City & Guilds MA Fine Art Show 2012 Opens New Term

Between 13 – 16 September 2012 City & Guilds of London Art School proudly presents its 2012 MA Fine Art Show. 17 students will show their work in the Georgian surroundings of the School’s historic site on the edge of Cleaver Square, minutes away from Kennington tube station. Most of the works will be for sale and entrance to the exhibition is free.

The GAM MA Fine Art Prize awards one of the graduating students £4,000. This year’s judging panel includes art critic Richard Cork, gallerist Alan Cristea, artist and alumnus Alastair Mackie, and collector and Contemporary Art Society Trustee Cathy Wills. In addition GAM is providing bursary support and assistance for the Fine Art Department’s visiting lecturer programme.

City & Guilds of London Art School, founded in 1854, occupies a distinctive position in art education. It is the only art school in London offering degree-validated courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels which has retained its independent status. Students are especially attracted to an art school where traditional craft skills are still valued and taught in a very supportive environment.

The School offers an intensive 1 year full time (or 2 year part-time) MA in Fine Art, giving students the chance to benefit from advanced teaching by leading practitioners and develop their practice within a critical and professional framework with a very good staff to student ratio and ample studio space. A 2011 survey by Modern Painters Magazine ranked it the third best graduate arts program in the UK.

In Fine Art, the School is known for the quality of its teaching in the traditions of painting, sculpture and printmaking within a contemporary context. This specialist position provides an important alternative to the priorities of most other, larger art schools, and lends a high degree of focus to the students involved. Recent graduates such as Barnaby Hosking, Ruth Goddard, Alastair Mackie, Alex Gene Morrison, Oliver Clegg and Hugo Wilson have gone on to establish themselves as leading contemporary artists.

The School’s independent status has been crucial to its remaining small and specialist. All courses are taught by practicing artists and career professionals with international reputations. Led by Tony Carter and Robin Mason, the Fine Art department has tutors with highly successful careers of their own including Reece Jones, Andrew Grassie, Gavin Nolan, Teresita Dennis, Andy Bannister, Kate Palmer and Jane Langley. Visiting lecturers have included: Norman Rosenthal, Basil Beattie, Paul Winstanley, Andrew Mummery, Alexis Harding, Gordon Cheung, Colin Smith, David Kefford, Anne Hardy, Tom Godfrey, Lucy Williams, Zavier Ellis, Max Attenborough, Chris Davies, Will Turner, Paul Becker, Francesca Lowe, Helen Sumpter, Nick Hackworth, Jonathan Wateridge, Neil Rumming, and Christian Ward.

The MA Students by Viv Lawes

The show does not disappoint: all major materials and methods are represented. From Chloe Leaper’s wire sculptures, like nervy sketches in the air, through Alex Virji’s diminutive canvases searching for the substance behind the void left when the representational image is no longer present, to architect Jatinder Gill’s installation of ‘Urbaglyphics’ – found objects on city streets that spike childhood memories of urban life – variety and contrast is everywhere.

Take figurative work: Juliette Mahieux’s use of the polished historical style of artists such as Leonardo and Ingres to present confrontational figurative poses contrasts completely with Dimitrios Oikonomou’s large grisailles of dehumanised beings protesting at the ugliness of economic injustice, and Faten Hakimi’s figures screaming at the psychological repression wrought by the Lebanese Civil War. Classically trained Joni Hirata Duarte’s half-hidden expressionistic talking heads represent his search for the invisible life behind the representational image, while Polly Bagnall paints the human gesture by strapping objects soaked in paint to her body and filming her performance of painting with them. She sums up the benefits of the freedoms within the course: “The tutors, even when baffled by my intentions, were wholeheartedly positive of me.”

Having time to think is both a luxury and a stimulus that postgraduate level study provides. For Julia Hamilton, a return to the School ten years after having completed her undergraduate degree allowed her to return to where she left off. Her paintings of everyday objects, imbued with feelings and ideas about the lives of their owners, emerge and dissolve through the blackness of printers’ ink, like the fragments of memory they recall.

Nancy Cogswell, whose mixed media images of enigmatic open drawers centre upon her primary themes of obfuscation and emptiness, has found the “insightful and abundant” tutorial input and peer review sessions to be the most important aspect of formal study. For self-taught artist Richard Hoey, it has profoundly affected his output: he experienced a “rupture” five months into the course when his tutor showed him a printed image of Jesus and the Devil that he remembered from his childhood. This catalyzed a volte-face from his previous dark abstract paintings where process was more important than image, to a practice where “image is everything”, exploring societal attitudes towards death through bright kaleidoscope collages of icons of religion and popular culture.

Richard Crawford, a graduate of Hornsey College of Art in the revolutionary 1960s, says the academic requirement of the dissertation was the means through which he was able to join the critical and historical context of his practice to expand the meaning of his work beyond the personal. Thus his installations of birds among the plastic flotsam of the urban environment are in a “social context in which birds are under threat from environmental degradation”.

Interaction with past graduates, who often use the facilities, is another factor in the high level of stimulation students experience in this intimate environment. Charlie Warde, long drawn to urban themes, has moved from painting and printing to include film over the past year. His stop-frame animation of a series of prints he made of Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower, each image disintegrating sequentially to a blur, prompted collaboration with veteran architect Neave Brown, who regularly uses the print room facilities, on a drawing of Brown’s Alexandra Road estate in Camden.

The School’s embrace of craft techniques is another important factor that promotes diversity. It is seen clearly in David MacDiarmid’s hand-stitched, fabric-covered sculptures of geometric matrices, where architecture meets sculpture. Aiming to create pieces that appear to have a function while being autonomous, he has always been drawn to craft practices, particularly textiles. “The freedom on this course is that you are actually allowed to explore craft in a fine art context”, he says.

In summary, a pedagogy that promotes freedom of choice, the interaction between fine art and craft techniques, the social mix of young and mature, established professionals and emerging artists, British and overseas nationals and, above all, the time to focus, has resulted here in a show where a school style is mercifully absent, where diversity is celebrated.

Photo: Charlie Warde’s “The Alexandra Road Project” is a collaborative multi-media work involving the pupils and staff of the estate’s school, its renowned architect Neave Brown and sound artist James Torrance.

In July,Warde arranged and filmed a balloon release with the children and staff of the Jack Taylor School to mark the closing of the school, a lament to the passing of Neave Brown’s utopian master plan: to build “a piece of the city”, a high-density low-rise housing estate defined by its community. Warde’s work has recently been purchased by the V&A for its permanent collection.

City & Guilds of London Art School: MA Fine Art Show 2012

Private View Wednesday 12 September 5pm to 9pm Thursday 13 September 10am – 7.30pm
Friday 14 September 10am – 7.30pm
Saturday 15 September 10am – 5pm

Sunday 16 September 10am – 5pm

City & Guilds of London Art School