Featuring 57 artists, the orientation of this year’s Newcastle University BA Fine Art degree show is rhizomatic and at times interestingly precarious.

The show is also suitably deft in exploring how students find their voice through aesthetic conversation, material exploration and collaboration.

“I chose to be in the same room as two other artists,” explains Maddy Venus, wearing one of her kinetic sculptures. Deriving from an unconventional take on drawing and character, Venus’s work – situated next to paintings by Jamie Evans and a workshop programme by sculptor Toby Munnion – displays a bright and full aesthetic that binds the room curatorially.

Venus continues: “Jamie’s work is very colourful, as is mine. I’m not sure others would have wanted to share with us. And it’s good having Toby, he’s holding workshops throughout the show, which means the room is often busy.”

As with many degree shows it’s down to each student’s decision on space, and who to exhibit with, that pushes their work beyond a studio practice. Ditte Goard, Charlotte Valetta, Ellie Hegarty and Maria Abbott are another example of this. Their work is assembled in the long, partially glass-fronted room at the front of the Hatton Gallery. The theme here is dominated by performance, a programme of which brings the work together in the space.

Chanting and movement

I arrived during a live piece by The Anima Collection, a vocal performance group featuring Goard and Valetta, as well as students Sarah Grundy and Jayne Dent. Choreographed chanting and movement, together with symbolic costume, created a resonant experience. Afterwards, I sought out Goard’s work and found a neatly designed publication – a manifesto from the group, bringing together themes in published form.

Abbott’s visually sharp performance (main image) came next. Dressed as if ripped straight from a mail order catalogue, four women entered the room and the situation quickly became a fetishized department store. Abbott mediated in cosmetic saleswoman guise, fitting sculptures to the performers and coordinating their movements.

“I am interested in how performance creates tension between sculpture and its potential use,” Abbott explains, “I wanted the pieces to be installed at different points to heighten this tension.” Reaching a happy medium that does not compromise a work’s concept is difficult in degree shows, but Abbott’s aesthetic still allows for more than one voice in the room.

Julia Makojnik’s silent animations and 3D prints of utopian architecture (above) are exemplary of dedication to medium. Complete and well produced, each element gives logic to the next; it’s a pity that the adjacent sound from work by Joshua R. Borom, whose films are equally well-mastered, jars an otherwise fitting experience.

Elsewhere, Adam Goodwin’s immersive work benefits from having its own space on the lower floor. A weaving of circuit bending, data corruption and sonic manipulation, the installation successfully explores practices of communication to capture, as Goodwin puts it, “a presence other than our own”.

Vying for the right space ought not overcome how pleased these students should be with their work. With its performance programme and impressive catalogue, backed by no less than £22,000 of fundraising from students and university support, this is a good solid show that provides more than one way in to the work.

Newcastle University’s BA Fine Art degree show continues until 12 June 2015. ncldegreeshow2015.co.uk

For more on degree shows across the UK, read the a-n Degree Shows Guide 2015. Featuring interviews, previews and listings, you can view it as an ebook or download the pdf

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