Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Department of Fine Art Degree Show, University of Reading, Reading (11-21 June 2012)

Some of the young, enquiring minds showing the best of the fruits of their creative labours over the last three years were very dark indeed at University of Reading.   Electrocution chambers, restraining chairs, auto-asphyxiation, mutilation as well as animal slaughter were featured among a collection of work which, unlike many BA graduate shows, genuinely reflected a collective effort and desire to respond to conceptual concerns and strategies prevalent in contemporary art practice.
Film and installation work proliferated (most notably in Catrin Richard’s The Assassination Centre and Florence Goodwin’s The Dynean Research Project, Fractions of Society mixed media installations), followed closely with performance work whose discarded  materials or photographic records were all that remained on show (Claire Saumtally’s Charity and Sian Luisa Herbert’s Skin Performance).   Championing painting and sculpture and of equal note,  Lexi Straker-Nesbit’s wire sculptures of urban animals prowled quietly behind Vicki Turner declaration of her painterly presence with her gigantic canvas The Pier.

Inevitably some work was less successful in manifesting the ideas contained in the artists’ online statements - some of the installations behind closed doors failed to live up to the anticipation on entering, other pieces looked as if the artist has just run out of creative steam.  While any attempts at revaluing and representing feminist ideologies are always welcome in my book, and Jasmine Crawley’s The Secret Feminist installation displayed the most original (and witty) attempts contained here at bringing the F-Word to a younger audience, such in your face, angry young women strategies rarely translate to a wider, less convinced, audience.  Far more interesting was her online Rosler v Lawson video which was also much more convincing than The Emily’s constant and quickly irritating (whether intentional or not) displayed video ranting – sorry ladies.
Overall, and despite some curatorial mishaps – some videos not switched on, a few name and/or title cards falling off walls and the mechanical failure of a key featured piece, this graduating year offered for consideration a collection of work engaging in ideas and concerns rarely seen outside London art schools. 

Artist of the show was undoubtedly Florence Goodwin.  Her installation created a fictional environment which was fascinating, complex and unsettling and which showed the greatest potential by a new artist.