Originally published by a-n News on 27th May 2014.
The heady mixture of nerves, relief and sheer exhaustion is palpable at the Slade Degree Show private view. “The degree show is crucial,” says Se Rin Park, whose technicoloured landscapes of misshapen triangles cover an entire wall. “It’s a big show to inform many people about your work.”
This year’s Slade show is a typically sprawling exhibition featuring close to 40 artists and set over three floors and more than a dozen rooms; there are performances in the courtyard outside and artworks nestled in every nook, cranny and corridor. Rather than compartmentalising students’ work into separate booths or designated areas, many of the works seem to interact with one another, such as Katherine Midgley’s recurring patterns that appear throughout the building.
There’s an abundance of abstract paintings, many replete with bold, brash colours, others more muted and pensive. In a show so crowded with works of this nature it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, but James Lincoln thinks he might have found a way to do just that. “They always say that males try to make the biggest painting at degree shows,” he says with a wry smile, “so that’s what I did.”
His painting, which takes up most of a wall in the cavernous Studio 1 space, probably has the longest title too: I see a bleeding/ dying religion/ belief restrained from escaping. Perhaps a relationship where someone is too afraid from learning, or an incident where someone has to open up about something. Lincoln describes his work as “anti-metaphorical” and says he’s trying to distance himself from the “myth of abstraction as your inner-self”.
Vibrant, saturated fabrics
Many of the works use textiles in interesting ways. Cansu Aladag’s mottled strands of material have a hair-like quality and can be found strewn around the building – lying on windowsills, tucked under staircases and hanging from the banisters. Bea Bonafini’s canvasses are populated with vibrant, saturated fabrics depicting an orgy of dancing limbs. In places the material is taught, in others slightly scrunched up like a deflated balloon.
Harriet Poznansky uses mechanical printing methods and spray paint to treat textiles almost as a stencil, leaving a distinctive imprint. “I mainly use lace,” she says, “because I love its visual history and its connection to feminist working history.” Her piece, Long-listed/Short-legged/Crossed-eyed bitches,consists of five canvasses. “With this work I didn’t really organise it,” she says, “each one is also its own piece and I wanted to see how they would work together.”
The show also features about half a dozen video-based pieces and a few more installations. Hela Hellerich’s small room filled with what looks like cotton wool combines both approaches, and is particularly popular with the crowds at the private view. As visitors lie blissfully on the ‘cotton wool’, a slightly off-kilter video features people describing religious experiences and the sound of children singing.
Vera Prokhorenko’s city map populated with pulsating LEDs stands out as one of the only light-based works in the show, while Lori Ho’s 4am in front of the parliament is a kinetic installation piece using menacing black boots to confront a small group of mixed shoes, some tapping impatiently. It strikes a political note and at the same time serves to emphasise the international nature of art education in the UK. Says How: “The inspiration behind my work came from observing the recent protests in Taiwan, my home country.”