Manchester Art and Design Degree Show 2009

2017 June 22

The Manchester Art and Design Degree Show stands as a final display for the blood, sweat and tears, poured out by Manchester’s creative finest. The collected artwork from a wide range of courses, it provides MMU students with an outlet for their efforts and a chance to compare with art students from elsewhere. At first impression, the standard across the board seems surprisingly high. So too does the attendance. The Grosvenor Building is packed shoulder to shoulder in places, despite the early Monday start-time; queues of radically haired, sexy-young-things flow like streams around each gallery room.

There’s a different atmosphere from what you’d expect a university art show to be, or an art gallery at all from that matter. Visitors seem both excited and genuinely impressed. Rightfully so – this is impressive stuff.

The interactive arts students have done well, experimenting with the alternative multimedia platforms available in this age of consumer technology. Plasma screens flick quickly through still images of visitors’ scribbles, creating an impromptu animation that evolves with the exhibition. Rows of old TVs show simultaneous short films of city-centre street scenes; audio displays highlight interviews with the real people of Rawtenstall.

You can’t help thinking how professional this all looks. The exhibition takes the same approach to art as the Cornerhouse installations: fresh, interactive, filled with low-lit rooms and wide, bright spaces.

Of special note in the multimedia category is stop-motion animator, Vivian Peach. Already well known amongst Manchester’s short-filmmaking community, her work with quickly decomposing and regenerating food continues to tread the line between being funny and a bit sick.  One passer-by by balks at the sausage roll animation, saying: “well I can’t eat that ever again.” Definitely the desired effect.

A trippy neon light show accompanies some damn good electronica; disembodied legs pose suggestively without the upper body’s knowledge; a ghostly, tattooed beauty offers us playing cards from an old cinema ticket window.

Sean Parry’s incredible paintings are unfortunately hidden upstairs, away from the crowds, but his hellish gothic style, of pirates bars and piles of worshipping naked girls, stop all who pass them in their tracks. Another painter, Yan Lan Huang, shows Lucian Freud’s impeccable eye for detail; her focus on subjects turning away adding mystery to her strong lines and delicate textures.

Perhaps the bells and whistles of the interactive exhibits attract more attention than the more traditional fare but that’s to be expected and maybe now encouraged. Embracing technology in the name of art is definitely the way forward and the artists of tomorrow seem to agree. More than a few school-parties have been brought to see what’s happening, and as ‘boring’ art’s most vicious critics, even they seem blown away.

Overall, this exhibition is fantastic. A good job well done by all who went into making it. As diverse and exciting as anything the Cornerhouse has to offer.

Alexander Walsh

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