Coventry University art degree show preview – don’t miss this year’s exhibition

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It’s that time of the year when the studios and classrooms are thrown open, and Coventry University final year students welcome in their guests to see what they’ve created after several years of study.

This year I’ve had a sneak preview of what’s on offer ahead of the Friday opening night, and there’s some interesting stuff (in the top floor and basement anyway – I confined myself to just the two floors).

On the top floor a warning about content unsuitable for the young or easily offended is the first thing you see. The works nearby of Cheuk Man Li, from Hong Kong, are quite shocking and vivid in their depictions of strange human-like people contorting their naked bodies and interacting unpleasantly. Scenes of torture come to mind. For once the warning is valid!

Children may also need to be kept away from the collaborative works by Ryan Williams and Liam Pattison who are also showing individually in the basement. Described here as Pat and Willy, with the work called Ourinal, it features five urinals on the wall, with film of them together above. One holds a heavy tool over the other laying on the floor, they pass the tool to each other endlessly, they play a game in their underpants and more – it’s daft and fun.

Less shockingly, there are some good paintings. Emma Phillips’s acrylic paintings are all about atmosphere and show empty rooms and settings seemingly waiting for some action to appear.

Renata Juroszova’s work concentrates on femininity and domesticity, with scarcely-formed or glimpsed women dressing or bathing.

Decay features quite strongly, with Amelia Horton rescuing a rotting chair for part of her work, and designs on tiles coming away to add to the distraught look of the work. Natalie Seymour has created a digital photo collage of falling down and rotting buildings entwined in an attractive and impressive display which makes you want to keep looking deeper.

Cheuk Hin Li (brother of the first artist mentioned) has followed his sibling’s interest in political matters but less obviously shockingly, doing a number of attractive, sympathetic portraits of a young woman who is apparently a student leader in Hong Kong.

Rebecca Stansbie is from the Black Country and has created some small watercolour and fine liner works depicting buildings in Cradley Heath; some are homely but many are showing wear and tear, or outright dereliction. They’re very attractive works.

Daniel Smart’s large paintings show people, scenery and large areas of dense painting; they’re intriguing and make you want to linger. There’s one at the top of this blog, and one here.

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Zoe Harwood has termed herself a walking artist, and uses ‘socially engaged practice’ to explore areas with her father and record them in pictures and documents.

In the basement, the sight of the first work makes you think you’ve wandered into the wrong room. Rob Hamp’s massive installation, which you can walk around, is in some ways a woodworker’s studio, with benches, clamps and tools, but some boards are bent over in a very stress-inducing way. It’s called All He Wanted Was a Garden.

Ryan Williams has created another installation of a small child, his sides filled with home DIY filler, staring up at a climbing frame which is painted with anti-bill posting paint. Gillian Dixon’s work is a contrast, small ceramic forms hanging over a pattern in seeds.

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No one’s going to walk off with Liam Pattison’s work (above) easily. There are two walls, with hands reaching out from each to shake, and more filler, plus a model of himself naked entombed in a concrete block. I hope someone’s worked out how to lift it upright by Friday!

Bethany Jones has memorialised her grandmother with old photos and text, and a recreation of a comfy sitting room, with ceramic balls representing thoughts. Abigail Dixon has refashioned her room as a lot of metal frames, removing all the material in between to strip it down to basics.

I was privileged to have two expert guides on my quick sneak tour of the exhibition which might have enhanced my experience more than the plastic cup of wine I usually tour it with on opening nights, but these two floors anyway seemed to offer a really good mix of works, with lots of different and interesting ideas.

Don’t miss it!

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