“Thrillingly of this moment” – welcome to this 25th anniversary edition of the a-n Degree Shows Guide from CEO Julie Lomax.
Every a-n Degree Shows Guide is special for one simple reason – the art and artists featured in it. But in the process of putting the 2023 guide together we realised this year’s edition was notable for another reason: it sees the guide celebrating a landmark 25th anniversary.
Most – but, it should be noted, by no means all – of the 31 graduating students featured here would not have been born when a-n first published a degree shows supplement in what was then a monthly print magazine. A lot has changed in the intervening years, much of it involving life-altering digital technologies. But while higher education in the UK has been transformed, the degree show remains integral to the final-year experience. It is a vital, energising, unmissable and deeply visceral moment of new and inspiring creativity.
The a-n Degree Shows Guide, with students again selected by open call, has its own important role in that moment. For many, it is the first professional endorsement of their work outside the confines of their course. For the 12 artists selected for interview – a tough decision for the team, which is why we’ve chosen more this year while also increasing the overall number of students featured in the guide – it’s an opportunity to explain their practice to a new and curious audience. It is part of the ‘real world’ process of turning personal ideas into work that communicates with a public – an early step on a long journey that a-n is dedicated to supporting artists on at every stage.
Of course this guide can only offer a snapshot of the amazing work coming out of UK art schools this year, a nudge in the ribs towards the bigger picture. The featured students work in a wide range of media, from painting to video, photography to print, ceramics to needle felting. The art being made tells stories of migration and resistance, of personal struggles and community action, of consumer culture and alternative ways of living. It is thrillingly of this moment – just like it was 25 years ago.
Julie Lomax, a-n CEO, May 2023
Top image: Anna-Marie Gallares, My Family Portrait, 146x178cm, acrylic paint and oil pastel on canvas, 2020
Read the a-n Degree Shows Guide 2023: