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Lancaster University’s 2015 Fine Art degree show centres around the signification of emergence and discovery, as 27 promising contemporary practitioners present their work to the public in their debut exhibition, Unearthed. The exhibition is the result of three years for the artists’ developing practices across various disciplines including painting, sculpture, installation, performance and digital art. For the next 3 issues we will be previewing each contributor to this diverse display of art, which is open to the public from Tuesday, week 9 to Wednesday, week 10.
Danielle Ash – Photography
Danielle Ash is currently interested in family bonds and how these can deteriorate or strengthen over time depending on events beyond our control. Ash explores concepts of trust, coping mechanisms and potential ethical issues all while questions whether using art to present such sensitive topics can become an exploitation of these fragile bonds which she has once helped to build. Ash combines text and collected ‘things’ to critically reflect on these relationships associated with objects that seem meaningless to the ‘outsider’. The rawness and truth of the poem-like texts are a contrast to the formality of their presentation, a symbol for the glorification of forces or ‘things’ which enter our lives unexpectedly. “Discarded paper bags and napkins become the outlet for precious, unedited ideas on such issues,” says Ash. “Before we know it, over time these relationships are close to being rejected like her worthless unkempt collection of objects.” The audience feels protective over the fragility of the gathered items and leaves the space wanting to reignite their own relationships.
Katy Badger – Sculpture & Drawing
Katy Badger had always loved the practical, physical side of art and as a child was always making things. As a Fine Art student, Badger spends most of her time working with her hands and in her words “generally making a mess” in the studio. In other artists’ work, the processes of developing and physically producing work fascinates her. While the theories and history of Fine Art have become increasingly important to her work, as they inform her concepts and techniques, her first love will always be creating. This is why her practice is primarily in drawing and sculpture. Concepts in Badger’s work change but she is always drawn to exploring them through the visual languages of both mediums. They are challenging, time consuming and hands-on practices but Badger never quite feels like she’s finished with a piece. She claims, “You could always add more detail, change sections, and develop an idea further: the physical nature of them both means that I can constantly challenge myself and become more ambitious with each piece I make.” Currently, she is addressing themes of fragility and vulnerability by experimenting with materials such as bedding and by juxtaposing drawings with sculptural objects to create visual relationships.
Hannah Boaden – Digital Art & Cultural Theory
“Cinema is both a prevalent and powerful medium, which is incredibly influential upon how people perceive reality around them.” Hannah Boaden claims, “The addition of numerous cultures and ideologies has cultivated an extremely diverse society, and consequently it is easy for people to feel fragmented in their sense of identity.” It is this instability that has been the subject of fascination for the past few years, which is particularly appropriate while experiencing something as life-changing as university. She intends to spend at least the next year travelling abroad in order to immerse herself in different cultures and lifestyles. She currently works with video, experimenting both in visuals and sound design, all of which are heavily informed by academic research in visual culture and philosophy, amongst other disciplines. As it remains a fairly new medium to her, it is perhaps particularly relevant for discovering new and unusual ways to explore identity and human experience.
Joel Chan – Sculpture & Drawing
Joel Chan specializes in kinetic sculpture and drawing, working with found objects ranging from discarded mechanical components to charity shop ceramics. “Each object has its own history, its own story, its own tale to be told, or rather, an untold story, a silent history, and a tale that’s maybe now irrelevant. If objects could speak what secret histories would they reveal? What have they seen?” Chan questions. His work consciously aims to confront contemporary issues and questions the boundaries of the human-being. The work often plays on the boundary between the real and the fictional, recycling second-hand objects, materials, and images, and employing their authentic mysterious pasts, to create “artificial histories and pseudo-artifacts” that present fabricated stories and an alternative history. Chan aims to express the complexities of human thought and the basic foundations of human emotion through his work by exploring binaries like life and death, love and hate, comfort and discomfort. Whilst exploring serious and thought-provoking themes the work involves an element of dark humour. Finding a balance between light hearted playfulness and the significant gravity of the conversation is essential in encouraging an active, mental and physical interaction from audiences. In turn, this interaction aims to create an emotional collaboration between the artist and the audience.
