Life after leaving

It happens to all art students. You make art;  it is subject to intense discussion, often far more than it actually deserves; you have exhibitions – true, they are internal  to the college or university but you still have to create work to gallery standards by a specific date.  Your shows have an opening night, complete with posh crisps and cheap wine and people, who admittedly may just be friends and relations, come and look at what you have done. But at least they come. Then, far more quickly than you think possible when you start, you have got your BA, MA or whatever, and you are officially an artist. And then what?  A glowing career if Saatchi picks up the phone;  but what it he doesn’t?

It is prospect which alarms many of us. So we pledge all sorts of allegiances – ‘we will form a crit group; we will meet up once a month; we will exhibit together; we will make it happen.’ But, as anybody who has ever worked in any kind of team knows all too well, it is not as easy as that. Teams thrive on constant interaction and, when you are no longer forced to meet up regularly, life in the form of other commitments and obstacles:  jobs, children, distance, tends to get in the way. Sometimes, the allegiances that seemed such a good idea when they were made, fall apart because, come to think of it, you never really liked each other’s work in the first place.

Congratulations then for avoiding all this kind of thing goes to Lyn Dale, Nikki Davidson Bowman, Jules Mitchell, Marie Ford, Louise-Michele Evans and Katy Oxborrow, all recent University of Brighton Graduates for putting together 6 Unfold at the Little Chealsea Gallery in Eastbourne.

Little Chelsea was started by photographer Tim Bosworth with the aim of helping promote artists from all fields. Like the Brick Lane Gallery, which I wrote about in February, Little Chelsea charges artists to exhibit, I continue to have some reservations about going down this route, but there seems to me a huge difference in groups of artists taking control and putting on a properly curated exhibition and individuals who hand that process over to the vanity galleries and so have no idea about the others’ works with which their own will be shown. It has bought further exposure in this case; a small step perhaps, but the six have already been asked to recreate the exhibition later in the foyer of Sussex Coast College to act as a role model to current students.

6 Unfold has been put together extremely well.   The title is clever, referencing both the artists’ developing careers and the paper works that are included in the exhibition.

I have always admired Katy Oxborrow’s paintings and I thought this diptych  Inbetween (yes it is one word) was interesting, particularly in its use of texture.

Katy Oxborrow: Inbetween

I was less convinced by its meaning, Katy told me that  her  use of ancient symbolism “referenced a time when men and women were regarded as equals in society.”  Cowrie shells, she went on to say,  were used in early forms of  worship  of female deity, and were coated in red ochre.  “The ritualised placement of them with the dead was used to bring them back through rebirth.” 

Personally, I suspect women get a better deal in society these days than at some time in ancient past and whilst the equality legislation may not be perfect, I would tend to go with it rather than rely on red ochre but that does not detract from what is a fine painting.

Peopled by shadows installation view Marie
Marie Ford: Peopled by Shadows

Also strong were Marie Ford’s installation of  paintings and geometric shapes. Peopled by Shadows.  I very much preferred these to her earlier felt works. The installation was inspired by old notebooks; the geometric shapes are made of paper from the notebooks while the paintings are a representation of the pages and are painted on recycled canvases which itself gives them a lived in feel. I found this a very evocative work, being myself the possessor of a motley assortment of tatty old notebooks, which, as in Marie’s work, are full of empty pages. These books are a record of unremembered, rather than remembered times.

Nikki Davidson Bowman works with old books. This installation To Kitty with Love, comes from the inscription at the beginning of the book rather than its title A Peep Behind the Scene. Nikki has cut out the centre of each page to make the little origami houses. Each page is present and the house formed from the single coloured plate and house formed from a blank page provide an intriguing contrast to the rest of the word covered houses,

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Nikki Davidson Bowman : To Kitty with Love

A small but interesting work was Lyn Dale’s Ravellings with Cotton Thread.  (ravellings good word that)  I have not as yet been quite able to read what it says, but given my propensity to like works better before they are explained, that may be an advantage.

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Lyn Dale: Ravellings with cotton thread

6 Unfold is showing at the Little Chelsea Gallery  in Eastbourne until 4 April. On Saturday 28 March you can walk and talk with the artists between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Paintings and prints are for sale and range from £10 to £600. 

