Carbon – REVIEW

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Creative Worked Reviewed


CARBON – Oxford Brookes Fine Art Degree Show

The dynamic nature of this show is immediately present in Jessica Dickins’ iconic work that suspends three blocks of ice left to slowly melt onto the floor next to Hannah Burrows’ vivid coloured lines of wet paint physically dripping like slime from the ceiling. In the background is the sound of water swirling to create a multi-sensory experience that continues through out the show. Traditional fine art painting technique is present in the closed sleeping eyes captured by the diverse range of Katherine Summers’ brush strokes. A complete face is presented along with diamond like stars in the effervescent layers of Beth Brookes’ ‘Constellation’.

A variety of textures are seen through out the show and notably in the dirt and bone fragments photographed in Ellen Mcaleavey’s richly layered ‘In Memoriam’. Amy Dyer demonstrates ‘Technological Overload’ with a busy repetition of square shaped graphics that demand attention. The small boxes appear like pixels on a screen and have a collage quality to them.

Stepping into the accomplished installation by Holly Daizy Broughton sets off the noise of a spring coiling. Displayed on a platform are the wire coil springs of a mattress. Hanging on the wall are charcoal sketches of the coils. The unlit room lets in only grey natural light giving the work shadowy overtones. The work is inspired by the long time the Artist spent recuperating in bed from chronic illness and evokes the moods of that experience. The sense of confinement is echoed in Anne Hoxey’s intriguing film, ‘Self Contained 2’. It plays in a bell jar nearby and reveals a personal testimony about the impact of telling the truth and the difficulties of creating boundaries in open relationships. Her brutally honest magnetic work blows open the nebulous nature of self-esteem and the devastating effect of betrayal.

The personal connection art can make is shown figuratively in digital portraits by Rachel Dent in her touching ‘Gratitude to the Eternal Guard’. Her portraits are made to thank a group of people that made her feel for the first time part of a social group while playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The corridor is permeated by the sound of someone breathing whilst expressing a full body release. These echoes are from Rosamund Yip’s work in an adjacent room. Yip pulls her body along the front as a paintbrush to smudge charcoal lines and extend her arms in broad gestures to create lines in ‘Separation of Consciousness’. A video shows how she creates a wall-mounted drawing by moving herself over a sheet of white paper to draw the graphic on display. Opposite this is a tiny room taken over by Charlotte Hazell’s ‘Predetermined Perception’ in which 3D shapes appear to move towards the eye and are suspended in mid air because of the illusion created by the black and white fractal graphics that plaster the wall. This work shows the power of an image by upturning preconceived reality.

In S. R. Lawson’s 6-minute film he shows his own interaction with a robot the size of an artist’s hand-sized wooden mannequin. Lawson tweaks the robot during film as its moving body develops a life of its own and begins questions the world around it in a gripping story line. Close by on the brightly lit walls Karma Lama offers impressionistic portraits made with a heavy sepia tone that notes a bold urban style. The tones of colour used echoes dirt and the broad-brush strokes is reminiscent of an immediacy that is continuous with the experience of being homeless. Next to this are Olivia Wheatley’s textured blue canvases that use big contrasts in colour tones that generate a sculptural quality. The busy foyer area uses a notice board to display sections of personal letters written in black ink on transparent paper in Alice Preston’s moving ‘Close Reading’.

I warmed instantly to the sheer humanity and unstoppable honesty of Beth Arscotts’ installation of flesh coloured tights that hang on a wall next to a pink wig and scattered cheap make up that are placed on the floor. Entitled ‘Ecstasy Beyond Pleasure Series’, this stands next to Karin Christina Hurley’s detailed embroidery of botanical graphics stitched onto fabric.

In Sandy Cluff’s ‘Oceanic Cries’ colourful plastic waste is shaped into what looks like a beautiful sea urchin’s tail that explodes from the corner of the room. Through a draped doorway, Christine Surridge creates a softly focused film showing words dissolving and reforming as a response to loss entitled ‘When words become inmaterial’. By contrast, Danielle Clarke portrays everyday reality on a life-sized oil canvas in the piece ‘Kay in the cafe’ where the routine of studying in a cafe is immortalized. On a larger scale Orianne Pierrepoint captures elderly people in a profound thoughtful moment using fine lines and great detail in a series of black and white portraits.

A world of nature-inspired escapism is the experience that Abigail Lark’s ‘Lavender Hour’ offers using polystyrene beads underfoot as fake snow which is side lit with violet hues as soft winds blow opaque nets draped from the ceiling over the viewer. Lights from the ceiling are toned to imitate sunlight reflecting off the snow. I return three times to this virtual mountain-top and enjoy the generosity of the Artist in designing a blissful analogy of freedom inspired by T. S. Eliots poem ‘The Wasteland’.

The immersive quality of art is further represented in other work on show, including Andra Stavarache’s film and soundscape that reveals a woman treading water to stay afloat. Stavarache’s ‘Hydroself’ leaves the viewer with the note ‘we are all bodies of water’. Mariana Acevedo’s ‘Velux Book’ presents textures of nature in fine detail. The series of images includes reflections bouncing off water and movement of clouds passing. A triptych of paintings by Freddie Davies offers a darker journey through nature. The series displays blue-black inky canvasses entitled ‘The Eye of the Night.’  Nearby, Katherine Small’s textured fabrics mounted on the wall pop out at the viewer with wrinkles and a dynamic that suggests movement of the body.

In the connecting space are the dynamic multi-layered over-sized blue canvases of Sibtay Shaheed with bold text swirling on the surface. Text is used in a number of contexts through out the show. In her work, ‘Flowers’ Jasmine Stonehewer offers expansive instructions for each month. In this wall mounted collage January reads, ‘Expect a bright star. Be careful. Watch the olive tree.’ Lines of text are used by Laura Barton-Fox in a rolling digital display. Each sentence refers to inner conflicts and personal judgments that would result in a limited experience of life. The minimal installation reflects this. It is freeing to read such destructive comments openly revealed in a public setting.

The darker side of social media is explored in Emily Hawkings’ installation. A small room becomes mildly intimidating as male voices narrate their intentions by reading out their tinder statuses that are also projected onto the wall.

If the intentions of all graduates on show are to expand the viewer’s experience and enrich our personal connection then they have done this beautifully. The art world feels more spacious and expansive after engaging with these fresh ideas.


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