Slade School Of Fine Art MA/MFA Degree Show 2012 – Review

Another end of the academic year announces another fresh batch of art students entering the world of galleries, collectors and critics. So, what can we expect from these emerging artists eager to make their mark?


Last week, the Slade School of Fine Art MA/MFA Degree Show presented works from 56 students on the University College of London Campus. Like a mini biennial, a hodgepodge of art forms mingles together, interwoven into the classrooms and common areas of the building as well as at the entrance of the university site. Visitors to the space are free to wander throughout the halls and consider the myriad of projects fresh from the studio.


Initially, projectors and flashing images abound in the rooms and corridors of Slade School. Despite the varied media displayed in the exhibition, including sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, moving image works especially in digital format seem the preferred medium. It is perhaps a practical choice, given universal access to digital technology that can be affordable to student artists. However, these works are no less provocative for their popular media choice. In the space, experimentations with sound or voice over, and unique installation techniques cause viewers to step beyond their comfort zone, squatting, peeking, and straining to experience these works.


Experimentation is key to degree shows. School fuels (or should fuel) a creative space to mingle, interact, support, and challenge artist peers as well as fulfil the expectations of the institution. Here, students have a mixture of authority and freedom to test new ideas, or expand an existing practice. Clearly, each student has a penchant towards a certain medium or thematic, and expresses his/herself in an individual voice. Fresh from the classroom, though, these students also have theories and other artists’ practices in mind to inspire new ideas that will transform their unique style.


Here are some emerging artists to watch:


alfonso-borraganAlfonso Borragán presents “æthēr” as his final project. A giant balloon rises into the open space above the gallery floor, demarcated by plaques commemorating an ephemeral event on the exhibition opening night. He says of this work, “æthēr is the element in the vacuum that fills everything. By means of a process of synthesis and addition, the vacuum has been stored and collected. This action incites a collective celebration of ingesting invisibleness and activates the process of reanimating the captured ether. The work in a latent state is activated by the inhaling and exhaling of those in attendance. Without this the work remains static—trapped.”

emily-jane-robinsonEmily-Jane Robinson’s installation uses participation, immersion, and overwhelming sensory experience as her main themes of engagement as she works in photographic light boxes à la Jeff Wall, and multi-screen video installation. “Since the beginnings of my art making, my work has functioned as a medium by which to explore and reflect upon the human identity, condition and experience. The work itself has acted as a method in which myself and my participants have been able to understand our lives, bodies and minds, to separate from and find clarity within the complexities of feeling and being… The work is trans-medial – encompassing installation, video, photography, sound and written word.”


meryl-donoghueMeryl Donoghue presents a talking sculpture, a skeleton of a sea bird musing on existence in time: “Here today, gone today, and by such logic tomorrow is already here”. She says about her practice, “I am interested in the power of strangeness. As a device I believe strangeness is as effective as horror or humour. In my work I like to explore this power, utilizing it to create surprising and unsettling pieces, which inhabit the halfway point within a dichotomy of opposing forces.”

poppy-whatmorePoppy Whatmore builds a precarious structure from discarded wooden furniture, creating an absurd, non-functional assemblage work. “By subverting and deconstructing the conventional uses of chosen objects, Poppy Whatmore transforms everyday objects into animated anthropomorphic or zoomorphic forms. Whatmore’s methodological approach includes assemblage, a technique she employs to re-configure conventional forms into surprising and playful arrangements, portraying the flaws and failures of the human condition.”


terry-ryu-kimTerry Ryu Kim engages with a contemporary portrait image, here with passport photos and digital face readers, presenting his series of images in a style reminiscent of Taryn Simon’s photographic works.


Words/ Photos Sharon Strom © ArtLyst 2012

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