Degree shows are a platform for emerging talent to be seen and recognised. They are a testbed for new methods and a destination for talent discovery.
In 1988, a group of students from Goldsmiths College of Art, London, launched Freeze, a seminal show that redefined the parameters of art. Organised by Damien Hirst, it was deemed shocking and completely groundbreaking – launching the careers of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group including Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst and Michael Landy, who have gone on to exhibit at Tate, Saatchi Gallery and museums worldwide.
The prominence of art schools in the UK is globally recognised. With Glasgow School of Art’s alumni including Jenny Saville, Martin Boyce and 2019 Turner Prize-winner Charlotte Prodger, and University of the Arts London introducing Alexander McQueen and Antony Gormley to the international stage, institutions continue to foster cultural pioneers.
York St John University’s 2019 Degree show is no exception. Students across multiple disciplines –including Fine Art, Illustration, Photography and Product Design – engage with the most pressing issues of our time. From the climate crisis and new technologies to the impact of social media and notions of gender identity, graduates hold up a mirror to the world at a pivotal moment in history.
For example, photographer Mollie Turnbull’s Modern Distortion focuses on communication and reality in the digital age. Brightly coloured portraits are altered and manipulated, visualising the multiple personas offered by users on platforms such as Instagram. Asking questions about how we present ourselves online, the visually arresting works provide a moment of reflection amongst continuous social feeds, selfies and daily news.
Other portrait artists include Natasha Clarke, whose powerful paintings represent the struggles –both internal and external – faced as a mixed-race woman. Questioning notions of belonging, the large-scale images are designed to provoke – encouraging the viewer to respond to dialogues around the constructs of beauty and identity in the 21st century. Further exploring media representation is illustrator Abi Newsome, whose comic series Can’t Think Straight reflects on LGBT characters in popular culture. The work tells stories from a diverse group of characters navigating the nuances and social hierarchy of day-to-day life.
York St. John University’s 2019 Art & Design Degree Show runs until 12 June. Find out more here.
Lead image: Mollie Turnbull, Modern Distortion.