white bed installation

UCA grad show goes conceptual in a big way

A revisit to the old university after 5 years was not only a trip down memory lane, but also a surprising one, to see what courses have sprung up, grown and been nurtured (for better or worse)

As I walked down the familiar UCA halls, I was eagerly anticipating the Fine Art graduate show the most, as this was my home turf. A degree that was full of potential, hard work and hope for the future. Seems like a lifetime ago now!


Conceptual art was a favourited theme in the Fine Art degree show this year, and in a BIG way. Walking into the ground floor studios you’re hit with this building site type installation, with red and white tape wrapped around found objects, that interrupted and severed the flow of visitors in the space. Next door to this (no pun intended) was an installation piece that included door handles that made noises of associated rooms when you interacted with them…Yeah. That’s when I began to get worried and started to question, what was it all about?

tape installation

As I weaved my way to the upper floor studios I was seeing a familiar pattern. Rooms filled with inane objects, luminous green walls of fur, a foam covered space that was meant to block out sound (it didn’t) and just a red room…nothing else. If you’ve watched the cult series ‘Spaced’, then you’ll know the episode that came to mind when I walked into that one.

One piece that did stand out to me though was a video that was supported by a decorative red room. Instantly, from seeing the self-portrayed video and hearing the rather bizarre sounds that accompanied it, I got a sense of who the artist was, and how she was expressing her identity.

But sadly, this year, I left dissatisfied and overwhelmingly disappointed with the lack of individual style and technique being presented by these young artists. I couldn’t, in all honesty, pick more than two stand out pieces. After awhile, they all kind of merged into one overpowering and overtly obvious comment on what art is today. To be honest, it was boring. The foundation students showed more promise, variety and skill, which was refreshing.


I’m biased of course. I’m a visual artist, and so get my kicks out of seeing an accomplished and skillful made drawing or painting. For me there’s a personality and idiosyncratic charm from seeing these forms of art. Don’t get me wrong, an installation, done well, can evoke these emotions from me. I wrote my dissertation on it. And I’m not conditioned to just like traditional representations of art (my degree course taught me that), but when you go to a graduate show, and 95% of the works on display are purely conceptual installations, I get frustrated! There is concept in everything that is made in the name of art. Thought, research and process go into any artwork made.

Marcel Duchamp’s Urinal was a statement. Against the establishment and what art could be. And since then, it has influenced how artists question, make statements and self-express. But somewhere along the line it has become an art school habit, and tradition in itself, to encourage this form of art and to shy away or discourage perhaps 2D works.

I wouldn’t call anything ‘art’ if it wasn’t a ‘considered’ piece, that’s why I’m not condoning concept art, but traditional mediums of expressing yourself through art should be celebrated, not represented as ‘old fashioned’ or irrelevant. It wasn’t long ago we were having the conversation that ‘painting is dead’, and the irrelevance of drawing – this isn’t the case today.

However, there were also some refreshing surprises on the night that quenched our thirst (unrelated to fine art), including the new Computer Games Technology course. A perfect course for this creative Uni and the current digital landscape! It was awesome to see an array of technology and styles of games the students had created, including some awesome VR games, which I regrettably didn’t play. What I love about this innovative course is it’s practical. You learn a high level of skill and technical knowledge, and you leave uni with a viable career path. With the gaming industry becoming bigger than film, the technical skills and expertise needed are in high demand, and a job is pretty much guaranteed. Not something other creative courses can boast.


Banner Image – Daniel Campbell ‘Homogenise the Body’

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