Goldsmiths 2012 High Calibre MFA Degree Show Review

Last night saw the opening of the 2012 MFA degree show at Goldsmiths, an event that always creates an atmosphere of anticipation due to the high calibre of graduates the college has produced in the past.  A line-up that includes numerous Turner Prize winners such as Steve McQueen, Gillian Wearing, Antony Gormley, Grenville Davey, Damien Hirst and Mark Wallinger.  Not only that, it is safe to say that by merely studying art at Goldsmiths gives you a certain cachet value within fine art circles.

The show is spread over two sites: the six storey Ben Pimlott building with its open spaces and large glass windows ideal for installations and larger canvases and the Laurie Grove Baths which houses stable like enclaves and a dark basement ideal for video art.  The overall content of the show seemed to be divided between video, photography, installation, sculpture and painting.

The quality of the painting was impressive and of a much higher standard than at 2012’s other London degree shows. All the students showed a genuine love of the various mediums and a keen understanding of textures, colours and execution. 

Of particular mention is Jin Han Lee with his colourful, intriguing oil and spray paint on linen works such as Volcano Duck and Three Moo Boxes

and Gyuwon Lee’s colourful series of acrylics and silkscreen ink on canvas showing a series of sunsets that had more than a hint of Yayoi Kusama about them. 

Abstraction was represented by the Arp/Miro style works of Olarn Chiaravanont.

However, the highlight of the show was definitely Seung Ah Paik’s work Self Watchers consisting of oversized unusual angles of the human body painted with pigment, charcoal and rabbit skin glue on canvas.  These pale works had a haunting quality with an Egon Schiele palette combining Tracey Emin’s intensity and Jenny Saville’s confidence of line. The result, I must add is a totally original vision.

The installations all used a variety of materials and were often extremely complex such as Steven Morgana’s It Was All Ephemeral as a Rainbow (Welcome to the Anthropocene!) consisting of Portable electric generator, petrol, neon/argon lights, acrylic mirror, transformer, scaffold and connectors, f-clamps, pallet, ratchet strap, castors.  It was like an Anish Kapoor with neon lights attached to it. 

Most intriguing was the room devoted to Daniel Shanken’s works – part video, part 3D photos and part installation including the bench that dishes out electric shocks when you touch it and a video that is part sound installation. 

I enjoyed Kainebi Osahenye’s installations including the square box covered with flattened aluminium cans and covered with cut-out photos of eyes and the yellow shingle-like floor piece  was worth noting.

As far as sculpture was concerned, Inbal Strauss stood out with her works on the subject of The Poetics of Function a sort of non-functional industrial design and the relationship between function and art using such materials as brass, plaster, wood and paint.

However, the humour of Amy Pierpoint was refreshing, particularly the lifesize Pete Doherty as a Pez dispenser

and Daniele Montenegro’s aluminium street signs are equally playful.

Photography blended with the video art and other mixed media techniques with some of the artists showing examples of their stills as well as moving images.  Jonas St Michael used a mixture of photography and brightly coloured household paint

Gloria Houng’s series on Standard Double were almost lost on the large wall where they were hung.

while Woo Jin Kim used screen print on glass.

It is difficult not to notice that this show stands on its own as a powerful statement for British higher education. Credit also must be awarded to the creative prowess of this year’s graduating MA students. Goldsmiths is doing their best to compete with the best universities in the States and Europe providing a nurturing platform for excellence which is evident in this year’s degree show.

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