Great space: great show – MA students suceed at Brighton

Jealousy is to be deplored  but I couldn’t help feeling a twinge to see the space that this year’s MA graduates at the University of Brighton had been allocated to show their work. There was a whole new exhibition area devoted to sculpture and the downstairs gallery was not interrupted by partitions as it has been when I was showing a year ago. This year the works had room to breathe and the graduating students made the very best of it. It was interesting to see how those who were first  years in 2014-15 had developed and it was also fascinating to see works from people whom I did not know, who had decided to go for the gruelling route of taking an MA in just a year.  In a varied and imaginative show here are a few of the pieces that caught my eye.

Kyunmin Kim: Traces of Time

I was particularly impressed by this work by full timer Kyunmin Kim, Traces of Time in the downstairs gallery,  it is beautifully embroidered, not on fabric but on wire mesh, which is torn in the middle. Writing about the work Kyuhmin explained that “even memories become faint with traces of time. The memory is still alive and is ready to come up to us at any time.“The statement seems a contradiction but then maybe that is the point of the work – the gaps in memory and the unexpected recall.

Doreen Munro started the MA at the same time as me but had a year out for family reasons. That year appears to have served her well.

Doreen Munro

I remember that Munro’s work often featured pieces being wrapped, or in some way concealed, but none, I felt,  had worked as successfully as the juxtaposition of the corrugated iron and the paper in this piece here. The newness, crispness and fragility of the paper was the perfect foil to the rusting iron.

Ruijong Hang: Non Linear Existence

Ruijing Hang another full timer’s work is hard to photograph; Non Linear Existence is constructed from white paint on clear acrylic. I particularly enjoyed its lyricism and dream-like quality. Among many showier pieces it demonstrated a quiet authority.

In marked contrast to Ruijing’s restraint was this playful piece by Yanting Li , You In. It was the first work I noticed on entering the sculpture exhibition and the humour and colour were particularly appealing


Yanting Li: You In

Caleb Madden’s works are hard to miss as his sound sculptures permeate both the main exhibition hall and performances in the sculpture exhibition. I particularly enjoyed Hot Fizz an ingenious work in which a bag of water was allowed to drip onto  a hot cooking hob making a satisfying hiss every time it did so, the sound of which was then amplified so that you did not at first understand its origins.

Caleb Madden: Hot Fizz

Among many excellent paintings I like this little one by Tori Day of a gimlet. Day specialises in celebrating common objects which might otherwise go unnoticed. It is painted on piece of 19th century floorboard. I liked the cleverness of the painted nails holding the painted paper on which the gimlet rests.

Tori Day: Gimlet

Susan Fynes polished and intricate geometric abstracts are always interesting. They take months to complete and I am just amazed at the patience and dedication that is involved. This one Hope is typical of her work – eye-bending but beautiful.

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Susan Fynes: Hope

The University of Brighton MA show is open until July 16, 10.00 – 5.00 at University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY  

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. 

Eyeballing the competiton

It was very nice of the Atkinson Gallery to include two of my paintings, Nostalgia for the Body and Brain Dysfunction in their exhibition of work by selected MA and other Post Graduates. The Gallery is within the grounds of Millfield School in Somerset and has in the past  shown work by an impressive range of artists, including Andy Warhol, Anthony Caro, Marc Quinn and Elizabeth Frink. The aim of the Post Graduate Exhibition is, according to the press release, to showcase “the work of students who express particularly fresh, innovative ideas and  reflect the talent and wide range of work being produced in art schools today” So thank you.

McDougall: Nostalgia for the Body 2014

As I had never been to Glastonbury before, mud and blocked loos not having much appeal, I decided to go down for the Private View to see what fellow artists had done and at the same time visit the Abbey and stay at the George and Pilgrim which claims to be the most haunted hotel  in England.

Finding the Attkinson Gallery itself without psychic help proved quite a challenge and if Andy Warhol et al ever made it there, it just goes to show what a resourceful lot artists are; the signage is non-existent, and even some of the school  kids seemed unsure where it was. I would still be wandering the grounds had not a very nice lady in reception come to my aid and took me there despite having no coat and it being a cold night.  Once inside,  I desisted muttering about signage as I thought the works that had been chosen were genuinely interesting and I was pleased to be part of it.

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Two visitors look at my paintings, A work by Caroline Pick is in the foreground

Here are some of the works which appealed to me. I particularly liked the latex steps by Caroline Pick which you can see above. Caroline is a fellow MA student at Brighton and I featured her work last year in the MA Exhibition . It was also good to see this work by Paul Tuppeny, Wing and a Bag. Paul is also taking an MA in Fine Art at Brighton. With this piece there is a satisfying contrast between its appearance, which resembles a cellophane bag, and its actual solidity.

