Class of 2021: Exploring contemporary art practice with this year’s Fine Art graduates
Promoting contemporary art practice in the broadest sense, the Plymouth College of Art BA (Hons) Fine Art course encourages students to be ambitious, self directed and critically engaged practitioners and artists, equipped to enter the creative industries with the skills to critically question and actively create. These students’ final major projects, exhibited in their Summer Show at Studio 11 from 21 to 29 June, are continued proof of the innovation and expression that develops from this course.
Here we’ve tried to narrow this year’s incredible cohort down to just a few students who have caught our attention with their continued enthusiasm, ambition and drive over the last three years.
Emily J Willow is an artist, writer and political activist. Her autobiographical and polemic artwork explores the convergence of visual and written artforms through a variety of media including printing, pastiche and prose. Her exploration into immersive and multi-disciplinary storytelling is inspired by the transformative intertextuality of fandom. Emily’s primary motive is to deliver social commentary through the veil of narrative fiction. Inspired by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Suzanne Collins and Ursula K. Le Guin, Emily combines both the contents and medium of the novel to entertain, teach and protest.
'She Means Everything to Me' takes the form of a novel and visual collage. The pieces of work come together to tell a story of two girls who learned to understand themselves through their understanding of one another.
Emily said, “The inspiration for the project came from both a quote from Lily Van Der Stokker, whose work encompasses something she calls ‘non-shouting feminism’, and comments from my tutors that my polemic artworks were, at times, too obvious. My intention became the burying of political activism behind the veil of narrative fiction, with the intention of protesting injustices through the voices and experiences of others.”
On graduating, Emily intends to study a MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University in London, while continuing to work on her contemporary fantasy novel, Ruptured Covenant. Beyond that, her plans are to work in publishing until being able to sustain herself as a full time artist and novelist.
Ruth Brown is an artist based in Plymouth, with the fundamental concept at the heart of her practice based upon the preservation of memories, both individually and collectively. The process of making is an important and cathartic experience, often a catalyst for her use of material processes and installation. She works within a wide range of media, such as textiles, photographs and performances to share her voice through the use of everyday objects, which are of personal significance. Her work delves into her own past, often focusing on loss as a narrative. The use of art as therapy is a core part of Ruth’s work.
'Family Time' is a table and installation; the name itself adds an extra dimension to the work, pointing the audience into the direction that the table is a metaphor for family. A rubberwood four seater table is wrapped in black wool, with hard darning, embroidery and stuffing spilling out, signifying secrets and suppressed feelings that come bubbling out and make gaping holes in the family who are trying to appear ‘normal’.
Ruth said, “Reflecting back on my degree, it’s certainly been a life changing experience for me as a fine artist and as part of the wider college community. I embarked upon my degree with low self confidence and self esteem, and I would never have imagined being confident enough to achieve a degree. The staff at Plymouth College of Art have coached me and taught me how to be a fine artist in today’s world. As someone with mental health issues, I no longer feel defined by my illness - rather it has provided a cathartic process and a chance to show others how I see the world.”
While currently volunteering with local community interest company Cognitivity, an art group for people with mental health issues as well as taking part in a counselling placement for Plymouth based charity SALT, Ruth aims to study a Masters in Art Psychotherapy at South Wales University or Goldsmiths in 2022.
Lucie Smith’s practice seeks to grasp the present whereabouts of her being through critical consideration of her experience of the world. By exploring the expansive realm of art process and medium, she attempts to unite past with present and unconscious with conscious. Notions of memory, trace, absence, separation and home are interwoven; alluding to a collective fluidity of the passage of time.
Autobiographical and sometimes confessional, her practice is rooted within the concealed, allowing a process of analysing the internal to take the lead in obtaining narratives. Amongst fascination with the function of site and place within her practice, Lucie is also driven by the philosophical and psychoanalytical theories that underpin her ideas and practice, often utilising symbolic contexts in order to entwine thought, theory and material.
