Innovation alive at art school show

Every year the students graduating from Norwich School of Art and Design produce a visual treat with their end of year show and this year’s, which opens to the public on June 28, is no exception. KEIRON PIM took a look round.

From atmospheric black and white photographs of derelict Norwegian houses, to stuffed toy animals guaranteed to make you smile, the artworks forming the new end of year show at Norwich School of Art & Design are as diverse and thought-provoking as ever.

With more than 350 artists showcasing the end product of their years of training, there are bound to be pieces that will make you look at the world differently, some that will make you chuckle, some that will leave you cold, and some that will have you reaching for your wallet and asking how much they are.

As you might expect from art students who have been attending the Norwich college for the past few years, a local influence is often evident in the work. One of Laurence Holbeck's drawings combines a finely rendered depiction of the Anglican cathedral with the surreal juxtaposition of a diving fish. Jean Tate's work takes recognisable local symbols - the cathedral again, or the art nouveau glasswork on the Royal Arcade - and abstracts them on textile prints.

"I love Norwich, it satisfies my interest in art and history," she says.

Rebecca Fisher's textile works are some of the most amusing on display. She has created a number of strange animals from textiles - a Pink Fairy Armadillo, and Aeronautic Squirrel and a Golden Mole, for instance - and given each some accompanying notes that read very plausibly until you reach a line saying, for example, that the latter is "one of five semi-precious moles in the world" and that "the holographic coat of the young moles dazzles and confuses predators, thus protecting them from attack". The piece brings to mind The Clangers produced by the Monty Python team.

Aimee Calver notes that she draws on philosopher Tomas Kulka's theory of kitsch. He wrote that kitsch's "appeal is that it is parasitic on the emotional charges of its subject matter", and she says that this thinking has informed her work, for instance a piece called Icons of Absurdity. It is embroidery on garish flock wallpaper of Elton John, Dame Edna Everage, the alien ALF from the eponymous 1980s TV series, and a My Little Pony, the combined effect of which can't fail to raise a smile.

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Iselin Valvik's evocative photographs of Norway were inspired by the death of her grandfather, she explains in her notes. The images "represent memories of my home, memories of the people who live there and the people lost to me in death".

Such engaging pieces of work have helped the show become a fixture in the city's cultural calendar, and it is getting bigger by the year. The courses represented include fine art, textiles, illustration, animation, photography, sculpture and many more, meaning that just about any form of art imaginable is represented.

As well as media that we have come to expect, this year's exhibition has a new aspect. The art school's BA course in Games

Art and Design has produced its first graduates after three years spent developing ideas for the ever-growing video gaming industry.

Course leader Marie-Claire Isaaman said: "The games industry is relatively young and the discipline of Games Art and Design in higher education is even younger. In the past both gamers and their industry have suffered negative stereotyping but as the revenue from new game purchases overtakes that of DVD/video rental and cinema box office receipts, so the industry is recognised as a major player among more established media industries.

"The course and faculty provide the wide range of skills demanded by game production; we don't just play games all day!"

She described the students as "true pioneers who have been as influential to this exciting young course as I hope it has been to them".

The display is being complemented by a specially-recorded soundtrack by local drum 'n' bass outfit EZ Rollers and Norwich band the Lost Levels.

EZ Rollers are best known for their Top 20 hit Walk This Land - featured in the movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - and they have experience of working with the game industry, having composed and licensed music for games such as Grand Theft Auto.

Chris Cooper and Iain Lowery from the Lost Levels are both fanatical gamers as well as musicians - the first Lost Levels EP, The Early Sheets, is conceptually based around computer games and the band have played gigs at various gaming events around the UK.

The exhibition opens to the public tomorrow and runs until to next Wednesday at the school's St Georges Street and Duke Street buildings.

The event is considered the highlight of the school's academic year, forming the fledgling artists' best opportunity to reveal their work to both the general public and businesses/ potential employers.

This year around 300 students on BA (Hons) degree and 65 Foundation Degree students are showing work including sculptures, paintings, illustrations, graphic design, animations and film, photography, fashion and textile pieces.

Sue Tuckett, principal of the school, said: "The common thread is innovation and ideas, whether students are working in design or fine art, and the event is one of the largest shows of undergraduate arts and design work in the eastern region.

"Expect to be challenged and surprised, because whatever the age of these students their ideas are contemporary and provide new ways of communicating ideas through visual media."

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