It has been three years since I last wrote a blog post about the art and design degree shows at my old University of Nottingham Trent, so I thought that was an oversight in need of rectifying. Despite the fact that my degree was in Fine Art, I have always enjoyed a broad range of shows from graphics to textiles and of course craft, or as the course is at NTU, Decorative Arts. In fact, over the years I have come to enjoy and get more inspiration from the more design related disciplines than art.
First off I headed to Newton Building and to the Furniture and Product Design show. Looking at the furniture, one thing was obvious: it was all pale wood with birch and ply as far as the eye could see and I loved it. Colour was used sparingly for the most part. Mid century modern shapes, but with lighter form, thinner wood and minimal fuss. Something that I noticed in many of the shows was the use of plants; both design for and use as props. In Product Design there were many items particularly for the urban gardener, featuring growing solutions and my personal favourite, the fresh mojito maker!
I moved onto Decorative Arts, and saw pretty quickly that there was a great deal of embellishment in the form of beads, sequins and embroidery, not just on textiles, but on ceramics and metal work too. There was a trend for mixed materials; wood sat with perspex and metal, and french knots popped up in ceramic vessels. Plants again cropped (!) up, with both planters and and as styling aids. The work of Katie Wood particularly stood out for me, the delicate silver matched with striking pink glass vessels actually made me ‘ooh’ out loud!
It is always a strange experience walking through the Fine Art show. As a graduate of the course, the space itself holds many memories and is in many was, pretty much unchanged from my time there, although I’m still jealous they get a lovely cafe when all we had was a dodgy coffee machine. But I do feel a slight disconnection from it, that somehow I can’t quite be be objective about the work because I am too close, yet too removed at the same time. Its weird. But, I gave myself to challenge of writing about it so here we are. I have found that my behaviour in any art exhibition has changed over the years to the point where I now tend to skim around most of the work until I find something that grabs me. In this exhibition I began to notice a theme running through all the pieces that caught my eye. They were all in some was concerned with the notions of strength and fragility, both human and material. Special mention to Dean Morris who was on an exercise bike every day the show was open. Whilst wearing a mod suit. He epitomises why I love yet no longer partake in, Fine Art.
Textiles was in residence in the Bonnington Gallery space, which is always a double edged sword- its a lovely space but the artificial lighting is very harsh. Embellishment was as present here as it was in decorative arts, often on delicate transparent fabrics. It wasn’t just beads and sequins, oh no, feathers, fringing and crochet all added detail to the pieces. Colour was pale but interesting: pastels and lighter tones ruled. I was especially drawn to Victoria Knew’s display, everything from the colours to the pattern was fresh and vibrant but I could still see picture them in my home.
I love art and design degree shows. Even though my own was incredibly stressful. There is so much creativity, effort and talent gathered all together, that you can’t help but be impressed. If you have never been to one, find your nearest University or college and check on their website and go.