The scent of congealing oil paint and residual saw dust particles waft through the entrance of the City & Guilds of London Art School 2015 Degree Show in Kennington. The school supports diverse artistic practices including stone and woodcarving, sculpture, painting, printmaking, conservation and conceptual installation and video works. The artists reviewed below preset a glimpse of the many graduate skills including Steven Atkinson, Maria Macc, Thomas Elliott, Samuel Gough-Yates, Alakina Mann and Cata Ivancor. Not only do these artists represent many materials and skills, but also a range of contemporary subjects and concerns. The many faces of social media appear set in stone as though they had always been there and then the medium is challenged in contrast to a video format. The artistic self is explored intimately through textures of the skin and through laborious performance. Nature is pressed into plastics to express how industrialism separates life and death, and the colour orange becomes a metaphor for a similar birth and betrayal. The degree show with its range of practices contains surprising maturity and individuality.
Steven Atkinson: (Above and Top)
Steven Atkinson is a 3D visualizer and sculpture actualizer who is bringing stone into the New Media Age. His three final degree works accompanied by documentation of Atkinson’s digital process are portraits of his friend skilled in producing specific facial expressions. Hung on one wall are seven bronze portraits accompanied by carved emoticon symbols composed of colons, dashes, brackets and the occasional letter. The classical origin of bronze used for sculptural purposes conjures an authority, as though the faces are the ancient derivation for the symbols we use in everyday digital conversations. Another sculpture produced to be experienced in the round includes two portraits embodying Ego and Shadow selves. The white marble face of a man who can barely contain his excitement (or his tongue) is the carefully contsructed external expression often found on social media profiles. Next to this FOMO induced and inducing expression of good times is an anxiety ridden dark green portrait hiding in an abstract, allegorical cave – the cave that is our real, uncomfortably balanced lives. Atkinson’s practice is not limited to carving the work or exploring the many faces of social media, he has also impressively advanced digital architectural design software to aid the design and visualization of the works within the stone.
Maria Macc is preoccupied with all things wooden, elated by succulent, green nature, and concerned by materials posing as natural. Her installation includes sculptures of naturally oxidizing metals and dried stumps, luminous painted planks and prints. The most enduring motif in Macc’s work is the ivy momento mori. Lines of Blotchy stains formed around faintly leaf-like shapes adorn her series of hung metal works Rust, and her grey scale prints. Upon close inspection, the organic forms of ivy seem to have been pressed so intensely through the printmaking process that natural juices bled into the paper adding a green contrast to the stark background. A woodcut print with ivy motif is a simple pairing aesthetically, but the wood grain in the prints is sneaky. Macc uses lino-block printing to achieve the deceiving wood grain and to challenge our acceptance of plastics disguised by images of nature. Ivy, as a symbol of life and its gruesome death by metal and plastics, is a metaphor for our own slow plastic asphyxiation in a city as global and modern as London.
Orange – as ephemera as the sunset, as lonely as an astronaut without a ship, and lacking in everyday life – a rhyme-less word faces an epic journey in the large oil paintings by Thomas Elliott. Horrifying yet heavenly fictional landscapes come to life with immensely skillful detail capturing the birth, betrayal and death of Orange. The canvas surfaces are textured with impasto mounds and then painted over as though they were flat, receiving as much detail as the smooth canvas. The photographic clarity of the images accompanied by the texture takes on a visceral quality that reflects the emotional gravity and drama of each painting. The scene of creation features a toothed womb-like opening. The dark hollow centre of the mound glows from the warmth of an orange-hot magma just below its surface – or else from the radiance of a nearby sun. Followed by this swirling scene is a fallen soldier dressed in futuristic space garb, kneeling in the faint glow of what greyed orange remains. From behind them, danger approaches from the shadows bringing with it a colourless mist, a monstrous being and the betrayer. Finally, a monumental coral-shaped mass surrounded by turquois stillness discharges a dull maroon. It is the last warmth of a dying orange. The three main scenes were not painted with any specific narrative. Each work on its own respectfully captures birth, the pains of life and death.
Samuel Gough-Yates presents homage to a conceptual era of art making. A number of artists working in the sixties including Richard Serra, Laurence Weiner and Fluxus group members were also unofficial semioticians, translating verbs into action. Rather than be concerned with the composition of the final result, their process-based practices were performative or literary and the resulting environment stood as documentation of their actions. An impressive pile of bricks lies beneath a pockmarked wall, the rubble and ruin of Yates’ laborious action. He did not perform this activity throughout the show, but it is not difficult to imagine the amount of strain involved in hurtling over 100 bricks at a wall. On the wall adjacent to this pile of ruble is a video documenting an action where the floor meets the wall (like the thrown lead, site-specific actions of Serra). In the video, asphalt drops onto the ground and is compacted. This video as documentation separates Yates from the previous generation – instead of imagining an action from Weiner’s vinyl word or Serra’s sculptural remnants, we are left to imagine whether the floor below is the same as the one produced in the video.
The delicate graphite marks and soft ground wax etchings in Alakina Mann’s practice are representations of her own tangled limbs, informed by the impact of her skin on the paper. Mounds of graphite muscle and flesh in one to one scale are decorated with smudges from her dragged fingers in the drawing process. Mann interprets her connection to this process by treating the paper as skin in which case, the smudges are more like bruises. Using her body as the subject, there is no bias. The abstraction of identity and gender means the body is not sexualized, it blends unperceivably with the materiality of the paper. Despite the calculated abstraction, the scale of Mann’s drawings allows the viewer to relate physically to the figures. The series of eight Aquatint prints rely less on the represented figure. Instead, colour bleeds organically like bodily fluids into the round forms that float beneath. The viewers are presented with the opportunity to relate their own skin to other touchable paper surfaces.
Founded in an unspecified year in the past, the Genetrix Foundation is a fictional framework through which Cata Ivancor presents her work exploring gender and consumerism. She defines Genetrix based on the word genitor: ‘a venus, a mother, one who brings forth.’ The Foundation takes interest in biotechnology, ethnography, archealogy, Korean snack foods and art, in other words Ivancor is interested in collecting the remnants of human cultures. In this particular collection of artifacts there is a juxtaposition of the contemporary ‘venus’ with the prehistoric Venus. A video on loop plays a collection of Venus Gillette commercials haunted by their jingle. Thin beautiful women bask in the sun liberated from their hair. In the next room, prehistoric stone sculptures of womanhood representing the ancient Venus’s glow in green lights on tall plinths in glass cases like precious objects in the British Museum. Between the video and the sculptures, the viewer must relate more to one than the other and reflect on whether one medium mystifies the other.
Other Artists Of Note Includes:
Steven Atkinson, Michael Cooper, Josh Locksmith, Sam Flintham, Cata Ivancov, Diane Chappalley, Thomas Elliott, Sam Gough-Yates, Ellen King, Callum Stannard, Sean Mortimer, Kim Harvey, Jacob William Montague, Alakina Mann, Finnian Richman, Rene Gonzalez Pino, Tuesday Riddell, Matthew Bradley, Anne Marie Hanlon, Nicholas York-Simpson, Alice McVicker, Maria Macc, Josphine Gordon-Foxwell, Clunie Felton, Esme Toler, Oliver Dorman, Tim Fielder, Amelia Crowley-Roth, Joseph Murphy, Cassidy Adler, Anna Do, Coralie Llucia-How-Choong, Liza Nathan, Rebecca Davison, Mark Searle, Robert Mitchell, Joseph Ward, Sally Amonier, Kirsten Walsh.