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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Exhibitions, Exhibitions, Exhibitions (with lil' sis)

I came down to London for the second year’s show, bringing my little sister along to expose her to some of the experimental creativity of Central Saint Martins. We also visited the Royal Academy Graduate Show and the Judy Chicago exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery whilst we were there.

Central Saint Martins MA Show

CSM was, unsurprisingly, heaving with visitors exploring the exhibitions - I was really impressed by the diversity of work on display. We went into the Lethaby Gallery first, and we were almost immediately invited by an artist to “scratch and sniff” her paintings which featured prints of the brain on neon backgrounds. Each painting had a different scent that was supposed to spark memories (she had been researching the impact of smells on Alzheimer sufferers) – I especially liked the apple scented painting which reminded me of our Gran who had an apple tree in her garden. The artist invited us to take away mini artworks which were very cool.

I was also very taken by an artwork that featured Perspex/resin and what looked like receipts with text message exchanges about dating – it was highly relatable to our generation.

There was an artwork which had been created from a collection of baby toys some of which were girating in a disturbing manner. And another inflatable artwork nearly fell over, but someone caught it in time. I think the most impactful, at least for me, was a naked trans person who was sat on the floor stitching a body suit of fake skin, next to another body suit which was hung on a wooden frame.. They had self-harm scars on their upper arms, so I think my empathy levels for them were so high – I was completely captivated by this performances but equally felt awkward staring for too long and didn’t think it appropriate to take photos, but nonetheless I found it incredibly moving.  

 

Afterwards we headed into the main building and caught some of the boxing performance. I found it difficult to engage with this one as I always feel uncomfortable in a “boxing gym” environment (I guess that was the point) – I was slightly disturbed by the fake, animal carcass hanging from the ceiling and the butcher who had a giant knife sticking out of his apron. It was all very violent and not something I particularly want to engage with, so we moved on to the MA Fine Art Digital section.

I am a massive fan of Jo Boddy’s printed trees, not just because Jo is extremely lovely and I really enjoy her company – but I genuinely love this artwork and how she turned her “seconds” prints into a beautiful sculptural piece. She spoke to me at length about how she created it, how many sewing machine needles she destroyed in the process and why she had sprayed the word “ART” in pink on the end of the stump. I really liked how this work was impressive both at a distance and then when examined close up at the details of the prints. I think there is a pertinent message about natural resources and recycling – making use of the “rejected prints” - paper which would otherwise have otherwise been disposed of – to make a tree, the origin of the resource.

I also really enjoyed Karen’s AR artwork, which was really interactive and made some interesting quotes appear on my mobile phone screen. And of course Yanyan’s glass hairs in the metal frame was magnificent, especially with the light casting shadows on the wall behind.

We took some cute photos with the rainbow coloured origami butterflies (since I had rainbow butterflies sewn to my jacket), and Daniel had brought his Polaroid camera along – he very kindly gave me and my sister the photo he took of us together.

My favourite artwork in the whole exhibition was probably the ceramic swan and fox (or dog?) who were surrounded by half eaten food; a plate of baked beans next to a bowl of shrimp and a Greggs sausage roll on the table behind them – it had some great humour in this work.

The only artwork I really didn’t like was the metal barricade which people were invited to hit with sticks – it was deafeningly loud and made it impossible to hear the other artworks which included sound or conversations. It was basically just annoying and I think it should have been put in a more open space where it would have been less disruptive.

 

The RA Schools Exhibition

I was not so impressed by the Royal Academy Schools exhibition which we visited the following day. The building is, of course, impressive but somewhat intimidating and inside the corridors are lined with classical art and sculpture. I’d find it incredibly oppressive and stifling to study somewhere like that.

 

The students’ work was more experimental but I wasn’t overly impressed or captivated by anything in the way that I had been by work at CSM. I thought it was funny how most of the students had been given an individual room all to themselves to display their work whereas as CSM was a crowded, eclectic mish-mash or works. There was a film being shown on a large screen, which was about 20 minutes long – it was very engaging and we watched the whole thing but it was also a bit seedy and hedonistic. I’m not entirely sure what the message of the film was but it seemed like the kind of thing which would be created by students who had spent most of their university degree partying and decided to turn those experiences in “art”. I guess since we watched the whole thing – it worked.

 

There was one student’s work I enjoyed a lot, because of the interesting use of texture and layering of colour but everything else I found slightly boring.


The Serpentine Gallery - Judy Chicago

I've read a lot about Judy Chicago in the Feminist Art books I have been studying in the last year - so I was excited to go and see this solo exhibition at the Serpentine North Gallery. I wasn't quite sure what to expect - but I wasn't disappointed. I was slightly concerned my little sister would be put off by the more graphic content, and I was right - she wasn't impressed by the exhibition - but for a different reason. To her the feminism came across as "man hating" which she considers counter-productive. I think she has a point, but equally, I am disappointed that my attempts to radicalise her don't seem to be working... I can but try!

I took a photo of this one as it relates to my reseach paper topic 'Really Sad/Power Mad', 1986

I especially loved the graphic birth scenes rendered in textiles and embroidery. The juxtaposition of the softness of the materials and the pain-stricken content was really effective - creating an ethereal impact which reflects Chicago's interest in Godesses.

I also really loved the 'What if Women Ruled the World' - which was a participatory artwork / video and instalation. I found the responses of the participants to the prompting questions to be profound and moving, whilst instilling hope for the future.

I'm becoming increasingly fascinated by the concept of care through gentleness, compassion and kindness - characteristics often perceived as "weak" - but which actually have the power and potential to create meaningful and impactful change in the world.


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