Posted Tuesday 7 December 2021
Kingston School of Art's MFA Fine Art students are showing their final projects in an exhibition at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery in London designed to support and highlight talented new artists after a challenging year of restrictions.
Their artwork appears in London Grads Now. 21 - a celebration of some of the best new artistic talent from the capital's leading fine art schools that also demonstrates a triumph of creativity and resilience over a period of artistic isolation due to the pandemic.
The eight students had to work alone at home or in temporary studios when Covid-19 restricted access to their studio space at Kingston School of Art. The students were able to come together earlier this year for a celebratory exhibition which saw them present their work at Kingston School of Art's Swan Studios before their creations were transported to campus in preparation for the Saatchi exhibition.
Curated by MA graduates from seven London art schools, the showcase gives an insight into different teaching methods, artistic practices, and cultural approaches. The output by Kingston School of Art graduates displays a range of artistic styles and techniques including photography, digital drawing, sculpture, calligraphy, and painting.
Their contribution was curated remotely by graduate Shahrzad Jahan from her home in Iran, with support from fellow MFA Fine Art graduates Paula Wilkins and Weishan Yang whose works appear in the exhibition.
Visual artist Paula Wilkins uses multiple digital devices to test the boundaries of image transference by re-photographing images from film and popular culture. Her artworks at the show explore gender ideals while incorporating different materials to give the photographs a semi-sculptural quality. A soft sensual image appears to be attached to the wall by a series of steel bolts while another is draped alluringly over metal tubing.
"My works have evolved to be bolder and more sculptural by introducing other materials to the imagery. They have become more visually unsettling in their juxtaposition of image and material," Paula explained.
Completing her MA at Kingston School of Art followed by a show at the Saatchi Gallery had given Paula the impetus to drive forward with her practice, she added.
"We were well supported by our course leaders during lockdown through online sessions and the group critiques helped to keep the course vital," she said. "It made me more determined to be an artist, while the Saatchi exhibition gifted us the opportunity to showcase our creations. It is new work and new ideas that keeps the art world exciting and alive."
Weishan Yang, a visual artist from China, finds inspiration in horror films and fiction, working mainly with sculptures, videos, installations, and digital drawings. Her artwork at the exhibition, titled The Thing, positions an unidentifiable sculpture on a piece of recognisable, commonplace carpet. "By combining the unfamiliar with the familiar, I tried to destabilise the homely and evoke a feeling of ambivalence," she said.
Studying at Kingston School of Art gave Weishan a clearer insight into her direction as an artist while supporting the curation of the exhibition provided invaluable experience. "My ideas were constantly challenged on the MA course, and I learned to think more critically about my own work and that of others from my amazing tutors and fellow students," she said.
Other artists include I-Ling Lai, who combined painting and calligraphy for her piece exploring the limitations of language and how slippages in language betray underlying desires and obsessions. Fellow Chinese artist Little Red reflects on an artist's labour and the impact of isolation with her artwork displaying the 100 ceramics she created over 100 days of lockdown.
While undoubtedly difficult, the experience of lockdown inspired some of the themes explored by the artists while learning to work virtually enabled her to curate part of the exhibition, said Shahrzad.
"Common themes across the works are solidarity, community, and also defiance and resistance; resisting the effects of lockdown while trying to survive as an artist and also resisting political situations. As our graduating artists come from different countries with different internal politics, it's important to cherish this diversity while finding common grounds." she said.
Completing the work during the pandemic had provided both challenges and opportunities for the students, with the creative interpretations of that experience represented throughout the pieces, joint course leader Roman Vasseur said. "Much of the text about the artworks in the exhibition mentions resilience," he said. "While some artists found the situation very challenging, the pace of lockdown also gave the artists an opportunity to be reflective about their work rather than always rush onto the next project."
At the same time, his students were fully engaged with the MA Fine Art course and were eager to make the most of it and what London had to offer them as contemporary artists, he said.
"Our students made the most of their course and have produced some artwork of an extremely high quality," he said. "It is a welcome end to their year that they are able to show their talent in a major exhibition alongside that of other London MA fine art postgraduate courses and make their work known to the contemporary art world."
The works from Kingston School of Art fine art graduates are among over 250 artworks from more than 200 MA graduating artists on display in the exhibition.