- Nottingham Trent University
- East Midlands
Everything has exploded at Nottingham Trent. In a glorious culmination of three years blood, sweat and tears, artwork has erupted into all manner of manifestations. Like plumes of seeds dramatically fired from a bulrush, what has been presented this year is an assaulting germination of the art world beyond university.
The effect is cumulative – gathering pace and momentum after viewing what might seem like some understated pieces. In contrast to previous years the curation is praiseworthy, allowing each piece the space to dictate its environment and enjoy a comfortable relationship with those surrounding it. Although compartmentalised where effective, there is an overall sense of space and fluidity that encourages the notion that this is a collective effort. Small rooms both pre-existing and constructed have been utilised or adapted with varying levels of success, evidenced not least in Thomas Darby’s video bombardment. It is debatable to what degree the viewer is expected to or actually can engage with this work, given the overwhelming amount of audio visual sources simultaneously demanding our attention. The strong indication of presence, be it of the artist or of a slightly sinister, underground social-scientist, that Darby induces through a just-used cloth and hand-written, frustrated notes is something that is reiterated elsewhere in the show. Both in the work of Darren Purdy and others in the show you are expecting the imminent sound of returning footsteps as the suspended scene is returned to, and objects employed to create an air of intimacy are taken up once more. It is possible that this theatrical atmosphere is in some part induced by expectations of the NTU Fine Art Degree Shows as a whole, given their content is often unpredictable and that the long corridors and looming balconies of Bonington building doubtless create a certain apprehension.
Recurring also are those artworks which grow, leak and disperse to further inhabit their surrounding environs. Like a fabric fungus, Rebecca Berry’s imposing textile creation finds your gaze moving from the central spiral structure to the creeping threads and buttons that are lurking in cracks and seemingly inching toward your feet. Similarly unnerving is the beautiful precision that characterises the work of Laura Williams, having created a wall overrun by lichen-like pencil shavings serving as a multitudinous and mesmerising work of pattern. Painstakingly detailed yet bordering on catastrophic is how one might describe the methodically obliterated cupboard created by Richard Emslie. As if attacked by a particularly destructive hive of enraged bees, the wood has been barely left intact by an onslaught of small holes and has left a trail of dust and splinters. Just as this wavers between destruction and revitalisation, so does a brightly coloured exclamation of paint thrown all over the wall in huge dripping sloshes. I refer to the work of Veronica Cocca, which with paint as it’s guise is in fact knitted shapes that form an overlapping colour fiasco. Although initially intrigued by this foray into the limitations of materials, the decorative nature of this piece undermines its potential.
Mirror mazes can be amusing, but also terrifying in their disorientation to the point of mild panic. Step inside the towering, three-sided and totally enclosed construction that is the artwork of Pedro Ronald and this world becomes intensified, magnified and intoxicatingly exciting. On entering the space there is no indication from the plain, wooden-clad exterior that once you close the door you will be immersed in exultant multicolour. Flashing LED lights in the ceiling reflect infinitely in the entirely mirrored interior of this small space, giving you the impression you are trapped inside a kaleidoscope and filling you with the childlike wonder (tinged with claustrophobia) that this might induce. Visual experience is taken to breaking point, with the effect that staying in there too long might send one into a sort of artistic madness.
A sense of playfulness, of innocence brought into a mature forum of discussion, is heavy within the exhibition. It seems much of the work is laden with a brazen awareness of what looms beyond graduation, and has thrown up it’s very best in the face of this certain adversity. The progression from floundering fresher to confident artist has come to a head, and it is poignant, honest and defiant.