Monday, 6 June 2016

Falmouth BA show 2016

 I wake up early, eager to get to this show. Why? I want to see what this year of graduates have to show. Maybe I expect too much. Most of them are very young. The way the fine art is shown indicates nothing of the breadth and amount they have experienced. Their essays are not there, their books of ideas, we see no photos of them, very few give statements and some that do seem to be entering for pseuds' corner.

 This year I was largely disappointed. This wasn't helped by the usual lack of a canteen on Sunday or even a stocked drinks machine, and the fact that catalogues had run out and most videos were not operating.

 When I strayed briefly into illustration and found the room very dark to the point of eye strain and asked a student about this she said 'we do not find it too dark.' We found some lights and switched them on. This year the illustrators had their work on low cloche like displays on desks instead of in wooden booths at normal exhibition height for walking around. This made the room more open and spacious looking but it was harder to concentrate on an individual's work. Unlike the fine artists the illustrators show a lot of stuff. I just could not settle to examining it all and only admired one, Rachel Summers. She had illustrations to do with therapy and a light, witty, economical style.

 Fine art had the usual almost universal lack of interest in life in Falmouth, in politics, in ordinary day to day scenes, even in ecology that I have noted before. This year there was four times more interest in porn, that is four notices warning of 'adult content' whereas before I have only noticed one per year. A depressing trend.Feminism only featured, if you can call it that, which I don't, via pink vaginas.
What were the predominant themes? I can't remember but many paintings, quite a lot of installations, a bit of sound, one computer thing.

Painters seemed to have a similar palette of green, pink and yellow as if the college had provided vats of certain colours. Drawing skills were scarce and in the drawing BA favoured laboured detail using H pencils with a few flashes of acute observation.

 As an aging adult I am entirely unwilling to stoop to pick up information from the floor, to crawl into spaces, to remove my shoes, to subject myself to loud noise, claustrophobic constructions, or insanely bright light a la Don Flavin and I therefore missed a fair amount.

 Travelling to the college hopefully, with a sustaining supermarket breakfast inside me, enjoying Wood Lane's lovely trees and birdsong, plus an old pond with tadpoles and stained glass windows, and Tremough's beds of daisies were more enjoyable than the art, although maybe because the exhausting looking at the show made my senses sharper as I became more sourly dismissive yet still craving excitement.

 Best in show, and why not give the audience, which is meagre on the Sunday, a vote on this, was unhesitatingly awarded unaminously by myself and my companion to Finbar Conran's 'The protagonist and their lover' a charming, amusing, interactive piece with revolving trees and lights and music that were wired to come on if a couple sat down. It satirised romance whilst at the same time evoking it, changing our state of mind, making us laugh and getting us to participate despite being at the end of our walk round.

Whilst I was fresh and willing the first item I saw was a disturbing installation , 'Excruciating play' by J.F.Wilson. Lots to look at, many materials used and drawing us in to examine the quirky and sinister playground.

 A couple of students, out of how many? Referred to refugee migrants. By combining deck chair canvas stripes with sand castles in the shape of coffins I thought Duncan Walters expressed how sitting on a beach nowadays brings to mind those dangerous voyages of desperate people.

 A painter I liked was Grace Green because her pictures were well drawn, many layered, elaborate, decorative constructions.

 Over in the soon to be abandoned craft BA at Tremough there were several who could just as well have been in fine art although without these craft courses in the college how will students use glass, ceramics etc? Here there were references to the importance of bees and an impressive oil ruined mutation of a beast with the sound of its laboured breathing by Emily Yates, 'A toxic relationship'

 I missed so much, because it is far far too much. I missed all of architecture and product design and planning, photography of various sorts, film., performance, dance, and most of fashion and textiles.

What a pity to see no more than a dozen other visitors in several hours of looking round. Surely the college could advertise better, open the canteens and encourage the local population in and art dealers in? Isn't it worth even a double spread supplement in the local press? It's worth two days attention, but there we are, here today, gone in a few more as it ends on Wednesday, and for most students only a few business cards may fall into the hands of a rare helpful contact.