Still time to see the Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College finishes tomorrow. Come along. I will be invigilating between 4.00 and 6.00 today; it would be nice to meet you. We are on the 4th and 5th floor.  Sadly it is unlikely that you will be able to see Julia Mitchell’s  ice sculpture. It was doing fine on Friday, the night of the private view, but even though it must be one of the coldest June on record, not cold enough to keep it from melting.

Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture
Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture

This work was extraordinary because of the way it changed before your eyes. Opaque to begin with, as the melting process started you could see further and further into the ice cubes and see the memorial that she had set inside. I have written about performance art; this was an artwork that did its own performing.

But there is plenty more to see. I particularly like Adam Gibrelli’s drawings.

Adam Gibrelli: drawings
Adam Gibrelli: drawings

We have been blessed with two Adams on the course. I also liked the work by the other Adam,  Adam Fairbrother, a self-portrait.

Adam Fairbrother: self portrait
Adam Fairbrother: self-portrait

Katy Oxborrow’s painting on perspex is interesting in the way that it projects light on to the surrounding walls.

Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex
Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex

I really liked Alex Mills’ take on Grimm’s fairy tales; it would be nice to see more of them.

Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood
Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood

Among the craft students, I was impressed by Phillippa Haines’ strange manikins.

Phillips Haines:7 figures
Phillips Haines: 7 figures

and the glass sculptures by Isabelle Moriaty.

Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures
Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures

You might also have a look at my work,  shown here is the inside of Orifice 3; there is more about that in the last post.

Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail
Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition is open to the public between 10.00 and 6.00  on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 June at Station Plaza Hastings

Body Dysfunction

I have finished.  My two-year course undertaking an FDA in Fine Art (Contemporary Practice) at Sussex Coast College is over. I have been accepted by Brighton to do an MA in Fine Art and will be starting that in September. It all began in the summer of 2010 when I was complaining to Mary Jacobsen, herself an art teacher in the West Country, how I had been made to give up art at school in favour of Latin which I hated. She suggested that I should sign up for a Foundation Diploma. Until that point it had never occurred to me  to become an art student; I had done a bit of painting and a bit of sculpture over the years but oddly the idea of going back to school had not crossed my mind. I am so grateful to her. In the event I skipped the Diploma stage and went straight into the degree course. It has been an amazing two years; in one way the time has gone extremely quickly but also I find it had to believe that two years ago I had not heard of all sorts of artists whose work I can now recognise when I go into galleries.

Tonight is the Final Exhibition at Sussex Coast College. The exhibition is also open to the public next week.  Do come along if you are in Hastings. My work is Body Dysfunction. These three works Orifice 2, 3 and 4 are part of a study that examines our feelings about the way that our physical bodies are out of the control of our minds. They also relate to my earlier painting Brain Dysfunction

Orifice 2
Sue McDougall: Orifice 2 – part of the Body Dysfunction Series
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Sue McDougall: Orifice 4 – part of the Body Dysfunction Series
Orifice 2
Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 – part of the Body Dysfunction series

The Top-up degree show at Sussex Coast College

It seems extraordinary that is was a year ago that I wrote about the Sussex Coast College Degree Show. This is the exhibition that shows the work done by the top-up students who have completed the Foundation Degree that I have just finished and work for another year to get a full BA Hons. It brings together students who are studying Fine Art, Craft, Illustration and Design.

Last year I was stuck by the absence of paintings and again it was noticeable that the people who produced things that looked like pictures were more likely to be studying such things as illustration than Fine Art. However there was one outstanding painting by David Wright whose work has developed in a most interesting way over the last year. It was  difficult to photograph because of the dim lighting in the Printworks where the exhibition was held. Note to organisers – next year consider investing in a few more light bulbs.

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David is interested in the way that materials react with each other and what you see has been created by what  is in effect a chemical process. I saw the work in progress as it was being made or to some extent while it was making itself.  The end result is both beautiful  and dramatic- it must be at least five foot square – what you see in the photograph is the middle not the whole thing and the colours as reproduced don’t really do it justice.

Another person whose work I feel has developed hugely is Lyn Dale pictured below. Last year she offered the Lucky Bears her installation this year is most intriguing.


