It’s a bitterly cold Friday afternoon, we arrive at Central Saint Martins’ Fine Art studios at 5pm, an hour before they are opened to the public. There is a general buzz in the air as students busily swarm around; clearing the studios of unwanted clutter and hanging last-minute artworks. As we wander through the studios observing the minor chaos, it becomes apparent how diverse the work produced within these walls can be. Performances are presented throughout; abstract and realist paintings sit alongside one another; installations appear regularly, including bags of dried grass huddled together and a whole kitsch bedroom set-up; TV screens, PC monitors and film projections show a variety of four-dimensional footage; sculptures, most notably a cylindrical statue covered in undressed barbies and dolls’ heads; sound pieces, photographs and more.
As the 2D and 4D pathways of BA Fine Art came together to host the Open Studio, an opportunity to showcase their work to fellow students and friends while raising money for the upcoming degree show, we took the chance to speak with some of the students involved.
Sex. Molly’s work throws it out there straight away. Not in an obvious way, but it’s obvious enough. Sitting on a pile of sugar, legs extended either side of her in an Emin I’ve Got It All stance, she spends two hours attaching cable ties to a chair back support. Is it some kind of innuendo? Maybe. She runs her hands through the cable ties; spectators stand and watch, take a photo, leave. I hope to catch her for an interview, I want to find out more about the performance.
Molly is a reality TV and social media fanatic; a lover of all things Low Brow, and naturally, The Kardashians. Raised in a town near Birmingham she was caught up in a generation of reality TV shows, obsessed with MTV Cribs, Big Brother, Laguna Beach and so on. Taking her pleasure from popular culture and feeding it into her work, she has created herself an online presence in which to promote herself. Described by her tutor as, “The girl within the networking system”, Molly is exploring stereotypes within the art world and popular culture. It’s an ongoing exploration between sexuality and intellect, and the separation between low and high brow culture. She aims to convey the similarities between the contemporary artist and the celebrity, and the way in which networking in the art world can mimic dating. Alongside all of this, she hopes to convey a sense of humour in her work.
Creating sculptures as artificial, fabricated extensions of her body, she uses these as props in her video works and performances. The works becomes explicit; bound with sexual connotations. It’s humorous and violent at the same time, they are sensual yet ridiculous. With big ambitions for the future of her work, Molly would like to situate it within the centre of popular culture, all over the internet, and “preferably in Kim Kardashian’s lap”. And hey, if there’s a Koons floating around in your art collection, you could barter it with Molly for a sexual favour. It’s a win-win.
Half French and half Puerto Rican, Leo grew up in a village in the South of France whose population is around five times smaller than that of St. Martin’s. Now in his third year of Fine Art, his work is returning to his childhood roots, which for Leo are embedded in a connection to nature. His early years are filled with memories of playing in the forest, imagining his own magical universe to explore. By remembering his own idyllic childhood, he hopes to use his work to evoke our own childhood memories, reminding us of the connection we all have to nature and the happiness of juvenile innocence.
Now, situating his work within London, Leo feels his vision is blocked. Feeling closed in by the city, he seeks to create an openness within his practice that can bring us all closer to nature. Having spent three months over the summer in his French hometown, his whole practice changed into something more personal; he decided to try and recreate the organic feeling of balance he gained from being home. His work is now an invitation to his audience to seek wellbeing and purity.
Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente
After Gabrielle recommended a Jon Rafman exhibition and Zarina googled it, they found that the Evening Standard had given it a 3* rating. Deciding that art couldn’t and shouldn’t be measured in this way, they made a commitment to ‘be the change’. In the shape of a blog, The White Pube was born. Discarding the traditional, omnipotent voice which they believe art criticism embodies and the objective press reviews which all sound the same, The White Pube offers something very different. Scrapping star ratings in the place of a 3 emoji summary and discussing the distance from the art gallery to its nearest tube station, Gabrielle and Zarina’s approach to art writing is comparable to having a chat with your mates. They take the logical approach of writing about a subjective subject subjectively. They want to engage you and make art accessible to everyone.
