Turner Prize-winning artist Elizabeth Price remembers her final-year BA show well. It was 1988, Ruskin School of Art, Oxford: “God knows what I would think now, but at the time I felt pleased with my degree show. It was the first time I’d made a serious, simultaneous body of work. It was the first exhibition I’d ever done.”
The intensely focused period leading up to the show is also vividly recalled: “I worked with all these chemicals, latex, wood dye and other spirit-based varnishes, and smoked throughout it all!” she laughs. “I was in this studio in the basement of the art school and I used to put out cigarettes on the palette.
“I was enjoying it, the jeopardy of it, making a whole new body of work, really throwing myself into that. And the slight glamour of the feeling that it might all go terribly wrong, and that smoking was a sort of youthful analogue of that.”
Price shares her memories of this hugely important time in her development as an artist in the just-published a-n Degree Shows Guide 2017 – a 62-page magazine that also features insights from this year’s graduating art students, along with UK-wide listings plus more thoughts on degree shows from practising artists including Nicolas Deshayes, Laura Oldfield Ford, Rosalie Schweiker, and Adam Chodzko.
Recalling his own MA degree show (Goldsmiths, 1994), Chodzko says: “The dynamic is very different from ‘normal’ group exhibitions; there is no curator or shared theme… It all felt very alarming.”
Schweiker, who graduated from the now-defunct Dartington College of Arts in 2009, describes her final BA show as “more like a chaotic three-day festival” than an exhibition.
She adds: “[It] wasn’t about showing one carefully selected piece of work to represent the culmination of your studies or to get you noticed. It was more about using this final public moment as an opportunity to create an infrastructure in which your learning could continue. Not a full stop, but a comma.”
Swansea College of Art final-year student Sheree Naqvi – this year’s Degree Shows Guide cover star – hopes that her degree show will “be another beginning to a much bigger journey. It is exciting to think that the work will be seen by a diverse group of people which could create unexpected conversations and connections”.
Naqvi is one of 10 students featured in the guide whose thoughtful and often thought-provoking comments reveal the complex, stress-filled and at times contradictory emotions that degree shows can provoke.
Describing her own conflicted approach to the challenges of this exhibition and ‘exam’, Price concludes: “I took the degree show incredibly seriously. But I would demure from saying that this meant I was deferent towards it.”
a-n Degree Shows Guide 2017 is available digitally on Issuu. For the best reading experience on phone or tablet you can download the free Issuu app for iOS or Android. The guide is also available to read as a pdf, download it here.
a-n Degree Shows 2017 Instagram takeover
Be part of a-n’s Degree Shows 2017 coverage.
We’re offering a-n members around the UK a chance to take over our Instagram feed to promote this summer’s degree shows through a series of images.
See jobs and opps for full details. Deadline for applications: midday 12 May 2017.
Not yet a member? Sign up at www.a-n.co.uk to take part. And you can catch up with our 2016 Degree Shows takeovers here – including images posted by a-n Degree Shows Guide 2017 featured artist Sheyda Porter.
1. a-n Degree Shows Guide 2017, cover featuring image by Sheree Naqvi, The Peg, BA Fine Art Painting and Drawing, Swansea College of Art
2. LJMU Liverpool School of Art and Design, 2016 degree show. Photo: Andy Jones, a-n Instagram degree shows takeover