Nottingham Trent University
East Midlands

Show Off

The Degree Show for Fine Art, a chance to exhibit work as it would be presented in a gallery, something you work towards for the three years of your university education. To find a balance between showing off work to its full potential and curating a coherent show isn’t easy. With between sixty to a hundred graduates per course all vying for attention from the industry, the art world, friends and family it can be an overwhelming event where coherence can go out the window.

So it’s understandable that this year’s show was full of statement making and big impressions. Anna K. Stippa’s ‘Self Inhibited’, latex stretched over arching chairs from floor to ceiling in the larger ground floor space, making the most of viewpoints from the balcony on one side, and high set windows that look onto the atrium and the Decorative Art’s space on the other. Many of the pieces seemed very separate from each other. There seemed to be more constructed smaller spaces and rooms than there have been in previous years, maybe due to the challenge of curating around 60 different artist’s practices, and of presenting in some of the bigger spaces, something I think Stippa’s work did the most successfully. There seemed to be more live art too, which could also explain why smaller spaces were needed; for Lizzy Harris to scream from while film fed to a monitor outside suggesting what was happening inside, or for an isolated and lonely experience in Samuel Minton’s ‘The Protagonist’ (which I heard referred to as’ the old man room’), a constructed, very lived in living room with the finest attention to detail, down to live goldfish. Some of the best work for me held it’s own in the larger spaces, Lotti V Closs ‘Octoscope #1, Neil Dixon ‘Wooden Representation of a Place’, David Bance ‘Act 2’, Simon Franklin ‘Stunt Double’, Kyron Gregson ‘Scrabyard’, Adam Berriman ‘Epicentre’, and Antonietta Sacco ‘Untitled’.

Although the piece that stood out most, a piece I’d heard about before I’d even set foot into the show, was Tom Duggan’s ‘Brown and Blue Actors Piece’, or should I say Lucy Burden’s ‘Untitled’? Art school gossip travels fast, and there’s usually some sort of scandal or other, which is partly why I believed the piece/pieces had been vandalised. Along with the very official NTU headed paper telling the viewer so and asking for any evidence. And partly because there are people on the course I’ve never seen before. I assumed ‘Lucy’ was one of them. So apart from a slightly nagging question of why the ‘vandalism’ had been left for the public to see, I fell for it. After being informed that it was in fact a hoax (through more fine art gossip) I was filled with a strange mix of indignation and admiration and the thought of a very smug artist. It has divided opinion, and provoked some strong feeling, a sort of ‘how can he get away with that? How is that art?’ which I think is part of its success. Does there need to be evidence of physical skill or labour, is an idea enough (maybe it’s best to have both, just to be on the safe side). I can understand why its wound people up so much, for shamelessly hogging the limelight, but then you could look at it as a more tongue in cheek stab at the YBA movement and the artist as celebrity. That is, as long as Duggan doesn’t take himself too seriously.

It’s strange that so much pressure is on one week of three years of education, even though all the work done in third year counts towards the final grade. It also seems strange to build smaller spaces to put in larger spaces when there are so many galleries in Nottingham. You only have to look to Photography and the degree show festival they put on across the city, now in its thirteenth year. Maybe Fine Art should do something similar when all the degree show madness is out of the way, exhibiting with others that have similar practices and concerns, and giving the degree show pieces another lease of life.

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