Degree Show artwork wins hearts and minds

Published: 14 June 2017 at 17:00

Liz Mills holding up an award, standing in front of a piece of art.

Anglia Ruskin students showcase their talents at special end-of-course exhibition

Over 150 graduating BA (Hons) students are displaying their work to the public during the 2017 Cambridge School of Art Degree Show.

The Degree Show represents the culmination of their courses at Anglia Ruskin University and serves as a springboard for the students as they prepare to enter the world of work. 

The exhibition, which runs until Saturday, 17 June, features the work of students from a range of creative courses including Computer Games Art, Fashion Design, Film & Television Production, Film, TV and Theatre Design, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration and Animation, Illustration, Interior Design and Photography.

The Dr Supanee Gazeley Fine Art Prize, and a cheque for £2,000, has been awarded to Liz Mills for her art based on face recognition software.  The prize goes to the best work by a final-year BA (Hons) Fine Art student.

Several of this year’s exhibitors have overcome significant personal challenges and achieved remarkable work.  For example disabled student Dominika Kiedrzynska, from BA (Hons) Computer Games Art, whose main method of communication is via her tablet, designs computer game environments – the scenes in which the characters play out the game.  They are complex, detailed and highly naturalistic renditions of interiors and landscapes.

Dominika said:

“Due to my disability it was hard for me to pick a career choice; not every course was suitable for me.  By choosing BA (Hons) Computer Games Art, I was thinking about my future and what I can do after I graduate. The course is really great.  When I started my first year at the university I had zero idea how games are created. Now I am able to create 3D environments by myself.”

One BA (Hons) Photography student displaying his work will be Samuel Shelton, whose projects have been shaped by his own experiences of mental illness. The 23 year old, who is originally from Leicester and now lives in Cambridge, said:

“My work this year has developed from documenting my own experiences with mental illness through self-portraits visualising what the experience feels like, to creating a more ambitious installation piece. 

“My piece in the Degree Show aims to provide people with a physical experience of how it feels to live with anxiety and panic disorder on a daily basis.  Making use of still and moving images, coupled with immersive sound, the piece aims to create a claustrophobic space that overwhelms the senses of the audience.”

Oliver Cross, also from BA (Hons) Photography, has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is an accomplished photographer, film-maker and musician.  His final project, drawing ideas from philosophers including Plato, Lacan and Foucault, explores the way in which visually impaired people use photography to explore their own environment, and the reactions of others to the work that they create.  

Oliver said:

“I have been exploring and documenting disabled people’s access to the arts throughout my three year course.  It’s only been in the last three months that I’ve discovered participatory art, and I’ve used that to produce a 360 degree view of visually impaired people taking photographs and the reaction of the public to their work.”

Jordanna Blake, who has lit up the BA (Hons) Fine Art exhibition with her abstract paintings, admits that she is lucky to be exhibiting at all.  Diagnosed with pneumonia and a collapsed lung in January this year, her life was in the balance.  But she has made a remarkable recovery which has enabled her to exhibit with her fellow students.

Jordanna explained:

“The majority of my work is painted using my hands.  Sensation through feeling connected to the canvas is crucial to my creative process, so that the paintings are small pieces of me.”

Jordanna had more reasons than most to celebrate at the exhibition opening, with Anglia Ruskin’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Iain Martin, being so impressed by her paintings that he purchased one of them for his office.

Commenting on the show, Chris Owen, Head of Cambridge School of Art, said:

“The end of year show is a very special occasion for all our graduating students, and it always reminds us what amazing creative energy these young artists and designers have.  

“We are very proud of all their achievements, but this year I have also been particularly touched by the very difficult personal experiences some of our students have had to overcome to get this far, and I take my hat off to their perseverance and their talent.” 

The Degree Show runs until Saturday, 17 June in the Ruskin Gallery and surrounding rooms.  The exhibition is open 10am-8pm weekdays and 10am-4:30pm weekends, and admission is free.