Old Truman Brewery (The)

Free Range at The Old Truman Brewery

On a Thursday evening in mid summer the Truman brewery, at the heart of London’s East End, has a strange appeal. A labyrinth of gleaming white converted warehouses plays host to some of newest talent to emerge from UK art schools. A scene which is repeated and played out at countless venues across the country.

I always feel that attending a Fine art degree show is a bit like being a guest at a wedding reception. The experience is not an unhappy one, but never the less I find myself filled with a sense of foreboding. Having greeted my hosts, I make some favourable comment and wish them all the luck in the world knowing deep down that they are going to need it and a lot more besides. On the whole I genuinely believe that my hosts (I should state that we are back at the private view) fully deserve a measure of success and are entitled to one night of unchallenged celebration. A once only, never to be repeated opportunity where, be the work good or otherwise, criticism is withheld. Why I hear you ask do I extend such a privilege, what could warrant such an amnesty? I will therefore attempt to provide an explanation. The quality of the art on offer at degree shows must in part reflect the merits , if indeed there are any, of a formal art school education. To survive and finish art school is no small achievement. In some cases I suspect that undergraduates have been hard pressed to find anyone capable of teaching them anything at all; studying under tutors who belong to a lost generation and were barely taught themselves. A three year stint in art school is hard work; learning to interpret vague innuendo and understand that which is implied but never stated. Even when students manage, against the odds, to produce some decent work it is overwhelmingly clear that they are blissfully unaware of what lies ahead of them if they hope to sustain even a modest practice as an artist. The briefest of encounters with the few who look as though they might achieve a measure of success, quickly reveals that they have no idea of just how low the stakes really are, but for one evening alone, I can think of no good reason why I or any one else should piss on their bonfire and tell them the disappointing truth.

So there you have it; go along to the party, enjoy a glass of wine, smile and be nice because in all probability by this time next year most of the graduates whose work you have been looking at will be no longer be practicing having abandoned art in favour of a profession that provides work and pays a salary upon which it is possible to live. And finally for all those of you that have been pondering the question, were we this clueless when we left art school? The answer is almost certainly yes.

Artist working in London