Wednesday, 18 June 2008

miss niblock goes to the degree shows...

last weekend was surely one of the busiest in the art tarts calendar for quite some time - whilst i was attending atranspennine08 on friday evening there was also a castlefield preview in full swing as well as the manchester metropolitan art and design degree shows launch night.

the degree shows are always worth a peek - sad as i was to miss the opening night i certainly wasnt going to miss out altogether, so i ventured into the holden gallery and the warren of buildings around the park that make up the art department next day. my favourite companion mr stillingfleet accompanied me and we made a splendid afternoon of it...

interactive arts had some meticulous and gorgeous work this year and as a collection was probably the most consistently impressive - amy davies' ladybird installation has to be a highlight, a whimsical detailed labour of love,

whilst surreally and mindbogglingly wonderful was contanimation by harry shotton and gavin sodo.
next door was the eerily beautiful aural and visual masterpiece wallpaper music by molly macleod, like contanimation obsessive in its attention to detail and atmosphere.

there was a noticeable museological turn across all design courses, with cabinets of curiosity, taxidermied animals, found objects, vintage storage boxes and a plethora of books and bibliographies - books scavanged, books transformed, books metaphorically and physically dissected. mr stillingfleet put it down to the combined might of mark dion's installation at the manchester museum and two brilliant years of the alchemy project!

equally 'just a tiny amount' nick park-style with its intricacy and peculiarity was nadine patterson's series of minute models depicted in action on a multitude of postcard sized films and spookily dismembered and put to bed in a salvaged print block cabinet, that mr s and myself found highly covetable..

moving from building to building and show to show, encountering photography, painting, sculpture, embroidery, ceramics, furniture and jewellary in the boxy 1960's setting of the chatham tower, the high ceilinged spendour of the grosvenor building or its peculiarly spooky cellars is a voyage of discovery, a haphazard journey through the fertile minds of this years newest talent. each year there are themes and ideas that dominate and unexpected delights to savour. just when you think you have a favourite course or a preferred area of interest, something leaps out of leftfield and makes you reassess everything you thought you knew about art, its processes, its ability to infuse all the senses and its impact and influences..

eve bennetts story of birds is a perfect example. on initial examination a quirky study of a ceramic bird, a browse through eve's sketch book and accompanying storyboard reveals a minor tragedy that has become part of her family mythology. a sound recording of the tale behind this beautifully rendered 'murder scene' creates an extra layer of meaning to this highly personal and beguiling installation.

never disappointing, always thought provoking and sometimes sheer genius the degree show is a microcosm of the budding art scene and well worth a visit. degree shows are open to the public, are on every year at institutions all over the country and free of charge...manchester and salford's shows have just finished but there are others to watch out for this year culminating in new designers islington and the fabulous truman brewery showcase on brick lane. dont play safe and wait til these bright young things have become well established -visit a degree show for the sheer vibrant unpredictability. highly recommended...

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