 There they go, lambs to the proverbial, degrees on their cvs and thanks to the cruelties of capitalism only a small proportion can make a career that pays any bills. Nevertheless, I believe the three or four years gap for thinking , experimenting and experiencing before their noses strike sparks from the grindstone will help us all in a society too given over to merciless daily toil versus desolation row.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

'Lost for Words' Cafe Morte, Falmouth art college project space, Woodlane. Jan 2-10 2016

'Lost for Words' Cafe Morte, Falmouth Project Space, 

Jan 6-10th 2016

It's quite unusual to find an exhibition with a theme of death, grief, loss etc. The show was very diverse, some work only slightly engaging with the theme and other art that was personal and moving.

It's great that Falmouth art college after a gap of many years now again has a space where art exhibitions can be placed. 
There were many aspects of its presentation that might be improved in future. More publicity would help and having a longer show, and more posters, especially when entering the art college site. I went back in through the new graphics entrance and at first thought the small related graphics display which was very low key was the show, only finding the actual exhibition by further exploration as it was not sign posted.
Also the numbers by works were very tiny. These then took me to a numbered list and then a catalogue arranged with the artists names in alphabetical order. There were only copies to borrow but a website for further information, although no online device to use there. Coping with a numbered list and an alphabetically ordered catalogue took some patience and dedication.
If information had been on wall labels negotiating the exhibition's multifaceted artworks would have been easier.

There were four young women sitting in the corner on an arrangement of upholstered seats, all working on lap tops. One of these greeted me and later when I asked to see Belinda Whiting's book, showed me that it and other items were in that corner. The women then moved up to make room for me to sit, but it felt as if this was their corner and I was intruding.

 I doubt many visitors got themselves into the corner, where there was also a related library of books to see and an unopened package of a cake and some tea things. I am sure there was a good intention to make a sociable space for refreshments and browsing, maybe conversation, but in the hour I was there no one had used the corner for this. 

I suggest two invigilators would be adequate and that they could helpfully pay some attention to the viewers. It seemed as if these four were simply using that room to catch up on work as a handy corner and questions were an interruption to what they were busy with.
When I asked what language Janet McEwan was speaking on her video 'Riveresco' they thought it was being played backwards and had no interest in what was said, so that although one woman said wasn't it a marvellous video, I felt they were probably just liking it as a trendily super eight film, hand developed to be very scratched and old looking, not that they were not interested in any meaning. I was referred to the catalogue, in which Janet had made no mention of the work but had  given a general paragraph about her practice.

Janet's voice through the headphones was very beautiful to hear, gentle and musical, alongside images of countryside and a grave, but I really wanted more information and a translation.

The tent with objects in the centre of the room, made by Bram Arnold and entitled 'Resting Place', unfortunately had a commentary  on a device whose battery had run down. Before it ran out I heard an amusing snippet about a child calling a car  a 'flat car' when it was a fiat. I missed the human ashes, reading about them later.

Nicola Bealing contributed a large painting , 'An elegy on the Melancholy Accident at Porthleven' relating to a disaster at sea which was striking but I felt would have been better placed at one of the two ends of the room to allow a long view.

Another striking  thing was a video, by Tanith Gould, a play on 'nature Morte'  with still life and very un dead  nude young woman taking up a pose in a Renaissance sort of composition. I suppose it was light relief.

About half the exhibits, of which there were about 30, were very obscure to me or very dull. 
A lot of bits of dust even if they were collected at a doctor's surgery by Jess Russell and placed on scientific slides in a grid said nothing much to me.

The show was of interest, but I was disappointed. This was partly because of wondering why my own contributions had not been selected from the open submission. Some list of the rejected works would have been interesting. It seemed that whoever selected had wanted a wide selection of media and an  email had informed me that they had a lot submitted.
This knowledge of course made me more critical of the choices made.

The most moving item for me was the small book that Belinda Whiting had made to commemorate the short life of her daughter Sophie, who died during a heart operation at age three. The story was simply told, showing Sophie enjoying her life, and made me cry. It wasn't done in any tear jerking way, it was unsentimental and even cheerful in its way, but in its clarity and honesty and expression of personal experience it really touched me.

The idea of the show was a brave one and apparently connected to a research group at the college and there had been some discussions and other held during the show. Lucy Willow and Mercedes Kemp I think organised it.

I await hopefully a lot more art exhibitions at the college, maybe with comment books so that some feedback is sought.

I welcome comments to add to this short review.