Chelsea College of Art Bids Farewell To PG Dip

Chelsea College of Art and Design is getting rid of their Post-Graduate Diploma Fine Art course, and many are sad to see it go. But, as a final farewell, the last class presents an engaging collection of works in “The Final Final”.

Twelve years ago, Brian Chalkley founded this two-year course that has offered a space for experimentation and growth to emerging artists. A departure from the standard one-year master’s course, the PG Dip is not restricted to a specific medium, rather it embraces all media. Previous MA Director Babak Ghazi notes, “on the MA, the pressure is much higher to succeed. But on the PG Dip we think success is about opening up, taking the challenge of losing your identity as an artist and potentially as an individual.” Throughout the course, students are encouraged to challenge themselves with different materials and expand their artistic approaches, allowing fluidity in their practice that is otherwise discouraged in other degree programmes. “That is the point really,” says Chalkley, “you come here thinking you’re one kind of artist, but you may end up as someone completely different… [The course] engenders this sense of flexibility of thought.”

As the final Final show, the art presented in the Chelsea space certainly embodies this attitude of experimentation. Here students have brought a sense of complete disorder to the traditional white cube, so that it more closely resembles the creative space of an artist studio. The show itself features grids made by imprecise hand, overturned barriers, deteriorating sculptural structures in wax, misguided directions to the art, government and institutional corruptions, and unanswered questions. Some of the chaos might come from “the willingness to take a risk [at the PG Dip level] and be in a state of unknowingness, as opposed to the professionalism that we see today [from the MA course],” says Babak Ghazi. And yet, when you enter the building, one feels willing to embrace the chaos, rather than become overwhelmed by it, a factor I contribute to the committee of students who curated the show. It is easy to see how students and faculty work closely together in the running of the course, and Chalkley confirms “student input is really essential.”

Thematically, it is clear Chelsea Dippers are tuned in to the uncertainty of our moment, and aware of the “hostile” conditions awaiting the emerging artist after education. But they are not afraid to explore their potential for failure as well as for greatness. Indeed, the feeling of possibility permeates the exhibition. These artists are pushing the boundaries of art, and making a name for themselves whilst pursuing more training in their field. There is a definite blending of ideas and materials among the artists, a clear result of the reciprocal influence students had working next to their peers over the last two years.

Most notably, performance works steal the show. They present literal works in progress, thrusting themselves into a shared space with the audience. Notably, behind closed doors lies a performance blending of fetish and madness in a dimly lit room. One figure lies on an electrified table draped in black fabric, while another frantically coats detritus in mud and violently swing pieces at a canvas on the opposite wall. An electrified fence separates and connects these two actions, whilst the soundtrack of someone’s laboured breathing is amplified in the room.

In the common hallway, an artist in a child’s bathing suit and a pig snout slowly wanders the hall. Dreamily lifting her legs wrapped in party strings and her feet in industrial gloves, she sporadically eats toothpaste straight out of the tube, or hides behind a wall created by other performers.

Here is a closer look at other notable artistic input:

A sculptural installation by Cheryl Papasian takes the theme of rock climing, and makes the scene more ridiculous than functional. Her alluring colours of a playground hide the darker references to sex trafficking and prostitution, making it a space that isn’t very safe, and wouldn’t be very fun.

“Untitled” by Ana Teles – a cross between Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol, she paints portraits of famous philosophers on steel, turning them into grotesque black and white images that deny the sober portraits typical of these western thinkers.

“Vessel” by Sophia Lee – a crystalline, almost intergalactic environment involving glitter, mirrors and various tiny toy objects awaits the viewer who dares step onto a box and enter this strange world head first.

“In Awe of Superficial Things” by Nikolai Ishchuk – his conceptual photographic sculptures respond to the exhibition site, and function as sails responding to the climate inside the gallery. His work also features in The London Open at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Words and Photo Sharon Strom ©ArtLyst 2012   **** (4 stars)

“The Final Final” Postgraudate Diploma of Fine Art 2012 is on show at the Chelsea College of Art and Design from 21-24 July.

Visit The exhibition Here