Paintings, penguins, and nudity. This year’s Slade School of Fine Art MA/MFA Interim Show hosted a range of colourful and diverse pieces of artwork within freshly painted white walls in the Slade Research centre.
Immediately eye-catching was the liquid colour spectrum, suspended on a shelf in a neat line of cups in the first room. This graduating sequence of the colour wheel was reminiscent of GCSE art classes, and possibly the work of an art teacher’s star pupil. It was refreshing to see something that is used so much in art teaching being put into a new context.
One very striking piece of artwork in a following room was a collection of numerous baring teeth painted onto a backdrop of bloodied red pieces of wood. The sharp, geometric lines of the wood and the green rods onto which they were suspended filled the space from floor to ceiling which made this artwork all the more imposing and visceral.
A popular medium in this exhibition was painting. Much of it was on paper, scattered on the walls in each room without explanation. Some paintings were colourful, showing human, animal and organic forms from nature. Others were grey, and displayed hard lines and man-made shapes. One distinctive piece was a painting which looked much like a room filled with glass shelves or boxes, or ghosts of past furniture. This painting seemed to reflect somewhere dark and vacant, perhaps somewhere in the artist’s mind, and was oddly captivating. As well as the more abstract paintings, there were paintings which depicted more concrete objects such as grey hanging scrolls, and a colourful narrative sequence depicting the different stages in the gutting of a fish.
Some very abstract 3D and 4D pieces in the collection which left very little impact on me as a viewer included stacks of empty Evian and Volvic boxes. They stood high in the middle of the room, seemingly unsure of the statement they were making. There was also an installation featuring two old television screens, and a projector on a loop. The moving images were blurred and there were indistinguishable sounds playing in the background. Another piece was a green square of light projected onto a wall with a black cloth hanging in front of it. Perhaps with some explanation to go with these, they could have made more of an impression.
A distinctive piece of 3D work was that of a coffin, on which a photograph of a naked woman was mounted- posing and de-limbed like an ageing greek sculpture – holding a decapitated head in front of her lady part, with blood dripping down her legs. This seemed very personal, an almost feminist piece, and something that might be found in a contemporary gallery space amongst other professional artists’ work. Another high quality piece in this exhibition was Robin K’s black and white pixelated human figures scattered on the wall in a corridor, and a large policeman. These had been delicately pieced together, pixel by pixel, and showed painstaking attention to detail.
One piece in the exhibition which unexpectedly stopped me in my tracks was a homemade DIY version of the childhood game “Penguin Race” – the one where a line of penguins hop up some steps, then skate down a curved slide to the bottom of the stairs to start the process all over again. This piece was crudely made, with the wooden stairs left unpainted, and the battery pack covered in aluminium foil. What made this piece hypnotic was the image and monotony of the single file of penguins and the loud, mechanical and robotic sound of each penguin moving upward. Intentionally or not, another student’s light projection cast a shadow of the penguin race piece which loomed curves onto the wall opposite, adding another dimension to the artwork.
Overall, Slade’s interim fine art show demonstrated a lot of potential. Some pieces could have been explained more, or given more space and not cluttered into one room, but due to the colour and diversity of all the pieces, I won’t be surprised to see some of the names popping up in Fine Art galleries soon after graduation.