The pages you see behind her are all torn from autobiographies; only the chapter titles remain visible as Lyn has machine stitched out all the words.

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The chapter titles are extraordinary and include – Destroyed , Crisis, out of the Darkness, A Night to Remember, Call me Madam, and my favourite, A Policeman in the Attic. We can only speculate about these unknown lives.

From the craft students I was also impressed again by Gilles Buxton’s ceramic heads.

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And among the Visual Communication Design students, by Julie Plantecoste’s drawings of tormented hands.

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Growing to like performance art

I have never been absolutely sure about performance art. Until recently I rather felt that performances worked best in the domain of the theatre and the Turner Prize offering by Spartacus Chetwynd did little to change my mind. I am beginning to feel differently thanks to the work of Izabela Brudkeiwicz who has just completed the Brighton University FDA in Fine Art (Contemporary Practice) at Sussex Coast College and is pictured below.

Izabela’s performances are hard to watch because she drives herself to the absolute limit of endurance in what almost seems like a self-imposed punishment.  Although the pictures give some kind of impression, watching her live is very different. A year ago she painstakingly glued rice to the wall grain by grain for a whole week until she could hardly stand and the rows of rice, which had started in neat parallels dipped towards the floor. In her current performance she utters a cry or wail in a code of her own devising. Izabela is Polish and the work is about the problems of communication.

izzy standing compressed

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Izabela has performed this ritual around a dozen times over the last few months. Dressed in a simple white shift  and with bare feet , or on occasions, white socks – a kind of sacrificial garb – she maintains the performance for two or more hours until she sinks with exhaustion.  It is simple but it is also extremely powerful.

Izabela will be performing at the Sussex Coast College Degree Show Private view on June 21 at Station Plaza Hastings.

Chapman Brother (singular) at Sussex Coast College

“Run for the Hills the Chapman Brothers are coming,” the slightly annoying poster at Sussex Coast college said, annoying because it meant the opposite, just in the way that businesses calling themselves the Secret Toy-shop or referring to themselves as the best kept secret don’t actually want you to stay away. At the due time – 12.00 on Friday – some seventy or more students congregated in one of the classrooms and we waited. The report went round that Dinos was not coming, and we waited some more. Then we heard that Jake was parking and would soon arrive and we waited a bit longer.  Then we heard there were problems on the motorway.  He was not exactly up to the Justin Bieber standard of keeping  people waiting but when you are trying to get work finished  before your final exhibition, you can think of better ways to spend time.

Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Gap,am Brothers
Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Chapman Brothers

At 1.00 some people started wondering whether this was performance art and just about everybody disappeared for a bit to find something to eat. Finally at about 1.20 when most of them had come back, Jake arrived accompanied by some bloke who sat up at the front and didn’t introduce himself. I guess he was a PR. Jake seemed very affable and rather bored and the PR kept talking which was irritating, as we were there to hear Jake.

Jake Chapman and unintroduced bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College
Jake Chapman and presumed PR bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College

Damien Hirst had been on Desert Island Discs that morning and Jake told us he was a good chap and implied he didn’t much like Tracey Emin because of her attitude to tax and because she was a Conservative supporter, which seemed fair enough. He explained about making a replica of her tent, All the people I have every slept with,” the one which got burnt in the fire at the Momart Warehouse. “We called it  ‘The same only better’ “and went on to say that they had been thinking about making a number of replica tents, which people could sleep in at a music festival. So that sounded quite fun.

A few of us asked questions – I asked about the relationship the brothers had with each other, which he had clearly been asked a million times and then about whether they had ever rejected any idea on grounds of taste and Jake said they didn’t set out to shock – which you might believe, or again you might not;  but it was all quite friendly and jokey.

Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal
Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal : Chapman Brothers

Then one student asked why his work featured pre-pubescent girls, which seemed a fair question but brought a slightly odd reaction. Now anybody who knows anything about the Chapman brothers, must be aware of the fibreglass mannequins which have penises instead of noses. Not everybody will know the name of the work, which is quite a mouthful  – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal. Instead of answering the question, Jake started prevaricating about which work she was referring to, and then the PR stepped in and said they weren’t human, and Jake said they weren’t pre-pubescent and it was easy to misunderstand, or something like that. Then his mobile went and we didn’t get a full answer and he went off to talk to someone more important. We had had all of 20 minutes.

