May I Introduce...
A Mini-Festival of Work by Undergraduate Art Students
Featuring Rob Brown / Adelaide Burton / Dave Green / Lucy Hird / Sarah Hughes / Aimee Larkin / Kate Longman / Charlotte Morgan.
When, after graduating in Sheffield, I was approached by Bloc to take part in an exhibition, I was pleased, but I didn't feel that I could accept the invitation without question as it seemed only to serve the rigorously hierarchical structure of the local art scene that had frustrated me during my three years at the art school. Whilst being heavily relied on to make up the numbers of Sheffield's gallery audiences and volunteers, students were not taken seriously as part of the city's artist community until after they had graduated.
There were of course many logistical reasons for the existence of the graduation divide. The student community were to an extent transient, their contribution to the city relatively fleeting, and university intellectual property rights and funding bodies complicated matters for artists and organisations wishing to work with undergraduates whilst they are still studying. However, there was also a sickening element of territorialism, pride and fear of change in the art scene which was successfully obstructing students who genuinely wanted to engage and contribute to the city. I would contend that the spontaneous, experimental nature of the work and ideas generated in an art school environment has a lot to offer to a local scene in which artists and arts professionals can easily become bogged down with funding applications and health and safety, putting reading, debate and critique in second place.
By choosing to show the work of undergraduate artists instead of my own, I aimed to introduce an element of this activity into Sheffield's art spaces, to open up a dialogue about how and why the divide should be broken down and to contribute to steps that others in the city were already taking in this direction. As a graduated artist working in Sheffield I was all the more aware of the untapped potential of an abundant artistic community keen to communicate, collaborate and participate, who would continue to take their ideas and skills away with them to other cities without having made a significant contribution to the city in which they developed their practices.
The artists exhibiting in May Introduce... were all undergraduate Fine Art students, with much to offer in terms of their experimental and critical thinking, humour, generosity and audacity. Some of the work was conceived in response to discussion about the situation in Sheffield, other works explored further elements of the art world, social conventions, power structures or relations.
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