Nottingham Trent University
East Midlands

There are many illusions about the purpose of art, such as that it aught to fulfil the list of options Word’s synonyms tool gives you for ‘awe-inspiring’. The easy opt is to painstakingly recount emotional or psychological attachments to work that it simply does not emit. Equally as popular is a brash, controversial critique, which gives away flaws in the critic over the art, if not properly considered. I write this conscious of such clich√©s and with sympathy for the labour that goes into a degree show.

Although I cannot claim to be awe-inspired by NTU’s 2009 degree exhibition, it stands to reason that the function of contemporary art can achieve something much more useful and applicable. Such example can be found in a sense of satisfaction achieved when intentions unravel. With credit to a well negotiated and mutually beneficial exhibition space, such as that of Efy Zeniou and Loucia Serghiou. Its location: in and around the ‘false corridor’.

Serghiou’s installation of light bulbs is arranged like creeping ivy, latched to the walls and growing upward. This is visually aided by the skylight within the exhibition space. The bulbs contain evidence of life and death; greenery and rotting insects. The ethos of which recaps on mortal insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

Zeniou’s fantasy world comprises of fragmented puzzle pieces made up of tactile or painterly forms, and hand crafted constructions. At first glance this is oh-so-twee, but the fashionably chic birdcages, keys, and mythological artefacts are housed amongst other more anxiety inducing content. Like frames hanging like portals, baring sinister abstract paintings construed as meat. With it you can see beyond ethereal, pretty aesthetics to appreciate rawness. Notably a button-eyed ‘half of a doll’ dangles by its arms and brandishes peach-coloured tits. Some may see maternal Gaia references, but much more evident is a plain musing of what it might mean to come with a pair attached.

Just as you can never truly know a person, there is a sense of purposeful ambiguity. The work is regressive, ridiculous, and vulnerable yet self-sustained. The presence of Serghiou’s work gives Zeniou’s universal roots, providing the shift from an individual account to its worldly proportions.

I was least of all awe-inspired by Mandy Cowell’s ‘Letting Them Escape My Body’. Entering the back room of the top studio I was confronted with what appeared to be the lovechild of artists’ Francesco Vezzoli and Craig Fisher. Not a bad looking baby, but if you are aware of either artist, it is impossible to experience without association. On the wall a large monochrome photograph of the artist is printed on canvas. From the mouth spews sequin vomit, which pools and splashes on the floor.

Cautious of making undeserved criticism I later revisited this with a renewed sense of generosity. Perhaps this is a great homage, at which I conclude that the piece may well be a portrait of Oscar Wilde’s infamous notion that all art is quite useless, and represents the regurgitation often observed amongst budding artists.

If the art has made it this far though, I want to see a little more daring or just a sense of personality would do. Beside impressively large scaled sculptures, considerate curation, or meticulously designed installation rooms, the saving grace of the show for me was Megan Tait’s ‘Well Hung’.¬†Performing in the guise of a horse, Tait climbs into a saddle hung with thick chains, hoisting herself up into the air. She resides there limp for approximately 5 minutes before retiring. Leaving the audience to think, was that it?

Brilliant. Anti-climax and impotency spring to mind, whether that’s in bed, or in life. It was ‘the artists joke’ and I felt in on it, rather than outside of it. The idea is so simple, but ultimately one of the most effective in the show.