'Unearthed Encounters' embodies the experience of memory and place through a process of materialising the uncanny. The installation, featuring a broken sink, overgrown windows and rotten wood, brings together fragmented verbal recollections from within Lucie’s family, alongside the remains of sentimental objects. It explores the frustration of the unspoken and the continuous process of being reuniting and dissociating with past memory; an inbetween of remembering and forgetting.
After settling in Plymouth while studying at Plymouth College of Art, Lucie plans to stay in the city while gaining experience in both the freelance and educational sectors. Her eventual goal is to complete either an MA in Sculpture or MRes in Art Theory at the University of the Arts London, as well as a PGCE in Further Education.
Charlotte Day uses a variety of processes, such as film, photography, sculpture and painting, with her artwork aiming to challenge and explore a broad spectrum of topics. She aims to use her practice as a means to raise awareness, challenge existing ideas and continuously educate herself, as well as others, on pressing issues.
'88%' sets out to explore the relationship between materialism and consumerism through the process of manipulating materials’ properties. Challenging the connotations behind ownership and authorship, she portrays the plastic world we reside in through her corruption of materials’ original form.
The absence of naivety and ignorance creates an immersive harsh reality in efforts to raise questions and to generate conversations about mass production of single-use plastic and to confront you with the obvious damaging effect on the planet. By constructing a different perception of this material, it evolves the value of plastic.
Sarah King, Subject Leader for BA (Hons) Fine Art said, “The lockdown turned Charlotte’s life around, it gave her space to realise what is vital to her. She became a different student, one who wanted to make a difference, who realised she had something to say and wanted to say this with a passion through her practice. The sophistication of the work has been achieved through hard work, failure, success and a sense of humour. Charlotte uses her practice as a means to raise awareness, challenge existing ideas and continuously educate herself, as well as others, on these pressing issues such as social injustices, social media, mental health, materialism and consumerism.”
Charlotte was awarded the The Dean's Award for 2021. The Dean’s Award recognises work of outstanding quality judged on the work exhibited as part of our Summer Shows, and is selected for being Best in Show.
Alexandra Brown is a multidisciplinary artist on a mission from God with a penchant for theatrics, saunas and rock ‘n’ roll. Her process is a contemplation and celebration of the ethereal, manifesting in playful experimentation and attempts to map the metaphysical with childlike reverence. Brown’s practice includes, but is not bound to, drawing - both in virtual reality and more traditionally in this perceived actual reality, digital media, performance and interactive installations. Her current practice is an investigation into the nexus point between ancient eastern philosophy and contemporary quantum sciences, illustrating a fundamental interconnectedness of everything - a reality that is constantly moving, flowing and changing.
'Impermanence' is an exciting innovative digital installation with three miniature holographic figures circling their arms in an infinite loop. As described by artist and researcher Maud Craigie in her critical review of the BA (Hons) Fine Art Summer Show 2021, these figures are positioned in front of a gold curtain, with shallow trays of water refracting sound and rippling into the space. The size of the small figures in relation to us forces a shift in perspective - a sensation of viewing on a macro level.
Alexandra already has a busy schedule lined up after graduating. From July 16, she will be exhibiting for a month in Prime Cafe in Plymouth, followed by the ARTforFood charity exhibition at the Angel Gallery in Totnes from July 20 to 25 and in September, Alexandra will be C.A.M.P’s online Artist in Residence.
Plymouth College of Art’s 2021 Summer Shows are part of the IGNITE Festival of Creativity, which connects creative graduates, businesses and members of the public in exciting new ways to spark employability, drive community engagement and develop new creative economy opportunities across Plymouth and beyond. IGNITE runs until 19 July, putting a unique spin on the traditional art degree show model by combining online technology with physical installations and exhibitions in community spaces to showcase work by graduates from Plymouth College of Art and the University of Plymouth.
IGNITE, which has been shortlisted in the 2021 HEIST Awards for Best Student Engagement Campaign or Initiative, is supported by Plymouth City Council as part of the iMayflower project, and by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund (administered by Arts Council England).