collaborated to create The People’s Supermarket Cookbook an illustrated book using various woodcut illustrations collected from various sources. These patterns were then applied to a variety of products, including posters, tea towels and an apron.  Also, the woodcuts of Charlotte Ajoodan-Poor and a very impressive display of Moving Image works – too numerous to itemise.

The other projects that stood out the most came from smaller areas of study including Textile Futures, which tended to focus on potential uses of sustainable materials. Many of the works incorporated found objects in conjunction with innovative and refreshingly creative interpretations of form in relation to the body. Synthetic materials and the creation of clothing that could be used to aid human development was an impressive glimpse into the purpose of clothing and textiles. In comparison to the other courses on offer, this appeared to have the most potential to practical application and marketability. Industrial Design also offered a similar glimpse into the ability of these young artists and creators to find materials, which have recyclable potential and aesthetic harmony. Many seen were taking a critical stance, where as many aspects of the rest of the show lacked analytical forging.

The Fine Art features of the show were less than thrilling. There were occasional pieces on offer that showed potential, yet it mostly highlighted the increasing disconnect between the students in different courses of study. Within the Fine Art presentation, themes and concepts dribbled out rather than sang, and a fair few tended to reflect the trend of the day rather than establishing a coherent position within the greater art world ethos. This may well be in part because of the new fashion in which the university was displaying work. For the first time both MA and BA shows were being held at the same time and under the same roof. It was an ambitious move and a positive one for many of the courses. Combining varying levels of study in one show is a great way to exhibit progression and development, yet several programs of study were stagnant.

Works of particular note include the installation by Charlotte Freya Kaye entitled ‘Nowhere in Insomniac Cinema’ which consisted of a painted plywood structure with a projection screen roof and curved mattress interior where an animated film was projected.

Insomniac Cinema

Charlotte Freya Kaye

Similarly, the installation by Michael Alan Outhwaite entitled ‘The Real world is just another window’ consisting of a structure with a small window through which you can see the surrounding space and people around you from a CCTV camera.

Michael Alan Outhwaite

Michael Alan Outhwaite

The most outstanding painting was by Shih-Hsiung Chou, an oil painting made from machine oil in a Perspex case in which the changing light subtly alters the appearance of the work.


Oil Painting



Shih-Hsiung Chou

Another outstanding piece representing the MA Fine Art department was Martin Cordiano who has been selected to reprsent CSM in this year’s Red Mansion Art Prize with his piece ‘One Roof Many Roofs’

Martin Cordiano

This year’s graduate shows at St. Martins exhibit some of the best Art and Design that is being created in London at the moment. The new building allows the disciplines to mingle and a chance for those viewing it to jump around with ease in order to see the highlights. Potential is not in short supply from any of the work that is on show with many students looking at important issues that stretch beyond the arts and into real practicality. 

Words/ image by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012

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