It was great to be back in an art gallery to see the 2021 Newcastle University Degree show at the Hatton Gallery. With 56 artists on show, this was a diverse and variable experience – viewing this amount of disparate work is quite fatiguing in itself. There was very little in the way of context or artists statements available which also made navigating the work difficult, and I wonder why this was decided. Certainly there is an argument about letting the work speak for itself, however, when the conceptual nature of art is so central to understanding, not giving the reader any direction is problematic – I certainly would have appreciated some guidance as a I varied the work and suspect my enjoyment of certain pieces would have been aided immeasurably by this.
Emily Render: Emily Render presents a 45x45cm cube containing a fluorescent geometric design and mirrors, which when the viewer places their head inside the installation makes them feel like they are inside a kaleidoscope. The patterns seem to move and the experience is just on the right side of overwhelming. Render says this: “the work explores the dissonance and contradiction created when a limitless, sacred space is contained within a limited 3D object. Additionally, it is a reaction to claustrophobia induced pandemic isolation.” I definitely agree with this – it is a deceptively simple, highly effective work.
Ellie-Mae: I was initially turned off by Ellie-Mae’s garish, confrontational artworks which overtly confront notions of fine art legitimacy. This work ‘POSH’ however, opened things up for me with part of the work containing what appears to be feedback for the artist from their tutor. It immediately made me confront the assumptions I had made about the work, perhaps Ellie-Mae expresses this best with these statements that amount to a manifesto: “i paint for me. i do not paint for academia. especially tutors. you do not get to decide what belongs in fine art. you do not get to decide the value of my art…fine art is overrated. middle-class white cubed spaces are overrated. tradition is overrated. Fuck your ‘fine’. make what you want.”
Georgia Robinson: I found Georgia Robinson’s minimal and effective small pen and ink drawings of seemingly imagined spaces intriguing and they are the works I spent most time viewing. The small paintings need close inspection and much can be gained from looking backward and forward between them and the similarities and differences they contain. Robinson says this about the work: “I have been exploring my interest of interior design by creating vague interior spaces. Inspired by dreamscapes, I have created ambiguous interiors that allow the viewer to question what the purpose of the space is and who occupies it.”
Olivia Rose-Grey: Olivia Rose-Grey presented two large circular photo collages which are full of detail and distortions. The images appear to show multiple selfies and reflections of identity. They are beautiful and intriguing to view in the gallery space and perhaps my favourite pieces in the exhibition, online reproduction does not do the works justice. Rose-Grey says this about her practice: “My work explores the dynamic between the photographer and subject, the performance of identity and representation of the self in the context of diminishing truth. I am particularly interested in the traditional connotations of both camera lens and the mirror as offering ‘truth’ or reality’, and ways in which to subvert this through the repeated presentation of a female image.”