Coventry University degree show features art and anguish

Coventry University’s annual degree show is a must-see event for anyone in the area who’s interested in what the next generation of up and coming artists are doing.
The opening night on Friday was as usual full of dressed-up students, their proud but often-confused parents and lots of visitors just keen to see what’s going on.
The opening night has never been the same since the students were stopped from serving up their own drinks to all passers-by, meaning you could traverse four floors with a plastic cup of wine never emptying.
However doing it sober probably means visitors notice more of the work. There was a trend this year, especially with the graphic design students, of having offerings of sweets along with their displays – though one display which featured more food carried a note along the lines of ‘please help yourself to sweets but don’t touch the cupcakes’!


The Lanchester Gallery this year hosted the first graduates from the new photography BA. Paul Hogan’s work focusing on the cuts to education and the arts is one of the few political pieces in the whole degree show, and Hannah Jones’s photos showing the natural beauty of Anglesey make it appealing.
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However as a body of work from the degree it is disappointing; work by City and Guilds photographic students on show at the Lock Gallery at the Canal Basin in Coventry at the moment offers more.
Sculptural and installation works in the basement are usually fun and this year is no exception. Nick Bakewell has explored the relationship between truth and fiction, a subject popular with the in vogue Lindsay Seers, in the ‘career’ of Coventry-born wrestler Kristian Faber.
Emma Fathers has created lots of large, wrapped bodies of soldiers, surrounded by carefully-positioned model soldiers. Sian Conway has created a room where you can peer through holes at all levels, sometimes from a rather wobbly stepladder, to see little scenes in rooms on the other side.
Most years here seems to be a common theme to many students’ work; in the past few years this has included the nude body and bondage. This year if there’s a trend it appears to be illness, unpleasant use of bodily parts and stress – perhaps life has got more serious and worrying for the students of 2011.
Daljit Matharu’s sculptural work is lots of ripped up coils of paper – something she finds therapeutic to do, she writes, because of communication difficulties and being the only girl in her family and how that relates to Asian cultural issues.
Laura Howell’s work of a table and cabinet full of what looks like nice sweets has a pleasant smell to it – but get closer and see they are all bulging with hair and apparently the shapes relate to cysts – works that looked good then had people recoiling.
Charlotte Pettifer’s little skeletal creatures seem to cry out to you for help, and Sarah Walton has created a two-storey house of amazing detail, with fabric woven through upright rods to make the walls, all inspired by bereavement and memories of her grandmother’s home after .
On the top floor, there’s more good stuff and more anguish, including works whose authors detail their stresses brought on by financial pressures and inherited family illnesses. Toni Heavey documented her life for four months after discovering she had a pyloric sphincter, and her works show her food and drink input, exercise, feelings etc.
Kum-Young Kwong’s work relates frogs to humans and there’s a lovely room of suspended glass and shapes. Anthony Williams’s room nearby also features several stuffed birds and furniture hanging from the ceiling and shows a lot of dedication though is also fairly mystifying.
Victoria Lee’s landscape large paintings stand out, as do Abby Scobbie’s acrylic on canvas works with a sinister edge. Matthew Martin’s post-apocalypse paintings are bleak but skilled.
All in all, it’s a good show and one marked improvement this year is the standard of the artists’ personal statements which have benefited from a spell checker – in previous years some woeful spelling and grammar errors have detracted from the standard of art but the fact this seems to have been addressed makes the whole show seem more professional.
* The show is on until Wednesday.

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