MA Shows at Camberwell 2013

Having seen the BA students’ Art exhibitions/Final Shows, earlier in the summer, I decided to go and see the MA shows Fri 6th Sept 2013.

I started with MA Conservation on the ground floor, tucked around near the canteen. There were only three people showing from the p/t course as the others had showed with the BA shows.
I was really taken by the theatrical posters that were displayed flat in the middle of the room.
They were of a silent movie actress based in Berlin. They were slighty exotic, one b&w the other printed in minimal colours. A silent movie of hers played on a screen behind. She was playing an exotic Mata Hari like femme fatal, in an Arabian Nights type production. Beautiful costumes of harem pants & veils, lots of veils.
The film reminded me of Eisensteins films, all expressive eyes, brooding heros & desperate women, all moving theatrically, almost ballettically down stairs. Unnatural movements yet hypnotic.
The posters were expertly repaired, their splits rejoined and the poster rebacked to consolidate them & let them live again for future generations, or to give some future conservator a great project in unbacking the pieces as per new conservation conventions?
I then moved onto the Book Arts show. Not very inspiring and even a little dissapointing, like last years.
It certainly didn’t feel like an MA show, no interesting book structures & even simple ones were poorly executed. The only one that stuck out in my mind, was a large book that had been suspended in a corner. The artist had used diff materials for pages & we the spectator were asked to enter the book, to experience it.
I had a really interesting chat with an artist, in Fine Art Digital, called Ben James.
He was tucked away down an obscure long corridor, in a studio far, far away; I almost didn’t notice him hiding in the corner on his computer ( all the Digital students were on their laptops, quiet like mice…robots). What struck me immediately about his work though was that he had a real film projector showing a film about docks & shipping containers…I know real film…in the Digital show!! He explained the reasoning behind the content but it was his use of traditional & supposedly obsolete technology that grabbed me (apparently these large container ships still film their cargos for insurance purposes).
His imagery is stark, yet colourful, with these huge slabs of painted but rusting steel vying for one’s attention. Very beautiful and painterly, full of texture.
We had a discussion about the continuing validity of ‘old’ technology, & in the preservation & continuation of so called dying arts & their resurgence in certain cultural quarters. He’s based in Whitstable which is not so far from me, I shall keep an eye on what he’s doing, a further conversation is required I think.
The other artist that really struck me was in Printmaking (I think) Chengxuan Wu.
At first it was the stunning panoramic views of Chinese landscapes that struck me. Wow, wow, wow! Endless terraces of limpid rice pools without growing rice…but in the same instance, there was a strong floral scent in the room. Quite disconcerting and I was slightly annoyed that the smell was distracting me from these amazing images. ( please see my poem posted that same day, ‘A trip back to Camberwell’). However as my gaze was drawn away from the photographs it landed on a huge open vessel in the centre of the room, filled with…
That’s right, rice.
With just a meer nod he gave me permission to plunge my hand in to the rice. It was quite a sensory experience, as my hand enjoyed the predictable sensations of letting the grains run through my fingers, the unpredictable floral scent rose again from the rice. It was wrong and yet pleasant, beautiful even. I shook my head in disbelief and wonder, he explained that the rice was not rice. It was resin, and one of the side effects of it being cut into so many tiny pieces was, that it’s originally unpleasant scent, had mutated into this almost girlish floral bouquet. A most pleasant experience indeed.
With my senses singing I couldn’t resist in buying a copy of his small book, documenting his explorations & experimentations with rice, including printing large scale images of rice grains on fabric, even embossing paper with actual rice grains.

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