Paul Tuppeney, Wing and a Bag
Paul Tuppeney, Wing and a Bag

I seem to have a penchant for black and white paintings and I particuarly liked this one by Slade student Konstantinos Giotis. In this case it is more just black than black and white and you can just make out an enigmatic kneeling figure,which I presume is supposed to be there, unless it is like one of the photographs shown in the George and Pilgrim where a ghost was supposedly visible in what the photographer had thought was just an everyday picture of people drinking in the bar,

Konstantinos Giotis: Untitled

Among the prints I thought the textures and colours interesting in Martha Oatway’s monoprint Terrain 14,

Martha Oatway, Terrain 14
Martha Oatway: Terrain 14

and was also impressed by the draftsmanship in Kathryn Poole’s lithograph  Trachyphyllia Macrosoma, The bright light in the top middle left is a reflection and unfortunately the reflections in the photograph also stop you fully seeing the cleverness of Garry Wiggins superb drawing of a bulldog,.

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Kathryn Poole: Trachyphyllia Macrosoma
Gary Wiggins: Phoenix the Gladiator

I am a great fan of Tori Day’s tiny paintings of everyday objects. This one Finger Thing is only 12.5cm x 11cm; not only is it beautiful in itself but it makes you look round you at other overlooked objects.

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Tori Day: Finger Thing

Finally I really liked this rather spooky hand set in glass by Catherine Jones from the University of Gloucestershire,

Catherine Jones: Held

Talking  of spookiness, to my disappointment I did not see any severed hands or floating forms at the George and Pilgrim. Well, perhaps I didn’t really want to see severed hands. But while at dinner in the hotel my mobile did send a text to my daughter without any intervention from me, I can now report that ghosties use the rather over jolly way of speaking favoured by IT technicians. “cant talk now – what’s up,” it said. Now, if it had managed it in Shakespearean English, or, even better, had done it earlier and sent me a handy map of Millfield School, I would have been well impressed.

The MA and Other Post Graduate Exhibition is showing at the Atkinson Gallery until 29 March

Brighton MA Fine Art Exhibition 2014

The MA fine Art Exhibition is now showing at Grand Parade until July 10. I think we have put on a pretty good show. What is fascinating is seeing it come all together after seeing the work develop during the year. Suddenly people’s different obsessions make sense. Take this stunning piece by Soohyun Kim A Monstrous Child, during the year I had seen Kim’s smaller doll sculptures and had not liked them very much; suddenly there was this piece in the gallery and I saw the point of it, and found that I actually liked the smaller pieces as well.



Another work which I think works wonderfully well in the exhibition is Caroline Pick’s piece in latex. Caroline made small latex work earlier in the year but it is only when they get to this scale that they become quite so fascinating. I really like the textures she has achieved.



 Helen Acklam’s work arose out of a residency she undertook a residency at the Royal Sussex County Hospital at the time the site was closed for redevelopment.  I particularly like the feeling of light and the sense of the open doors, leading to what? A ward? An operating room? Or perhaps, as the name Limbo suggests, to another world.




Look out too for Mima Chovankova her painting, bright, striking and hugely skilled in the way that she manipulates the paint, are up on the second floor. One of her influences is the Russian painter Kazimir Malevitch; you can see that in the black square; what would he have thought of the fluorescent pink? Personally I think he would have loved it.



Mercedes Ferrari’s work is always interesting and distinctive; these hands are no exception; walk past and they spring into action.


Another painter whose work I admire is Lucy Marks; in this exhibition she has moved away from the colour that characterised her work in the past; I loved her coloured work but the black and white pieces are hugely striking.




Also working black and white is James Dean Diamond, with his series of photographs in which he manipulates light to create the most fascinating effects.




 Rose Waterson uses light in a completely novel way; she combines her drawing with projected images or effects which bring them to life.



These are just a small selection of the works on show. If you do come along, do drop in and see my floating sculptures on the second floor; to tempt you, there is also a dead snakey thing. What more could anybody want?


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The MA Fine Art Show is open every day except Sunday till July 10 at Grand Parade Brighton

Floating sculptures

In art it is surely good sometimes to turn everything on its head just to see what happens.  A year ago I was working in plaster. I was quite pleased with some of the results but they had one big drawback – they were so, so heavy. I could just about shift the smaller ones by myself but with the larger ones I definitely needed another person to get on the other end and the person volunteered for that task invariably moaned a  bit. They, the sculptures, not the people, were awkward  to store and virtually impossible to get up stairs even with a volunteer. There was one that sat in the hall at home for some time bumping me on the shins whenever I passed. So, when I started the MA at Brighton in October, I decided to work lightweight.

Over the last nine month I have been experimenting. First, I tried suspending things from the ceiling with fishing line, But then I got to thinking how great it would be to dispense with the support and I started wondering about floating sculptures. Here is the result. This piece is called Nostalgia for the Body. In a way these things are an argument for the unlikeness of an after-life. They represent continuing consciousness but while pure thought has some attractions, without a body my beings lack agency, and without agency would not thought alone begin to pall? Without a body they cannot enjoy the sun on their backs, nor food, nor music, nor sex, not even the comfort of touch and so they float in space and try with their minds to imagine the body they have lost.

Sue McDougall: Nostalgia for the Body 2014 (Mixed Media)

What I feel works well with these pieces is the way that they move. In still air they are motionless but a slight draft sets them moving very gently.  For some reason they seem to drift towards people. There is also another piece Untitled.

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Sue McDougall. Untitled. 2014 (Mixed Media)

If you would like to see them, you can do so at the Brighton University MA Fine Art Show. It opens on July 3  till July 10. They are on the second floor at Marine Parade.