Should you find yourself arriving to this year’s DJCAD degree show in need of a bit of relaxation, then consider heading straight to the lower foyer in the Cooper Gallery to experience the immersive Ego Death by Laura Stubbings. Inner peace restored, prepare to focus on some of the amazing work on display. Focus and gaze being the predominant theme within this room and also in the adjacent crafted and hyper detailed photographic portraiture of Daisy McConville. The privilege of the gaze is further scrutinised in simple lino prints by Robyn Ivatt featuring the non-places we take for granted.
Upstairs, Angela Von Geete’s screen based work shows bodily immersion in outdoor places. Situated dancers are filmed throwing shapes against architectural structures and framed inside rectangles of doorways. In other works, the body is absorbed and fragmented by elements of light, materials and technologies, revealing and reflecting, all in a mesh of interrelationships. A curved wooden structure houses monitor pieces that invite the viewer to enter and become part of the art by means of the horizontal and vertical rectangular windows that also visually dissect participants of her interior and exterior spaces.
On the opposing wall Nicole Cumming’s video works are a sublime and powerful homage to personal loss and emotions. Statuesque figures are set against stark backgrounds with real time movements of twitching fingers and hands. Still and moving and turbulent inner emotions are thoughtfully symbolised in suspended sculptural books with spinning tops for spines; their blurred and muted imagery hint at memories degraded by time.
Lose yourself later in Emily Foley’s bold screen-prints with their optical illusion mazes that appear to have no direction, beginning or end. Simplified into minimalist linear forms they suggest graffiti art, street art, or graphics for skateboards and t-shirts. Meanwhile, otherworldy artworks for our imaginations to fall into appear in the form of layered collages. Amy Tong is influenced by images of Asian pop culture; in her work sparkles, gold leaf and lurid colours vie with sinister narratives within laser cut wooden dioramas. In the collages of Mhairi Cormack, old pictures and discarded materials are given new life by means of scissors and paste, while personal identities are removed to make way for the invention of the new amidst ubiquitous textural watery presences signifying themes of rebirth and resurrection.
The larger brightly lit studio space opens out into something playful and inviting. Materials in attractive colours appeal to the touch; objects brush past skin. Discarded, industrial materials become organic wandering sculptures in the work of Bethan Radcliffe whilst Lorna Coyne creates bobbly tubular hanging assemblages as a cathartic attempt to rationalise and order the messy relationships of social media lives. Paintings meanwhile find a place on walls alongside; as a comment on modern lifestyle choices, Michael Doherty depicts lavish and decorative tableaux of living things presented as desirous objects. Li Huang on the opposing wall takes a more personal approach, painting subjects from life, encouraging communication and emotional contact.
Tucked back in the gallery corner the time-based works of Laura Gray take on some of the intransigent demands of manual paid labour; simple sentences and everyday sounds are strung and mashed into nonsense as her art practice. Unidealised female forms become monumental Kafkaesque subjects in the prints and sculpture in Holly Ferguson’s exhibits. Myth and folklore pertaining to female empowerment are inspiration for work that unravels, suggesting flower forms, genitalia and/ or insect bodies. Unravelling is also apparent in Michelle McLaren’s black ink contour line drawings that automatically and obsessively reveal and confiscate as they meander.
Finally Annie Mather’s stage set is intriguing, pregnant with the expectation of something about to happen. Her text reveals musical improvisations based on dream journals. Audience members are also invited to partake. On that note, join in — this year’s DJCAD fine art degree show is to be experienced. Enjoy!