Taking art criticism in a new, modern-day direction, The White Pube opens art to the masses with an aim not to alienate anyone, including Gabrielle’s Nan. In the future, the duo would like to see The White Pube in conversation with The White Cube, chaired by Charles Saatchi, free to all and live streamed; delivering art directly into your lap. Watch this space.
Wolfie is a dreamer, his mind is occupied with ideas and images of his early childhood memories. Spending the first five years of his life growing up in South Africa, he retains vivid memories in the form of dream-like images. Moving to England, he spent a lot of time in the theatres his parents worked in, learning to accept a place where the sky seemed smaller and everything felt much closer together. With interests embedded in belief, cognitive memory, shapes and colours, Wolfie sees himself as a collector of images. His current work in progress includes painting, crafting and procrastination.
Angelina Jesson and Jaron Hill
Talking like a married couple who start and finish each other’s sentences, Angelina and Jaron like to prove each other wrong for the benefit of their work. Collaborating since they arrived at St. Martins three years ago, it all started in Angelina’s bedroom with a green screen and a Christmas card. Their diverse backgrounds of the Yorkshire Dales and New York City makes for the richness of their work, where they address issues of mass production, human habitat and our consumerist culture.
The duo tell me in chorus about the characters that feature in their work; they are deconstructed, neutral, unrelatable and moving away from something that is human. They are lifeless and sexless, unfamiliar and characterless. They are something for the audience to consume. The objects that sit alongside these characters seek to become more ‘human’ than we are, taking on a life of their own: moving, breathing and making sounds. Stemming from anti-portraiture, Angelina and Jaron relinquish individuals to become one of many, creating a “dystopian, utopian world”. It is the consumer being consumed that they hope to represent. They are reconstructing cliches, rejecting cliches and adopting cliches for their own benefit. They aim to create a spectacle that is easy to access, ensuring that the art they produce is open to everyone. Ultimately, they compel us to question how we identify with our own individuality in a mass-produced world.
The pair will continue collaborating “until they grow sick of each other”, because after three years of working together they don’t know anything else.
Jean-Baptiste is currently in his forth year at St. Martins, having spent the previous year working for a screen printing company in South London. Now in his final year, his work has turned away from the digital format that his work formerly embraced and is instead a response to the digital. Jean believes there is one key issue which every digital practitioner encounters, and that is how to make their work physical. Working for the screen printing company K2 was a turning point in this sense, as he could finally understand how to achieve this: “There are two phases of making art; conception, which happens in your mind or on the computer screen and then production, the psychical element such as paper, colour and materials.”
Working with screen printing brought Jean back to paint, as he felt frustrated by making work in a digital format. The computer screen spends half of its lifetime turned off, and Jean believes that this provides a relationship between the artist and their work, which is partially dead. The process of applying ink and colour to surfaces, however, he found far more rewarding; luring him back into the physicality of painting.
Currently working on notions of virtuality, Jean hopes to offer work that is full of colour and enthusiasm. He believes that there will be a huge comeback to physical work, and physicality in general, in all aspects of our lives; moving away from the digital and toward ‘reality’. He dislikes, for example, the hologram of a woman in King’s Cross train station who instructs you not to take your luggage on the elevator; it is the frustration of knowing that something isn’t tangible.
Antoine is fighting for painting. Through paint he creates a reality; a story of painting that needs no narration. The paint, colour and materials are able to speak for themselves. It is as pure as painting comes: it is painting that talks about paint. Full of ambition to fight against the digital world, he uses the honesty of painting to show the physicality of making art. Referencing Henri Matisse and Van Gogh, Antoine appears to be a traditionalist at heart, romanticising the hand-made. He unambiguously entitles each painting, ‘Painting’, believing that the paint speaks strongly enough for itself. With each one he hopes to offer beauty to his audience. And the future of Antoine’s work? “I see myself as a sailor, building a boat to prepare myself for the uncertain sea ahead.”
Words by Holly Delaney
Photography by Oliver Vanes
Film by Jelly Schuhmacher