Northern Graduates 2013 is the 24th annual exhibition, providing a showcase for the best of this year’s graduates from the North of England. These select few are all artists who have stood out amongst the hundreds of graduates all completing their degrees this summer and show the most promise for becoming successes of the art world in years to come.
The work in the exhibition covers various mediums including painting, printmaking, sculpture and many elements of mixed media and found objects. This group of artists also show a great variety of styles and methods.
Francesca Aikman’s mixed media paintings focus on ‘ignored spaces’, the work in this show all feature underground spaces, painted in monochrome, giving an eerie and industrial quality to the image. On a far more personal level, Hannah Davies exquisitely executed paintings of close up distorted faces have an unsettling feeling in their directness and intimacy, heightened by her use of colour capturing the quality of skin extremely convincingly.
Bethany Armstrong investigates portraiture in a contrasting way, her printed portraits of faces rearranged using geometric shapes deal with cognitive neurophysiology and how our brains work unconsciously to make sense of unordered situations. Another artist using photographic elements is Jessica Shandley. Her mixed media paintings incorporate found images, alongside elements of print, painting and fluorescent Perspex.
More abstract styles of painting include Dawn Beever’s work, her large colourful abstract paintings show great attention to use of pigment and the qualities of the paint itself.
Kennis Chan’s paintings are built up by thousands of small marks and consider how this constructs colour and form. Bijan Amini-Alavijeh’s work plays with patterned form and loose paint strokes. Molly Smyth and Eve Laws also work in gestural and abstract painting.
Alistair Woods and Harry Hartley both work with found objects; Woods creates 2D constructions, whilst Hartley produces sculptural cityscapes. Helen Wheeler also works sculpturally, creating works referencing landscapes using a process with plaster, iron filings and magnetic attraction. Lucy Hesling’s etchings based on sound and automatous mark-making add an element of printmaking to this exhibition, alongside Denise Robson who draws on Victorian etchings which she has transformed into large standing cut outs.
Other three dimensional works include Frida Cooper’s collections of found bees, encased in resin cubes or old ornate display cases. One of the most eye catching pieces are the pink fluffy tanks, which are not only objects themselves but wearable outfits. Kathryn Thompson has photographed these tanks being worn around town, in an urban environment, a subversive statement on politics and warfare through the use of (an unlikely) textile.
Whilst the exhibition as a whole reflects general tendencies in art practice in the Northern Colleges, each artist and their work is selected purely on its own merit, not to create a comprehensive survey of all these trends. Northern Graduates stands as an interesting and thought provoking exhibition in its own right. This is an opportunity for fresh, new and exciting artists to be visible to the press and public as they leave the academic environment and enter the art market.
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