Steven and Sufea – LJMU Fine Art Degree Show 2013

Two Curators’ Perspectives of the LJMU Fine Art Degree Show 2013.

Review by Steven Hyland:

Weaving through the surreal collection of curiosity that bulges in LJMU Fine Art Degree Show 2013 I found myself stood contemplating 4 pieces more than any others. I was on a curating research trip with Sufea Mohamad Noor, mindful of the limits and compromises that are commonly a result of a degree show exhibition; so I focused on the artworks that stood out from the heaving crowd and will discuss them here.

If this first piece I mention was part of another one close by and I am misinterpreting it, then I will have to take back what I am about to say. A compass mounted onto the wall, framed in a circle of white which in turn swallows it into the wall. It was one that particularly made me wonder about the marking process of the tutors, because as a piece being exhibited in an exhibition, it was a refreshingly subtle and intriguing piece, however, one wonders whether tutors will consider it in those terms, or in terms of it being the culmination of 3 years of work, in which case the work could have been undeservedly dismissed. I enjoyed the bravery of the piece being exhibited as it was.

Though I enjoy taking part within an interactive art piece, the only such piece that I can recall was the bottom half of a mannequin, scantily and seductively clad, and I chose not to interact. Inviting the viewer to slide their hand up the mannequin legs and feel inside the underwear via text on the wall, this was the first piece where I enquired about the title, and saw that it was called ‘Supposition.’ Were I alone, I would have perhaps tried following the information beside the legs, but as I was with someone, more specifically a female, I was weary of appearing crude or in fact embarrassing myself through some sort of ploy within the artwork.

It was a clever play on people’s more secret thoughts and desires, though it was not completely clear whether it was genuinely inviting what it asked for or that the text was simply there to accompany the sculpture as a comment on the oft repeated, reprehensible notion that short skirts are a girls way of ‘asking for it.’ The placement was also well thought-out,  as rather than feeling like it was where it was for the sake of simply fitting everything in, it was slightly hidden, giving a slightly secret back alley feel to heighten the unease. If anything I would have preferred it more hidden and secretly placed.

The streaming blood from a makeshift torturing chair strings out in the form of loose lines of red wool across the floor, splaying out before it. It worked extremely well as the focal point of a room, creating an atmosphere even when surrounded by a chaos of jostling artworks- its woollen blood dripping and crawling away from the scene, slightly animated due to the breeze from outside, pulled all attention in the vicinity towards it.

It is into the breeze that I next stepped, where there was a bike strapped with cardboard rockets, facing a cheaply constructed wooden ramp. It could be straight out of a child’s back garden, a simple idea made by simple means. It is an artwork dreaming of launching itself out from this exhibition, needing space and fresh air, and located alone outside on the roof terrace of the building. Incorporating the views of the city and the endless sky this piece gave me the urge to jump on the bike, and the hope that it can fly. There aren’t enough playful and romantic artworks like this; I’ll be on the lookout for it crossing the sky whenever there’s a full moon.


Artworks and artists in order featured:

‘It’s in the Journey’ by Tracey Escolme

‘Supposition’ by Kathy Courtney

‘The Chair’ by Sophie Dawick

‘Escapism’ by Peter Charlesworth



Review by Sufea Mohamad Noor:

On my recent curatorial research trip with Steven Hyland, we decided to pay a visit to the LJMU Art School for one of our stops. The Fine Art Degree show exhibited works of various media by the next generation of aspiring artists in Liverpool and the wider area.

It was great to see artist’s books produced by the students, which are all on display in a collection for browsing. With this section already included in the exhibition itself, it’s hard to fully understand as to why a number of the students have decided to place an extra copy as part of their display. The decision to do so has only resulted in a bombardment of information, both visual and text, for the audience to consume. In the worst case scenario, wanting to show as many as possible in such a constrained space and context would only repel the audience from the work; the opposite of drawing their attention for artistic engagement.

Amongst the number of works clustered into their different sections, there were a couple of pieces which are absolute delights, for art lovers and non.

‘Superstitions and Supernatural’ by Robert James Dutton grabbed my attention as I walked into the room and was confronted by a set of translucent figures. The piece’s stylistic figures resemble that of Thomas Hirschhorn’s due to its corresponding theme of the ghost like presentation of the human body. Within a few moments of appreciating this luxurious Arte Povera piece, I was hit by huge disappoint due to the fact that the space in which the work was displayed did not allow it to shine to the best of lights. The work would benefit a lot from a source of light; perhaps underneath the window a few steps away from where it was would have been a better spot for it. Allowing natural light to fill the cast of human figures would add another depth of awe to the piece.

Peter Charlesworth’s ‘Escapism’ presented to the audience a humble piece placed on the end-tip of the exhibition. A tired bicycle with a number of balloons attached to it sat in the middle of a DIY ramp, ready for the big launch off towards that one goal- escapism. Alternatively, placing the bicycle in the middle of an upward sloping ramp triggers the question as to whether the goal seeker is really ready to launch towards his goal. Perhaps last minute cold feet has caused him to escape the intended escapism, leaving the bike and the deflating balloons in mid action behind as the ultimate picture of an abandoned dream.

‘Escapism’ is a wonderful piece with an agreeable combination of audacious concept with a demure aesthetic. It’s a piece I am glad to have noticed amid my aimless peak outside the window. Who knew such great work was hidden outside, yet being exposed to various kinds of weather imposed dangers at the same time. For the ambition to create this piece and the courage to exhibit it as shown, without a doubt, the artist should be applauded for his work.

My only query is, where is the arrow pointing towards?

Now that the show has ended, I will surely keep an eye out for future works by these two budding artists. I suspect that it won’t take them long to make their marks in the arts scene!


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