CSM: A Fine Degree of Art on Show

CSM is one of the leading art colleges in the world, but what are the leading graduate art works?

A lot of my close friends studied at art college, and as a result I have attended a lot of graduate degree shows. I have sipped cheap wine, sniggered behind my hand and marveled at craftsmanship and creativity that far outweighs my basic ability. However, what I have come to learn is that true innovation and originality is hard to come by. There are always, for instance, several artworks based on the vagina and on menstrual blood. There are old white-noise televisions sets, re-appropriated pornographic imagery, social-media-selfie ‘stuff’ and performance artists reminiscent of horror film clowns. So, this week when I attended the Fine Art Degree Show at Central Saint Martins I decided to pick three artists who really stood out to me in terms of their approach and delivery. Meet Jessie, Clara and Realf…

Jessie Mac Stevenson

Jessie Mac Stevenson’s work commands the third floor bridge. It is bright pooling of turquoise, magenta, ochre and yellow.  Paint as medium, object and subject. I say painting because Jessie has labeled it thus, but in the name of subjectivity sculpture or textile seems equally valid. It looks like a melted rainbow as it hangs from the ceiling and drapes on stand and floor. I fight an internal battle of childish urge not to sink my teeth into or claw at its tactile rubbery appearance. The painting consists of mixtures of acrylic paint on vinyl plastic but appears as a medium totally without support.  No canvas. No panel. No board. Only the modernity of the grey concrete building acts as accompaniment. Jessie’s statement outlines her intention “to reposition the ‘object’ in the current technology era, so as to suggest the continual effect of paint’s ability to alter our perceptions.” Her use of bright colour is also explained as a means to evoke the visual language of the current digital era and perhaps its affronting size is also reflective of that. In a time of short attention span, click bait, explosion-heavy thrillers and a generation desensitised to certain imagery, Jessie’s artwork too is instant impact. Instancy that resonates.

Clara Imbert

The day I visited CSM was one of those biannually hot London days where the whole city is flustered in complaint. The airport-like air-conditioned art college provided much relief but still Clara Imbert’s artwork was particularly poignant to me and my pinking flesh.  Clara’s piece is on the subject of mirage. Red desert sand is piled on the floor, a mirrored motor reflects the glass ceiling’s sky whilst an image of a circular desert horizon stands above the scene.  Clara describes how:

‘In ‘Studies of a Mirage’, the horizon becomes the focus point of the eye, and the devices’ role are to dissect the image in other fragments. The objects are no longer just objects but they now become part of a system, a structure...’

The horizon, which is usually romanticised, is instead broken down into separate elements, like a behind-the-scenes film set. The image of beautiful desert is contextualised, stripped of its escapist qualities and grounded in realism. The romantic ideal is ‘deserted’ and so is, therefore, the traditional narrative of viewing. 


Realf Heygate

Realf Heygate’s work is concerned with the process of documentation of artifacts, not simply the objects themselves. An artifact is only authentic if it has a water-tight provenance and a trail of its journey to museum or sale whether this be in print, photography or notation. Realf states that  ‘in its transferal through mediums, I observe both its withering and revival.’

4-9, the piece exhibited at the degree show, is in two parts. First, is the delicate, and time-consuming, photorealist paintings of ancient vases; this traditional process mirrors the by-hand throwing and decoration that would have taken place thousands of years ago. Second, is the conversion of the 2-dimentional paintings into a navigable 3D display. This transition from old to new format is indicative of the social media age and how the traditional or natural is digitised - ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ until ownership is displaced. The once ancient, brittle and precious objects are now floating on screen and an accessible commodity. The digital reproduction has a much larger scope for audience, and the traditional notions of singularity and originality of artwork are abandoned for online virility. As for Realf, the originality is obvious, but I think large audiences may just ‘like’ it too.

Written by London-based Freelance Writer, Lydia Veljanovska for The Public House of Art.