Norwich art school's end-of-year 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 is no exception. KEIRON PIM took a look round and spoke with principal Susan Tuckett.

For months the spacious, light-filled rooms of Norwich School of Art and Design have been bustling with activity as students paint, print, sculpt and weld their ideas into finished works of art. This week those busy workshops have been transformed into a serene exhibition space, interrupted only by intermittent visits by degree assessors, but from today, the volume of traffic will increase again as the public enjoy access to the best work of artists graduating from the renowned art school.

The End of Year show has become a fixture in the city's cultural calendar, and is getting bigger by the year.

The work comes from around 300 students graduating from courses including fine art, textiles, illustration, animation, photography, sculpture and many more, meaning that just about any form of art imaginable is represented.

"There is a lot of overlap between the courses. When you walk around and look at the work it can look quite similar from one course to another, but the journeys that the students have taken to get there might have been quite different," said the art school's principal, Susan Tuckett, as she gave the EDP a preview tour of the exhibition.

"One thing to bear in mind about the work is that it's not always completely accessible to people. When they come to see the exhibition, there has to be an understanding that this is the equivalent of their finals.

"If someone gave you the manuscript of a BA Honours student's dissertation, you wouldn't immediately understand it all. Some of the work here is quite challenging, and repays a longer look at it."

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Some of the work is amusing, such as Amy Taylor's collection of cheeky gnomes, some of it beautiful, for instance the swarm of exquisite butterflies that Sophie Poulton has settled across the walls and ceiling of one gallery, and other pieces are plain puzzling. Almost all the work is thought-provoking in some way, whether or not you conclude that you like it.

The students have reached the end of their three-year courses and will be hoping that the show helps clarify the next move in their careers. The exhibitions are the chief opportunity for them to showcase their work, both to the public (whom they hope might be tempted to take something they like home - all artworks are on sale) and also to potential employers.

Many students have gone on to gain places at establishments such as the Royal College of Art, and the show has gathered a reputation as a "creative careers fair", with a number of London design agencies paying regular visits as they scout for talent.

"We encourage the students to exhibit their work as professionally as possible," said Susan, who has been principal at the art school for five years. She added that this is not the only chance people will have to view art there this summer - the East International show opens on July 8, and in September work by Masters students will go on display for all to see.

In common with the current exhibition, that show will see budding artists express themselves through all manner of media - from the traditional pencil and paper to video installations, and all points between.

One student's paintings are accompanied by a TV playing video footage of him creating them, thus adding another layer of interest to the presented work. The finished artworks are accompanied by portfolios showing the drafting process, in the form of written notes, sketches or miniature models of sculptures.

"Art and design differs from a humanities degree where people have a lecture, do the reading and produce an essay. They are working completely in a visual language," said Susan. "You are seeing people articulating their ideas, their interpretation and understanding of a range of things: personal, external, world events, all through a visual language."

The art school has grown significantly in recent years, she added. "In the last five years the school has increased student numbers in design. In 2001 there were 650 higher education students. This year we have had 1,000, so it has been quite an increase. That's all at degree level, and we also have Masters students."

It now has its headquarters in Redwell Street, back in the building that it used back in the late 19th century, while the students study and work largely in St George's Street and Duke Street.

Marketing manager David Girling said: "It was formed in 1845, and since 1994 has been known as Norwich School of Art and Design. The Norwich School of Art merged with the Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design in 1989, and became the Norfolk Institute. Then Great Yarmouth was closed down.

"It's also one of the last remaining independent schools of art and design in the country. A lot have been subsumed into universities and become faculties of art within a university, but we have remained independent. There are only around 10 left in the country."

At a time when the number of art schools is diminishing, Norwich's just appears to be going from strength to strength.

The Norwich School of Art and Design End of Year exhibitions are at the school's buildings in Duke Street and St George's Street. They are open to the public from today, June 22, until Wednesday., June 28 Opening hours are 10am to 5pm on Monday to Friday, and 10am to 4pm on Saturday. Admission is free. For details contact 01603 610561.

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