Coventry University art degree show opening draws the crowds

It’s the biggest art show of the year again in Coventry, and the crowds were out in force to get the first glimpse at the private view last night.
Coventry University’s School of Art and Design’s annual degree show allows the final-year students, and those completing a foundation year to put their last projects on display. The night itself can be a bit of an ordeal – each floor you climb up gets progressively hotter and sweatier, and the atmospheric pounding music in some room is a bit oppressive, but tottering round with a drink and bumping into old friends makes it fun.

I heard a couple of people being a bit dismissive about the foundation students being allowed to exhibit – but remember George Shaw did his foundation year here.
Up on the top floor last night, I thought I’d stumbled upon some George Shaws, but it turned out to be the work of David Beaumont, who admits his style is similar to Tile Hill’s finest. Dave grew up in the Thatcher era and his art is influenced by his own experiences and the recession.
Images of London, Stoke, Liverpool and Nuneaton show bleak, boarded up streets and bare expenses of road and green. It’s rare these days to find an artist prepared to take on a political stance, so make a trip to Dave’s corner.
Also standing out on the top floor are Kate Hawkins’s photographs of lesser-known parts of Coventry, following the trail of the River Sherbourne through the city centre, also on film and GPS tracking. Though not everyone will get to hear her story of nearly being arrested at 5am as she created her own trail following the river above ground!
Natalie Hide has created a room painted with trees, with cardboard trees hanging down into it and the floor covered with bark, while an animation shows an urban fox.
Danielle Stubbs has also made an area full of painted telephones, boots and walking sticks. Assadullah Hamed’s painting style looks old fashioned but his treatment of Afghan subjects makes it interesting, and it stands out amongst the other works.
The illustration, graphic design and media production areas were too crowded to see clearly on the opening night. But there was more fun to be had in the basement.
The Foundation Campus students were a new find to me, and were also kind with their distribution of wine and nibbles. The students all come from overseas, and for nine months study a foundation art course and English. Many then progress to degree courses here, or elsewhere, ranging from automotive design to fine art. They were highly praised for their efforts by Leonora Minto and Michael Orrlove from the Foundation Campus, who have seen numbers rise from five in the first year to 18 now, and hopefully 50 next year. They were stuck in a small space as it was so hopefully their work will have more show next time.
The sculpture area is always entertaining. Karen O’Toole had made tiny, spooky little creatures, part wool and part metal, on podiums, and some much larger ones which looked like they might get up and walk away. Clare Butler’s Eden-themed furniture with plants growing out of it would have fitted in as well at Chelsea.
Corinet Adamou’s photographs including a nude woman reminded me this show didn’t have as much nudity in it as some years. Sara MacCallum has laid out 365 stoneware vessels in a work looking at loss – there’s a gap, signifying the day the Samoan government decided to skip last year to change time zones.
Louise Brewer’s big skein of material draped down the wall represents the relationship between women, hair and society, and Jasbir Bhambra’s model accurately gives the impression of a city from above.
It was another fun, crowded night, and I ran out of time to see the photography in the Lanchester Gallery – the shows are closed over the bank holiday days, but otherwise on next week.


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