Coventry University art degree show is the annual must-see

It’s that time of year again – spot the art stars of the future out of the talent on show at Coventry University’s end-of-year art degree show.
The opening night on Friday was the usual hot and crowded tour around many floors, bumping into friends old and new, while making sure to grab a plastic cup of wine on the way.


In the basement, the foundation show showed some interesting works. Beth Jones’s Foodtopia showed a novel use of custard creams, bourbons and other biscuits in some models and animations – and I wonder if they’ll all last the show out?
Life is too Mainstream was a great title to some attractive photos by Kiran Unes. Chloe-Rose Wiltshire’s work featuring piping, a tank and toy cows intrigued me in a way I wouldn’t want to analyse.
On to the final-year degree students. Sherrie Villiers has created a room filled with balls of her old clothes, stuffed, with cotton weaved across the room to make pretty, constrained, shapes. She says it’s about her ever-growing obsession with her weight, though she isn’t coming at it from a feminist perspective. But isn’t fat always a feminist issue?
Juliet Okadigbo is influenced by her African culture, identity and family, and has made a little village of white, simple homes. Adam Pritchett’s work is entrancing because it’s so spooky – a group of human-size figures, completely shrouded in black, are eerie and menacing, with more of them watching, sightlessly, from beneath the stairs and up above. Dare to walk into the middle of them and you’re caught on film!
Gilulia Nucci has created mouse-focused work including a patch of ‘grass’ feauring some china ones, and in a cage – eek – two real mice. Stacey Goss has mixed a passion for baking with an interest in plaster, and created various items including a gate in pastel colours, made from what looks like pretty icing.
Up to the top floor and the fine art paintings. Jack Foster has created works he conceptualises about which are linked to religion, pilgrimage and superstition. Whether the concept works or not, the paintings are intriguing and well executed.
Dale Marshall-Collins’s large oil and enamel paintings, some with grids and others with dripped lines, finished with an anti-bacterial varnish, are inspired by his battles with mental health issues. They are attractive and show a lot of thought.
Star of the show for me though was James Birkin, whose acrylic paintings show the inside of the former Generations nightclub in Coventry. Enterprising James, ahem, gained access to the derelict site and took photographs of the falling-apart interior which he used to make these paintings. He was also lucky enough to find a more-than-decade old promotional video of the place, showing people on the dancefloor, which adds to the feelings of despair and desolation is in the old paintings.
The paintings, devoid of people, have a slight George-Shaw-paints-interiors air to them, and show James as a promising new face – and sharp haircut – on the Coventry arts scene. He’s aiming to get a studio at a new space in the city centre soon.
The Generations building, the former Theatre One cinema, is due to be demolished soon and James says he’s going back to depict that too.
* The whole degree show is on until Thursday in the Graham Sutherland Building and Lanchester Gallery, with industrial design at the Maurice Foss building, so don’t miss out.

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