ever since i gained an awareness of new art, i’ve known about the reputation of sheffield hallam as a school of art. this is the first chance i have had to take in the sheffield degree show since moving over here, and have spent a brilliant afternoon crossing the city to see some really exciting new work across a range of creative fields. admittedly, the nature of a degree show means that it was a pretty mixed bag, but i’m not writing this to put down people who have spent the best part of three/four years working towards this point. i’m just someone who has their own ideas of aesthetic, and i certainly wouldn’t want to make a negative comment about any of the upcoming artists on display as part of creative spark.
the fine art display at s1 artspace was the first time that i have seen the gallery space displaying work other than film, and it was fantastic to see the room so animated. with a mixture of sculptural works, painting, photography and film, the display took on a variety of different directions.
the standout pair of works for me came from jason mould and hannah sarah james. both artists’ work took seemed to deal with ideas of negotiation of landscape, though in contrasting manners. mould’s piece the debatable land takes on a richard long-esque quality, mixing a vinyl wall piece of the english-scottish border with a physical border between soil from both sides of the divide. i got a real sense of the importance of place from mould’s work, and was really impressed; i would really like to see more of this artist.
adjacent to mould’s work was hannah sarah james’ wall drawing 0.7, a wall drawing working around four sides of a supporting pillar. using the simplest of ideas, that vertical line, the artist creates undulating contours which spread around the pillar. it is probably a leap to far to suggest that these mountains were the peaks along mould’s border. a terrific placement of two of the best pieces i saw all day.
shifting around the corner from these pieces sarah simmonite’s progression offers another seemingly simple idea, blocks of colour moving from shade to shade, from a light ecru and moving towards muddy brown. it wasn’t the blocks that drew the eye and interest in this piece though; the spaces between the solid slabs danced with variations, a really nice touch to bring a sense of shared progress to the entire work.
other standout work from the fine art show came from carole cluer, who reworked the ideas of kintsugi repairs using graphite in place of gold. cluer’s artist book complemented her ideas and plate work to great impact. dominating the entrance to the gallery space, annabel snowden’s parachute asked some interesting questions of the viewer, with the main thing lingering for me being an ongoing problem deciphering whether the parachute was falling towards or anchored by the fantastic print on the gallery floor. lastly, victoria bailey’s macintosh-esque wooden frame supporting punctured paper work worked perfectly this afternoon as light flooded through the miniscule holes, creating a sense of life. the texturing of bailey’s paper offered yet more contours, a theme which i really warmed to throughout the works which appealed most to me in this collection.
moving on from the art show, i headed (via a swift trip to millenium gallery to partake in their £1 coffee deal) into the unknown for me, jewellery. i honestly can’t give you anything on the technical abilities of any of the artists on show, as i have no real terms of reference with which to describe what i saw. however, i can tell you which two artists really stood out to me as the ones whose work i really enjoyed. luana poerio’s collection hope of spring saw silver flowers arranged into wooden blocks, with lovely allusions to natural forms and window boxes at the same time.
from the natural to the very man-made, emma swailes’ the sea side memories collection was loads of fun. objects inspired by the british coast, with deckchairs and beach huts supporting some really lovely pieces working around aesthetics of the chip fork. ok, so it might not be ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’, but this work really grabbed me and stood out as something i would want to buy in the future for loved ones.
heading on from the jewellery i attempted to find the (very poorly signposted) architecture display. it must be really frustrating for the students to find that their work is displayed in such a chaotic manner, and indeed nigh on impossible to find. short of a sign on a door saying ‘beware of the leopard‘ it couldn’t have been much more difficult to actually find the 4th year architects work, which only discovered by dint of having looked at the 2nd year display from across the atrium and traced a vague line towards something across the way that looked like it might be more architecture. moan over, but seriously, shouldn’t the architecture department be the best at getting you into a space to see the work?
once the final year projects were found, it was worth the trip. working to a brief of designing an international hub for learning on the dearne valley/river don corridor which showcased environmental features, there were some brilliantly thought out buildings here.
liam gladwin’s building made fantastic use of space, placing the public circulation areas at the heart of the design, yet without impinging on the practical usage of area. alongside a very clean and considered interior, gladwin’s exterior seemed thoroughly planned to at once make a strong statement on its materials whilst also blending into the natural world around it. really impressive stuff.
just as impressive in my eyes was tony buck’s concept which combined wood frame, glass and local stone with a green roof to create a building of striking qualities which somehow took me straight back to the moorland visitor centre in edale. i’m a massive fan of said building in edale, and someone buck managed to maintain this combination of the natural, great design and a certain softness throughout his project.
the creative spark exhibitions run until saturday 23rd june, and i would heartily recommend that you find the time to go and give them a look before the weekend. it is really encouraging to see so much great new work going on in sheffield, and i am honestly looking forward to seeing where all of the artists i’ve spoken about above go next. keep your eyes peeled folks.