I reckon if you are a celebrity artist you ought to be able to manage to talk to a bunch of art students without a PR to support you. If you have one,  you really ought to have a ready answer to questions like that. One possible answer might be that he depicts pre-pubescent girls to satirise the way that the media sexualises them. That they are ‘not human’ really won’t do,  particularly when the dehumanisation of women and girls is part of what drives rape culture.

That evening Jake was holding a session at the Jerwood Gallery. I had the offer of a ticket, but I decided I had had enough. Those that went said it was quite good fun. He had people playing Exquisite Corpse, you might have played the game at school. You  fold up paper and then different people draw  heads, bodies and feet and you unfold the paper and – bingo – you have a result.  It sounds as if a reasonably good time was had by all. A group of Sussex College Students almost won the competition for the best drawing. They were down to the final two.   The first prize was a visit to the Chapman Brothers studio. The second prize – you’ve guessed it  – was two visits to the Chapman Brothers studio – actually it wasn’t – I made that bit up.

Installation at the Printworks

A week may be a long time in politics but it is precious little time to build an art installation. I know: it was an exercise I did last year on the Fine Art Contemporary Practice course at Sussex Coast College and though it was fun, it was also pretty stressful knowing that the Private View would happen at the end of the week whether or not you were ready. Yesterday, I was the visitor to the Private View put on by the first year students. They may have been stressed beforehand, but  I was enormously impressed. It was held at the Printworks in Claremont Street, Hastings which is  a wonderful building – atmospheric, great beams, exposed brickwork –  that kind of place. Many of the installations reflected its history.   Here are few of the works I liked the best.

To Print I and To Print II: Bev Thornley

To Print II is a  text installation  by Bev Thornley which projected quotations about people who might have worked in the building. The words appeared letter by letter making you aware  not only of what was written but also the interior of the building by the way that beams, plaster and missing plaster were brought to life by the light of projector. It was accompanied by To Print I which was a sound installation of the noise of printing machines.

Printed words appear in the corner of the exhibition space in the Printworks
To Print: Bev Thornley

The Metamorphosis in Space : Claire Henley

Made out of wire,  Hastings Observer newspaper clipping and coloured paper, these butterflies were designed as a symbolic representation of the changing passage of time.  They looked  striking at the top of the spiral staircase, the colours glowed against the dark background .

Rainbow coloured butterflies are suspended above the spiral staircase at the Printworks
Metamorphosis in space: Claire Henley

Stairecase Song: Barbara Mullen

Barbara Mullen also used the staircase; unfortunately her piece which was a sound sculpture cannot be shown: for that you had to be there. It was  created by recording the sound created when the  staircase was played like a xylophone. It was an imaginative use of the space, and as you walked up and down the stairs the sound of your own footsteps added to the effect.

Untitled: Carolina Lawson

This simple installation by Carolina Lawson appeared to be breeze-blocks improbably suspended by ribbon but in fact it was an illusion, created by the lighting and the wrapping; they were in fact made of cardboard. They certainly looked heavy and that made you think about the way the Printworks had been built.

Breezeblocks are apparently suspended by ribbon at the Printworks in Hastings
Untitled: Carolina Lawson

Strike Off: Aimee Whatford

Aimee Whatford was drawn to the close connection between telecommunications and  early newspaper printing and so created this installation out of galvanised wire. Suspended from the ceiling, it had a ghostly presence, reflecting past communications within the building while  the twin pillars which are somewhat convoluted, possibly suggest understandings and misunderstandings.

Galvanised wire forms are hung from the ceiling at the Printworks in Hastings
Strike Off: Aimee Whatford

Safe Journey Beautiful Boy: Jaz Schalicke

This strange video was most intriguing; two stills are shown below; among the tense stripes, words would fleetingly appear and disappear. They were gone before you could truly read them but I made out tears, loss and as you can see in the still on the right despair.

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Peep Holes into the Past: Janee Waters

Scattered throughout the building were these small circular prints. Janee Waters explained that she had discovered old newspapers and magazines in the toilets of the building, as well as old wallpaper and had reflected that they might have been printed on the premises. She therefore created the peep holes which took selected text from advertisements in magazines aimed at women as home-makers.

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