There is a strong emphasis on mysticism and otherworldliness in several of the works on show by this year’s drawing and painting graduates, and throughout the Fine Art exhibition in general. The artists have explored these concepts from such varied approaches as to make them their own, from Kimberley Baxter’s tiny, hyper-realist paintings of surreal figures and landscapes to Alexandra Frances Moncrieff’s trippy psychedelic room, where hand-painted walls and floor create a mind-bending environment from which her surreal mannequins emerge. Liam Ostlere’s menacing ravens are the result of an investigation into folklore concerning these iconic birds. The drawings are beautifully executed, with heavy line shading that seems to capture their essential raven-ness. Neovi Wales’ elemental paintings capture the sea’s constant change of shape and colour. The paintings range from a smooth, blended finish to a gestural impasto highly suggestive of wave forms and rippling water surfaces. John Malone’s work focusses on a matriarchal group of deities, painted in a realist style on large canvases. His goddesses stare boldly at the viewer, emanating authority and female power.
Meanwhile, back in the urban environment, Gemma Conway bases her work on photographs of figures in cityscapes, rendering them into two-dimensional graphic images in a bold palette of orange, purple and violet. She is interested in the amount of information that a flat image can convey about the subject’s age, gender and intention. Alana Jane Brown’s interest is the city at night. Her street scenes painted on sheets torn from old packing boxes have a delicacy and lyricism that play against the subject matter and the materials used. Struan Teague’s huge, edgy white painting brings the urban environment to mind. Its squiggly grey patterns are somehow reminiscent of the wave of a sparkler . Janie Stewart’s large charcoal drawings exude a dark realism. Crowds of boatyard workers stare out impassively towards the viewer. There is almost a suggestion of the Holocaust in the drawings. But his display as a whole conveys a pathos beyond the starkness of the images. The monochrome theme is relieved by a collection of a hundred little portraits on paper, grouped together in lines, painted in warm tones with expressive brushwork.
Naomi Robb subverts traditional portraiture by painting her subjects as if they were in front of a bathroom mirror, with streaming wet hair and smudged lipstick. She has created a “bathroom” installation with wash-hand basins and a tiled floor. The portraits are positioned above each sink. Grant McGregor’s charcoal and mezzotint portraits loom out of darkness with a sombre, Rembrandt-esque quality that is highly effective.
Amanda Adam’s abstract landscapes investigate human impact on the land. With a joyous palette of vibrant pastels, she etches lines evocative of agriculture and industrialisation onto large, unstretched canvasses. Such use of colour might trivialise her subject in less skilled hands, but Amanda overcomes this risk with passion to create works of real integrity.
Finally, one artist is seeking to subvert the rampant materialism of the Art Market. Lindsay Mylet paints huge canvasses in abstract patterns of cloudcolours on white backgrounds and invites her viewers to cut out their favourite shape from the canvas and to take away their cutting, which she individually signs. Mylet then uses the remains of the painting to create scrunched-up floor sculptures. Her intention is to question the received wisdom of art works being unassailable, challenging also the increasing focus on Art’s monetary value and its use as a financial investment for the super-rich. The danger here, of course, is that she will be taken up by one of the major London galleries!!