Farnham UCA Degree Show : 13th June 2012
I visited the Farnham UCA Degree Show last year (write up here on my AOP blog) and decided I would go again this year.
Before I went I checked on websites I had noted from last year to see if any of the students had done new work. I was particularly interested in Chris Spackman who had created a project, ‘Unstill Life’, in memory of a friend of his who had died from cancer. He had used an analogue large format camera to produce a series of flower images resulting from continuous exposure of around 3 weeks. Chris has continued to work experimentally exploring time, memory and loss and I see from his CV that he is continuing with postgraduate study at Farnham UCA. One of his projects concerns 89 glass negatives, created in the 1920s, which he bought on an online auction. His research revealed that they were made by a photographer located in the Hay area on the Welsh/English border. He has researched some of the sitters and is also developing the project by making his own portraits of local people – an interesting way of bringing together people, place and time I think.
The 2012 Show
The Reception area at Farnham is quite spacious with a welcoming atmosphere and pleasant to walk into. Amongst other interesting information I picked up two issues of the UCA magazine and information on workshops run by the Bookroom Press – both of which I will return to later.
Last year photography was displayed in the light and airy James Hockey gallery but this year that gallery hosted Fine Art.
There was some photography there, including an image by Carlmaria Jackson (no website details):
A large glossy print on, I think aluminium. Called Allure 4, it was the tattoo which fascinated me. It looks like one of a series and I would have liked to have seen the rest.
From there we went to the textiles display; 3D creations and photography.
There were some wonderful textiles and we spoke to Ify Katherine Umunna.
I asked her what she would be doing next and, of course, (which I realised as soon as I spoke!) she said that she was going to relax for a while and enjoy having completed her Degree, although she has had her own online shop anyway for the last five years.
After speaking to another student who was doing some print screening we went to the 3D section. I though this seemed a strange title as I had expected videos/films but it was glass and ceramics. Not a large room, with not a lot on display but we spoke with Grace Johnson .
Grace’s final degree project was to design and create a range of cake stands and ceramic cake covers. I had seen some of her cake covers before at an Art in Clay Exhibition at Farnham Maltings last December and they actually looked good enough to eat. Grace is certainly entrepreneurial as well as creative and told us that she is setting up her own business in actual cake making as she loves baking so much but will continue to make cake stands etc to order.
I was disappointed that there were no photography students around in the three rooms allocated to the display because it would have been good to have been able to speak with them about their work. There were a whole range of subjects/themes and so I will only mention a few here which caught my attention.
i. James Sinclair Stewart: ‘ Interior Essence of Self’
The aim of this particular project was an attempt to capture the subconscious in photography by giving his subjects the freedom of choice to represent themselves neutrally/without pretension. This was to be achieved by having them sitting in front of the lens, not knowing when the shutter would be released. The quality of the prints looked very good and it was a good idea. I do have to say though that, to me, all his subjects looked slightly dazed/frozen. I would love to have known what they were thinking as they were waiting for that shutter to open.
ii. Debra Lorraine Grant : Episodic Memory
These images were accompanied by a sound track of two sisters reminiscing about the past through the medium of looking at old photographs. I think the scenes had been rephotographed and then layered selectively on the old scenes, to quote from her website here “Episodic memories are represented within the work by various densities of image, depending on their clarity and strength of recollection. When a memory is uncertain or not so clearly recollected, it becomes translucent.” Interesting to look at and listen too.
iii. Katie Lee : Family Album
Again using old photographs of family occasions this time. The aim to provide a different context for reading family photographs. Comments written under the images by Katie (blue pen), her mother (black pen) and her step-father (pencil) and it was interesting to see the varied reactions and memories evoked. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a website link mentioned anywhere.
There was another set of images, (Polaroid I think) portraying people (with faces anonymised in various ways) in varying stages of undress who are members of a sex swingers group. There was no explanation/commentary on the purpose of this series which might have made it more interesting than just looking at semi-pornogrraphic images. At least there was some humour and energy in another students look at 5 burlesque performers (although I’m not sure they were genuine performers). Each subject also had their own set of images in small, individual flipbooks which had been produced through the Bookroom Press which is a research cluster founded in 2004 at UCA by Anna Fox and Emmanuelle Waeckerlé. They also offer one day Workshops on the production of self-published bookworks and I shall explore further. I noticed as well that quite a lot of the work displayed was accompanied by Blurb books (with white cotton gloves by their side for turning pages).
I also mentioned the student magazine at the beginning. This is ‘Glue’ and there’s an e-version of their first issue on the website. It’s run by students and supported by the UCA Students’ Union. I think it only came into being at the end of last year and I picked up issues 2 (March 2012) and 3 (May 2012). If you live near any of the campuses (Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester) then I guess you could pop in and collect one. It’s well produced, which you would expect from a University of the Creative Arts, and the showcase section gives a good idea of the standard of student work from all the creative disciplines. Just think what our own ‘Untitled’ could be like if it branches into print!
As before, it was interesting to visit and see Degree work because it sets a benchmark mark for me. So far as photography is concerned, some work was better than others and, of course, there was no indication of grades. I don’t think that the rooms themselves displayed the work at its best and this might have been the reason why I felt less impressed overall. Farnham UCA does have a problem I think in terms of its previous life as an Art College and the rather school-like atmosphere. Even so, there was still that sense of students being engaged in creative projects and sparking off each other.
13th June 2012
Farnham Campus of UCA: http://ucreative.ac.uk/farnham