University of the West of England BA Fine Art Graduate Show at Spike Island.

I went along to this exhibition on Wednesday 11th of June, keen to see the sort of work being produced by current graduates. I was keen to see how many of the students were painting and how it was manifest. It also provided the impetus to visit Spike Island, Bristol – a vibrant contemporary art space.
What struck me most was the amount of photographic, film, sound, installation and 3-dimentional work. The paintings were in a minority, and they were eclectic in nature- there didn’t seem to be any clear theme running through them.
There was graffiti/doodle wall paintings, collage of body parts, 3-D painting using found objects, political protest painting, minimal embossed papers, work on a blackboard, and drawing based work. There were other works that caught my eye but they were 3-dimentional in nature- built structures using recycled wood and another using tea-bags, which relate to some staining experiments I have been making.
The work of student, Hannah Tesch, caught my attention because of the visual language she has adopted and because of how it relates directly to her. The work, a large monochrome pen drawing. The scene, a room rendered in extensive detail- a desk covered in bits and pieces, pot of pens, angle poise lamp, book shelves lining the wall full to over flowing, posters on the wall, keys hanging on hooks, an overflowing laundry basket pushed into the corner- I could go on! On first viewing I found myself marvelling at the observational and drawing skills of the artist. On closer inspection I could see the marks made were of numbers, I started to speculate about what they might be, possibly phone numbers? It was only on reading in the catalogue how the work is ‘a visual representation of her own experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. It occurred to me that the scene depicted must be almost her worst nightmare. The catalogue describes how ‘each of her pieces is formed from thousands of numbers, layered multiple times upon one another, quickly scribbled with little more than a fine liner pen…… the persistent layering aims to reflect the persistent compulsive thoughts that plague and dominate the minds of those with this condition’.
The development of a personal visual language is something I have thought about a lot. Studying the work of Ellen Gallagher over time has given me a good insight as to how is has developed for her. I find it interesting to see how other artist’s visual language have developed and how it might relate to them individually, in particular in combining certain ideas with accomplished drawing/painting. I quite like that Hannah ‘does not seek to raise an issue or conflict opinion…. It aims to merely act as a representation’ in the hope that the works would ‘reflect the psychological processes that occur and that those without the condition may not be able to comprehend’. Somehow it seems her work is saying ‘this is just how it is’ and in doing so leaves room for the viewer to dig a little deeper.

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