It’s the graduate show season of course and there is much to see, take in and ponder upon. The eye candy and delight for the brain cells to feast on is not limited to London. I travelled as far as the Norfolk coast and was duly rewarded (more on my sojourn to North Norfolk later).
I shall begin with the Royal College of Art graduate show. I managed to see what the RCA dubbed Show Two Battersea, which was the show of the postgraduate students in painting and sculpture. Usually partial to painting, I broke my own rules and started off with the sculpture (there where two buildings, one for painting and the other for sculpture). Intending to rush through the exhibits and then go on to bask in the two-dimensional world and take my time with my beloved paintings, I entered the sculpture room building and immediately I was trapped.
The principle is simple but the practise is usually difficult. The simplicity is this, produce challenging work and you sow the seed of intrigue in your audience and they would simply want to find out more. This show managed to trap this usually elusive principle and in so doing managed to trap me in a room full of sculpture. I will dub this show Entrapment. As a result of the situation I found myself in I was unable to see Show Two Battersea Painting, as I wanted to take my time and savour the offerings of Show Two Battersea Sculpture. Hey, we will not cry over split milk.
Show Two Battersea Sculpture was the ultimate Alice’s rabbit hole; you look in and fall in. There was much to attract you and many layers to unfold; the more you unfolded the more you had to unfold. There was an array of styles from which artists created their own signatures, which were stamped all over their pieces.
Do not be fooled by the reference in the title of the show to sculpture. The contemporary art scene is slowly but surely getting comfortable with defining and distinguishing all those 3 dimensional creations that are not traditional sculpture and require a category of their own, for example installation. Forgive me, for I digress, but necessarily so, this show contained sculpture, yes, but there were also installations.
The installations were significant both in number and in distinctive presence. There were also pieces that fell in the bands of spectrum that might be said to exist between sculpture and installation, bands that the art establishment might be struggling to label and define at this juncture.
An example of an (as near as damn-it) installation was Stuart McCaffer’s The Older You Get The Less You Look Up. This piece took the (most) ordinary and not-worth-a-glance and made it intriguing and fun and (of course) extraordinary. The piece, if it could be called that as you are surrounded by it as opposed to standing and looking at it, has to be experienced to get a sense of it. Its execution is what captured my imagination, its concept was clear from the onset but in installing it for this show McCaffer went the extra mile in getting the detail right. You had to look and then look again and even then a second glance was not enough.
Marcus Foster was another artist whose work ran the gamut of the spectrum of sculpture to installation and probably beyond. Foster is clever. His pieces catch the eye. His practice is prolific, lending his hand and thinking to both big and small. There is enormous mileage in Fosters ideas and concepts and I look forward to seeing which roads he travels down and what twists and turns he makes. My favourite Foster piece was Fab Landing. Pieces based on found objects (a current favourite of contemporary artists) can often be poorly executed but this one did not suffer that demise.
Simply entitled Mountain, you need to see Rose Gibbs’ piece to believe it. This piece comes hot on the heels of Grayson Perry and Jake and Dino Chapman. It is what can be best described, without giving the plot away, as salaciously fruity.
John Neilsen takes modern materials and practices to create something that deceives the eye into thinking it taking in an ethnic piece. In this instance I am talking of his piece, Ladies and Gentlemen It Does Look Different. Picasso and his contemporaries who referenced art from the Dark Continent would be jealous. You need to walk around it to appreciate it. Part of the magic of this piece was the material used. Concrete! As well as concrete Neilsen likes other artistically unconventional, but everyday conventional, materials such as marble, plasterboard, steel and wood and we like what he does with them.
Then James Martin McCann said, “Let the room bring forth the intriguing creature according to its very own strange kind”. James Martin McCann’s “creations” are frighteningly and intriguingly organic. You are tempted to touch them while at the same time resisting the urge in case they came alive. Although I was tempted I resisted, but they still came alive for me.
If this show is anything to go by then we are set for exciting times ahead as far as contemporary is concerned. This show was fertile and showed good promise.The ones to watch are Stuart McCaffer, Marcus Foster, John Neilsen. As far as my eyes can see their pieces are entertainingly challenging and as artists starting out they are eager to kick against boundaries and make tracks in bushes where there are none. Not for any other reason other than that is where their thinking is taking them. But then may be I need to get out more.