For any discipline, final year is no easy year. It comes with the pressure of communicating a coherent idea of your identity as an artist or designer – sort of presuming that at the end of education the ‘self’ is found, explored and understood. But it’s just the beginning. In our interview with Jessie Darling in Issue 4, for example, one view against the marketisation and professionalisation of young artists in the first couple of years of their practises became quite clear. Darling said:

“Early twenties is not the time to be thinking about a brand, a signature, or a career. Recently, I taught a second year BA module in which my objective was to help the students develop a “signature style,” which for me was about helping the student figure out what matters most to them in their practice. I’m strongly against the standardisation of an aesthetic at that stage. The conversation should not be about what it looks like. People also get stuck on “My work is about…” What the fuck? How can all your work be “about” the same thing?”

The work of the students we are featuring are often about chance discoveries and finding the means to do something with them. Slowly growing. Here, we speak with Maddie Whitelaw and Sam Shaw, to see how they’re getting on with their final year.

Words Maia Gaffney-Hyde and Roman Sheppard Dawson Images Courtesy of the artists

Maddie Whitelaw (XD)

The work is guided by the things that surround me, by the consistencies, processes, surfaces, movements. In this case the objects I’ve used are very site-specific. They are pointing towards the institution – the chairs, the plastic bread baskets, industrial roasting tins. I suppose what I’m trying to do is disrupt the habitual flow of everyday occurrences. Taking these elements from everyday life and reformulating them, recoding the ways we have learnt patterns of seeing things.

I generally don’t know what something is until it’s already happening, the work comes from a feeling of being unsettled, a place of uncertainty. I am led by accidents and impulses. I usually begin by going on material-hunting missions, this is quite an important part of the process. There is already a lot going on with the objects and materials that I use before I engage with them. It’s through their interactions with each other that associations are opened up.


The way they sit, the awkward or natural movements between them, their physical humour. It’s a process of misusing materials, of clashing things to develop an irrational and crazed language. It’s a confusion of narratives that is perhaps a refusal to portray a particular idea or to transfer a specific message. The sculptures I make are restless and helter-skelter; an active constellation that hint at some sort of absurd utility, or obscure operation.

I’ve made this leaking water fountain, but in an assertively ridiculous way, steering clear of any evidence of skill or proficiency. The water is making its way around in a loop… but only just! The structure itself seems to be struggling to hold itself. It’s a water feature made by someone who clearly has no idea how to make a fountain. In this piece and generally in my work there is a banal activity that delivers no accomplishment. Their functions are anti-climatic, a splat, a drip, a spillage. It’s an investigation of anticlimaxes, the feeling of “Is that it?” It’s sort of a resistance against efficiency.

Sam Shaw (2D)

Dear Whom🌐

My practice is for you.

My work is a manifestation of the inner potential we all have, it’s for you.

My influence is the kindness of others.

I am working on increasing my mental capacity for compassion and wisdom.

It’s becoming less about me and more about others’ potential.

I want to deepen my understanding of the mind through exchanging myself with everyone.

My plans for the future can change.

Imagine your world to be an open studio.

This was relatively clear (I hope) and concise; I consider – I’m surprised. Thank you.

With warmth