The Loughborough University School of the Arts degree show is wonderful. No matter what your aesthetic tastes and sensibilities you can’t fail to be impressed by the array of talent. For most students this will be their first opportunity to show their work and get feedback from the general public. There are host students there each day, always willing to explain their work. And some of it does need an explanation to the uninitiated like us.
In Multi Media Textiles Zizi Qu explained how she had taken architectural shapes to create fabric pieces that created illusions in colour and shape, giving a 3D effect when you gazed on them. Another student had created mesh snakes (not a favourite of mine) out of silver and coloured crochet cottons (i love ’em!). I couldn’t see the application but they were beautiful and original. Printed textiles always has me drooling. The colours and techniques used on silks, cottons, linens are vibrant and exquisite. Students take their inspiration from their travels, their families, reading, the environment. A lot of Fine Art this year centres upon landscape and ‘seek to immerse the viewer in the power of the land’. I don’t understand painting as an art form, as I do writing and books. I used to think that if I couldn’t appreciate an image it was because the artist had failed to transmit a message to me. I would look and think that it just hadn’t spoken to me. Now I believe that I have to make a connection to my own experience. Art takes time. And just walking through rooms of paintings, anywhere, probably isn’t the way to do it.
Often, but not always, I look for the personal and an interpretation from the artist. One Fine Art exhibit featured an animation, an installation and a lot of personal memorabilia. A hospital room with a bed, table, chair and that green uniform reminiscent of psychiatric wards. It reenacted a short period from the life of Alex Widdowson who suffered and was hospitalised for a psychotic illness, as a result of drug abuse and mental health problems. His was an attempt to turn his horrific experience into art. And it worked. Hauntingly beautiful and courageously explicit it will be the one piece I will remember. Alex happened to be there and explained how he had worked from 6am to midnight to complete the work. He showed us two enormous files of sketches. Some of the student work we viewed is explicitly commercial, particularly Visual Arts, that screams out ’employ me!’ (and who can blame them?). Alex’s work belongs somewhere else, encompassing art, talent, effort and an elusive soul quality.
I don’t appreciate all the art. And it must be impossible for the tutors to mark. How easy is it to be objective? But I do know that art is relevant to our lives. I am reading ‘Art objects’ by one of my favourite people, Jeanette Winterson. In one of the essays she says, ‘If we say that art is no longer relevant to or lives, then we might at least risk the question ‘What has happened to our lives?’. The usual question ‘What has happened to art?’ is too easy an escape route.’
Next Thursday, for the first time, they are auctioning some of the art objects. I will be there!