36 Works

Jesse Holliland reflects on a dual exhibition by first year students from Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University

May 2016 saw the ancient stonewalls of new arts hub Comma Five hosting a dual exhibition by first year students from Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University.

The enormous doors opened on to a large white room on the ground floor, a whitewashed stone cavern with a distinct air of ‘Gallery meets historic pub’. The entire room was covered with artworks: print, painting, collage, sculpture and more.

36 Works is a collaboration of 1st year Painting, Drawing and Printmaking B.A. students studying at Plymouth College of Art, there was no discernable theme to the show but the room presented with an appealing chaotic visual impact as young artists explored themes such as domestic violence and feminism alongside politics, urban aesthetics and environmental issues.

The show exhibited some very promising and interesting work but one that really stood out for me was NHS for Sale by Ratna Saksena. Two prints hung quietly in a corner tucked beneath an aged iron spiral staircase, curatorial choices echoing the abandoned tone of the hospital wards pictured in the prints which had been cleverly transferred on to old pharmaceutical boxes, a subtle yet poignant work from someone so early in their studies.

Ratna Saksena – ‘NHS for Sale’

Jo Hooper – ‘What will you do now?’

Ellen Ford – ‘What does it mean to be alive’

Looking across the room you were guided by a neon-flashing arrow to head up the wide staircase to see the Media Arts work. Out With The New, In With The Used an exhibition created by the first year Media Arts students from Plymouth University. The theme for this exhibition is the manipulation and transformation of something old to create something new as well as using old or original material to create a new meaning and it’s venue suited it perfectly. Old wood, comfy sofas, slide projectors, clever lighting and the low hum of computer fans made for an extremely atmospheric exhibition which included performance work, animation, installation and presented a real focus on the tangibility of the concepts that was a refreshing and engaging step away from the traditionally accepted Media Arts presentation style.

As you moved around the partitions you had to step over the unravelled physical manifestation of scrolling through Google images to get to Three Key which asked you to use the objects on the table to choose between Rock, paper and mud as your favourite material.  The Digital work in the room was inspired and emotive, Ellen Ford’s What does it mean to be alive was a deeply moving piece using personal memories of her grandfathers passing, layering media over itself and presenting it in a way that evoked the feeling of nostalgia that was essential for it’s success.

Both shows exhibited work which was the culmination of only their first year of study and based on this exhibition I would say there will be some stars emerging from Plymouth’s art establishments in a few years’ time so watch this space!