Liverpool John Moores Degree Show
Degree show season begins with Liverpool John Moores fine art show, which offers up transportative large-scale installations, screen-printed teepees and righteous fabric works, as well as pieces made using more traditional practices
We’re clambering up steps into a large wooden structure. Intrigued by the sound of trickling water, a peek into the darkness reveals a projection of babbling water and dripping paint; a hidden rock-pool nestled in the gallery.
Immersive pieces like Rory Larbalestier’s Our Specimens are popular at this year’s LMJU Fine Art Degree Show. Many of the students have created affective environments drawing audiences into elaborate installations – some more successfully than others.
Hannah Jenkins produces large-scale installations designed to transport audiences. Jenkins recreated a student flat – complete with gaudy sofa, naff flat-pack furniture and TV – which appears to critique the fashion industry. The installation as a whole is engaging and effective, however the many pages of fashion magazines adorning the walls and floor detracts from the most successful aspect of the piece – the video work looping on the TV and projection.
A standout piece is My Shed, by Hannah Booth. A teepee-like structure built with delicately screen-printed fabric, beautifully animated by the breeze entering through the open doors and windows. My Shed attempts to alter and push the realms of traditional printmaking. The work, Booth explains, is “concerned with space and form, investigating possibilities of occupying and owning a space with print” and the result is incredibly playful, conjuring up memories of building dens as a child.
Similarly, another great piece utilising movement and fabric – that's causing quite the stir during our visit – is Katie Wilson’s Face Facts. Shimmering swathes of fabric hang from the ceiling emblazoned with text that documents feminist and misogynist quotes and phrases. Moving between the layers to read the handwritten and hand-stitched text, it becomes clear that the fabric is hung out like washing drying on the line. This reference to washing clothes – which is “historically and culturally understood as women's work,” Wilson notes – is used to install and stage the work. But on closer inspection, viewers are met with texts that put “a range of views on subjects, like sexual violence and abortion, into dialogue with each other”.
Worryingly, many of the texts are direct quotes from social and political leaders: "The rape thing does not excuse abortions;" "Women are 'equally responsible’ for crimes committed against them”; and “Women exist solely for the propagation of the species” are a few of the phrases. Face Facts does a great job of foregrounding difficult gender discourses in the public sphere, and watching the audience contemplate and discuss the statements prove the work successful – it got people talking.
However, not all the pieces in the show are installations. Several artists showcase more traditional practices such as the work of Brice Krizoua and Luke George, who have both produced paintings. Krizoua's paintings depict figures in vivid colour, while in complete contrast, George’s paintings are delicate pastel abstracts.
In addition to the exhibition, the students have also produced ‘A Fine-Art Appendix’, which acts in lieu of a degree show catalogue. This piece, however, has been designed to accompany the exhibition, not ‘explain’ it. Through a series of seminars, each of the artists were invited to consider writing and publishing as an extension of their art works, resulting in a beautifully produced publication comprising of essays, poems and experimental texts. While the students’ unique take on the traditional catalogue is to be applauded, there’s not a lot in the exhibition to help audiences connect with the actual art work in the gallery; a real downside to the show is that much of the work can only be enjoyed on face value.
Overall, however, this is an engaging and diverse showcase. The ambition of the students is impressive, not just for their many elaborate installations, but their willingness to explore difficult and thorny debates.