by Laura Potts

This year’s degree show was of striking magnitude. The work in all departments was of a very professional standard, with the textiles department in particular showing great craft and display skills with their breathtaking exhibition. These high standards were maintained throughout, even into the degree show shop, which housed snippets of work for sale.

‘I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten’

The words of John Berger, quoted by Fine Art course leader Carl Rowe in the show program. As Rowe says, this is a powerful and cuttingly accurate appraisal of the influence art has on the individual and collective mind. The degree show embodied this transporting the human condition to the past, present and future, and investigating and interacting with it through a variety of media and exhibitions.


Credit: Laura Potts

Art, although ultimately inexplicable, can begin to delve into the roots of our social makeup. Language and communication is an immeasurably important feature of life. Its ability to influence, change and improve our surroundings is endless. Whenever we view works of art, or read articles, we interact with their resonant undercurrents of language and meaning. Art that goes further to intentionally interact with language and communication, directly or indirectly, is extremely useful in a society so blind to its own failings. The creative perception of artists casts new eyes over our ever-more capitalised world, and can inspire us to reconsider how we communicate and why communication is breaking down.

‘The fertile territory of misunderstanding, translation and interpretation has led her to explore nonverbal communication’

Tina Hannay’s work explores these themes, offering a close insight into communication. This exploration runs deep into the work, deconstructing language and looking into not only the human position but the common need to understand a message or meaning. The discreet installation soon becomes overwhelming as you tune into the individual craft taken to produce it, and the message hidden in plain view. Set up as it was, the work seemed to speak to other installations in the vicinity as much as the person below. It defies explanation, engendering an overall feel that only experience can encapsulate.

‘Exploring unconventional methods to produce text, she challenges and revises traditional definitions of writing and literary methods.‘

Alice Leon’s work also investigates the multidimensionality of language, an act magnified by the close consideration of historical factors. This close interaction with language can teach us all how to closely attend to our words and those of others, and allow us to plumb new depths of meaning. Her use of non-original text is an appropriation of the past to create a future and present for the words as they are re-read. It is a lesson in the re-establishment of the meaning of words even after they have been produced or spoken. Over time we find ourselves discovering texts with lasting relevance, opening space to consider modern context and past minds contemplating, through language, issues we still face today.

Art, although ultimately inexplicable, can begin to delve into the roots of our social makeup

Both these artists, and many others whose work was on show, blurred the lines between art, communication and life. This can be a lesson to us all, encouraging a creative approach to exploring interaction and the possibilities it creates. Through literature and art, human language can be investigated, and the meaning of both subject and medium increased and developed. Through true interaction with language, through close attention to choice of words and meaning, we can have positive, progressive and potent influence on each other’s perspective.

All quotations from the NUA 2017 Degree Show Fine Art Exhibition program. You can contact the artists mentioned for more information about their work (details provided with permission):

Tina Hannay

Alice Leon

Featured image via NUA

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