The graduation frenzy is upon us & I have just returned from the first batch of 'Free Range' students shows at The Truman Brewery. The next batch will have their private view next week.
As always, I had a lot of thoughts about what was on display, how it was displayed & in some cases why it was displayed?
The usual round up of highlights is all well & good but before that I think the true meaning of being a graduate must be taken into consideration. A lovely drunken night celebrating the culmination of three years work on the walls of a big old industrial building is great fun, but what happens next......?
Honestly, this will probably not be what you would expect.
This is why I have to mention the lovely young man, Matthew Sheather from Plymouth College of Art - who approached me when I came over to look at his work. (Incidentally, he was the only one who did this.) Not only was he sober, but he was very engaging and passionate about his work. The merits of his attitude I felt too important to pass by without comment. He pitched his project well & made me look more closely at his work for longer than I would have otherwise.
One of the problems with big degree shows is that you can get photo-fatigue quite quickly as there are often similar projects on display and repetitive themes result in a less engaged audience.
Spot the art
What really fascinated me was the brave choice of Matthews project, 'When The Crow Flies'. I had at this point seen a LOT of portraits at Free Range, notable in their abundance this year. Some were better than others, but I was not really 'feeling' many of them.
The difficulty with only three portraits from the series on display meant that I hadn't seen the story behind the work beyond three portraits of people in their work uniforms. Also the titles of the work were not on display, which would have revealed much more about the series. (Artists statements are helpful if you are drawn to a particular series - but not to read on the opening night - you would be there until the morning!) I know that many universities wrestle with the 'caption' question but sometimes they really help when there are this many students works from different universities on display.
It was a refreshing reality check both for myself & for the students to have a glimpse into the future of graduates (just like themselves) who only 12 months ago were celebrating the completion of their degree. Photographed at work, their current occupations (in the case of the three on display) are far removed from the subjects they had studied.
I asked if there were images of men also; 'Yes' came the reply, 'about half of each in the series of 19 pictures'. Unfortunately they are not on display on Matthew's site yet, but I expect that will change...
Sundry Socket Arrangement
So the thing that made the greatest impression this evening wasn't a body of work but an individual who has looked into the future & had not shied away from the uncomfortable realities of being a graduate today. Don't despair, but be realistic & aim high, but do it well. All the Camera Lucida quotes in the world won't get you a job if you aren't willing to stick your neck out & be noticed. Be polite, friendly & unafraid to show your devotion to your practice, you never know who may be looking at your website the minute they get home, or even writing a blog about it....