No money? No problem: 16 Fine Art students exhibit their work at home
Being part of the 9K tuition fees-generation can be endlessly dull: firstly there’s the overbearing sense that you’ll be forever indebted to your education, then there’s the cost of materials. Add this to living in London and there just doesn’t end up being that much left over to hire out spaces to show work. A group of 16 friends took matters into their own hands, using the initiative to showcase their work inside a space in which most of them live, work and already pay for: their home. The result was a successful night, in which friends from across the UAL colleges got to interact with a variety of works which seamlessly represented the individuals who crafted them, all the while iterating the communal feel which the house provides. In between experiencing the art, we managed to speak to most of the contributing artists.
“IT’S ALL ABOUT EXPERIENCING EXHIBITING YOUR WORK, AND COLLABORATING WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE.”
The evening commenced stood in the garden with a beer, looking over the work of Ellie Pennick, a Fine Art student at Chelsea. Within her practice, she frequently explores social-political issues, as she has in this piece, which revolved around the housing crisis in Britain. The result is an aesthetically-pleasing collage of assembled objects collected from an estate in Peckham. Behind this, a film created by Ellie Bartlett is projected, which underlies the collaborative nature of the exhibition. Having grown up on a now-non existent estate in a mining town near Leeds, this subject is integral for the artist, who sees the same pattern of gentrification and displacement within London. “It’s a really shit situation and the government seems to be hiding it quite well”.
Across the exhibition, the work varies greatly: from Natalie Khil’s graphic exploration of life after Zayn left One Direction (did you know there were 7 suicides when this happened?) to Ruby Boddington’s expression of silence being the negative space of sound: the individualism of all the contributors is effectively unified within the space. The aim? “To make a point that even if you can’t afford a space, you can still work with what you’ve got.” Ellie Bartlett tells me. “It’s all about experiencing exhibiting your work, and collaborating with like-minded people,” Natalie adds.
“IT JUST WOULDN’T WORK AS A NORMAL GALLERY SPACE. IT’S ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT’S A DOMESTIC ENVIRONMENT.”
The domestic environment is arguably most successful upon entering the basement, where noise, smell and a trail of oranges invite the viewer. Within what’s known as ‘the dump room’, Alia Hamaoui reflects a total engagement with the setting. “It was the first time that I could just play with a space I didn’t have to pay for or book out, just totally free.” She studies painting at Camberwell, but through this work has satisfied her desire to expand into a three dimensional vision of her work, overlapping shapes and mediums, creating movement rather than a stationary image. “It’s been so good to take on the space and imitate it, all the textures and colours in here have inspired me a lot.”
Walking into the transitional space between Alia’s work and Aidan Zamiri’s, Max Granger’s piece noisily blares out, and your eyes are drawn into the cubby hole underneath the stairs. Here, upon a small TV is a music video for a band called ‘No Form’. “It’s about triplets and the relationship between two of them, which the other one doesn’t share” he tells. Despite studying illustration at LCC, Max doesn’t draw much but prefers photography, an endeavour which is proving successful, having recently worked with SHOWstudio for London Fashion Week. He likens his style to social documentary, a clarity which contrasts with his moving-image works, which are more abstract. When our conversation turns to the exhibition format, Max reflects that it’s “nicer to work in an unorthodox context. Take the John Soane museum: it just wouldn’t work as a normal gallery space. It’s about the fact that it’s a domestic environment. The same can be applied to this space, exhibiting in the house gives you another perspective to the viewing experience as we all live in a space similar to 1 Bartholomew Street.”
“WHAT I WANTED TO DO HERE, WAS CHANGE THE SPACE FROM A BEDROOM TO A BOUDOIR.”
The flutter of plastic, and the zesty aroma of the basement bedroom invites me next to Aidan’s space. Despite studying Graphic Design at CSM, he prefers the physicality and creative freedom of set design, and has recently worked with the likes of Gary Card. For B(art)holomew street, he crafted a sensory splendour in homage of the Greek myth of Circe, who is here played by Robyn, a make-up artist who we both remark boasts a dualism of punk and the divine. “What I wanted to do here, was change the space from a bedroom to a boudoir,” he says, flashing his gorgeous glaswegian grin. “I’ve used wind and scent to create a sensory experience. Placing Robyn within the set was really about making live art that you can touch.” The work draws upon many art-historical references, as he likes to work symbolically. This is seen elsewhere in the exhibition, through the work of Jackson Bowley, who like Aidan, has successfully referenced Vanitas art. Aidan adds, “in the story of Circe and Odysseus, she distracts all the men who get taken to this place, she then turns them into pigs. My work is to distract everyone from everything else in the house and lead them to the basement, where there’s a weird clash of something really seductive and pleasant with something really disgusting.” It’s a shame smell-o-vision doesn’t exist, as the scent truly summed this up.
“IF YOU’RE GOING TO WORK IN A WHITE CUBE, YOU PAY YOUR MONEY AND WORK AGAINST THE CLOCK.”
Bubble-wrap underfoot and free toothbrushes mark the transformation of the upstairs bathroom created by Sarah Lynch Jones, who studies at Chelsea and Harry Moss-Badrick at Camberwell. It examined the idea of a ‘non space’, as Harry tells me, that within some places, a contractual agreement is established, for instance when you use your Oyster card. “We’re doing that in this bathroom with chocolate and sweets. Take a polo if you want!” Sarah adds that in “non places you’re mediated by text and images all the time. You’re not explicitly told what to do, say if you want to get on the district line to go somewhere, you don’t have to know what’s above, you’re just underground following colours that you recognise. We’re re-creating this.” When I ask what the benefits of working with friends in a home have been, Sarah reflects upon the freedom of this type of space. “You can just turn up, can’t you? Ellie’s been here all week putting her work up and that’s great. If you’re going to work in a white cube, you pay your money and work against the clock. I think people need to think more about social, public spaces like shops or hairdressers, there could be art there.”
The interaction between art, space and people is equally present within the work of Martha Somerfield, who studies illustration at LCC and painted the portrait of her friend Christian, who sat next to the piece throughout the show. Acting as chief curator, Martha assures me that this is the beginning of many shows. “We’d like to have another in a month or so, and then one a week over summer, and extend it to public spaces too. We’d pick a carpark or a wall or whatever, and be like: this is the date, this is the time, bring anything over. Whether you’ve just made a bracelet or taken a photo, even if nobody sees it and we just film it, takes photos of it and post it online.” It’s very much about sustaining momentum and creativity, allowing friendships to go beyond simply socialising — instead enabling one another to evoke creativity. And when you’ve got so much space, why the hell not?
Words and Interviews Lilah Francis
Film Isabella Holder
Daylight Photography Max Granger
This exhibition included the work of:
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