Hollie Childe – Sculpture
“I have always been an extremely inquisitive person,” Hollie Childe explains. “One of my most vivid memories as a child is making a pair of shoes out of a cardboard box in my Gran’s living room after learning about roman clothing at school.” However, as she has grown as an art student, she has learnt to channel her curiosity creatively in order to create work which questions not only her surroundings but also the way humans behave. Her current practice stems from a love for the outdoors and the English countryside. From further exploring this point of curiosity; she has become fascinated with Cairns and Megaliths and objects of spirituality. However, although she finds these forms inspiring, she is predominately interested in the investment placed in these objects and what it is that is innate in humanity to produce these objects. This curiosity is also central to her personal approach to sculpting. “I am interested in the way I can manipulate materials and techniques to become a sculptural medium, therefore I will often try to find unconventional everyday materials to work with and transform them into a sculptural technique.” This also helps to inform her practice as the familiarity of the materials she works with allow her sculptures to form a relationship with the viewer.
Megan Collier – Painting & Drawing
“Liminal states of consciousness can be described as transitional or at a threshold; in other words a state in which the mind is in limbo, neither absent nor present. My work explores this concept in relation to sleep, depicting the fleeting moments between the dream world and reality, consciousness and unconsciousness, sleep and wake.” Megan Collier conveys these ideas through creating a similar transitional, liminal quality to her artwork. Collier’s portraits have ambiguous identities and it is unclear whether they are awake or asleep. They seem to appear out of the blackness, as if they could just as quickly fade away. Furthermore, they disappear and fade in and out of visibility as the natural light changes throughout the day. Some viewers will catch the artworks at the right time of day and be able to see the sleeping figures, whilst others may entirely miss them unless they look closely. “My artwork is in fact, in a liminal state itself. Through these methods I aim to explore the very edges of human consciousness.” This project has been inspired her own experiences of insomnia, sleepwalking and night terrors and she became intrigued by her confused state of mind in these episodes, fascinated by how she seemed to be both awake and asleep simultaneously. Also how her mind could be in a dream like world whilst also interacting with reality. During these episodes, “I was convinced that what my mind was telling me was real; how could my own mind be lying to me? From this starting point I began to explore how my artwork could depict these strange, unknown realms of consciousness in which sleep and reality collide.”
Rhea Elise Gibbons – Digital Art
Rhea Elise Gibbons’ practice centres greatly around her life experiences. “I believe in the therapeutic nature of the creativity process; making art to exorcise demons of the past.” The artwork she makes is aimed at creating a feminist rhetoric and questioning the patriarchal tendencies of western culture. Influenced by the early days of cinema, Gibbons’ works primarily in starkly contrasting black and white, which allows the eye to focus on details and textures instead of being distracted by colour. Working with software like Photoshop, Lightroom and iMovie, Gibbons primarily make photo-manipulations and stop motion films, although she is “currently searching for innovative ways to take [her] films a step further into installations.” She likes her work to be quite enchanting; first greeting the eyes, only upon closer inspection can the socio-cultural underpinnings be understood, and from this a dialogue is created.
Elle Gilligan – Installation
Elle Gilligan’s desire for creating art began when she realised the affect it could have on people. “Art can inspire, encourage and cause a person to fight for what’s important to them.” Gilligan claims, “A piece of art can cause an array of emotions in a person and when you connect with a piece it can inspire all sorts of things.” That’s why, as an artist, she has currently been focusing on protest art. Graffiti art is a great example of protest art; an artist is directly defying the law in order to express their opinions and ideas in a beautifully artistic manner. Therefore her art has been based around the tag line “ART B4 ADS,” which is the idea that more public space should be used for art and not the constant overflow of adverts that our consumer society is bombarded by. Gilligan has been working on graffiti style pieces using MDF boards, experimenting with blending colours through spray paints; the resulting colours are quite similar to abstract paintings or windswept landscapes. Outside the studio, she has started a guerrilla art campaign with the tag line emblazoned on stickers all around campus. Gilligan hopes that the two ideas combined will inspire people on campus while giving more weight to the idea that graffiti is becoming a credible art form; whether done by a famous name like Banksy or somebody completely unknown.
Ruth Holdsworth – Sculpture & Installation
The inspiration behind Ruth Holdsworth’s pieces began with erosion and the constant changing of a form over time. “Eroding action can instigate change to solid forms, causing them to become dangerous or even at risk of falling.” From this, Holdsworth decided to create a cliff, pushing materials to a new level and creating a piece that made people uncomfortable by the risk of something changing at any point. It is made from chicken wire, paper mache and plaster. This piece is on a large scale and has been shaped in an arc so when the viewer stood inside the piece the cliff came above their head, instilling a sense of intimidation. She created another piece using large scaled paper. Holdsworth’s overall aim is to use different materials, then wash them away and build them back up again. For instance, she used coloured and black inks, plaster, coal and then discoloured them using bleach and then used the same materials again to build up the piece. The results eventually made the paper too heavy to cope and the paper ripped into sections, it was then hung from the ceiling to yet again give a sense of danger and erosion.