The Musings of a Ruskineer

So yet another beginning of term is upon us. The art school is awkwardly quiet in 0th week, slightly tidier than usual, canvases stacked in neat piles and the floor oddly accessible, a sizeable amount of sawdust having been vacuumed from under the tables. Compared to its normal bustle, it’s a bit of a ghost town. A few footsteps echo off the circular white staircase, someone shuffles through an exhibition catalogue in the library and a few people breeze in for forgotten sketchbooks, wandering out again before even acknowledging the unusual silence.
It’s almost certainly the calm before the storm. With both first and third year Ruskin students putting on their end of year shows, this term is unlikely to go as smooth as we would like. There will be talk of who goes where and who’s showing what; the people who are organised by fifth week…and those who cut it fine. Angst, arguments, congratulations and co-operation aplenty, this is of course, alongside the arrangement of our portfolios and the preparation for our exams. The current stillness of the studios is sure to be short lived to say the least.
But, with such a sedate start I am instead going to look back to the end of last term, where the Ruskin first years held their first show, Parapraxis, at FREVD in Jericho. Their buzzing private view lasted until two in the morning and the turn out was phenomenal. Hundreds of enthusiastic students, friends, family and a handful of tutors explored the work we’d all hung that very same day in the redundant church. The talkative crowds encircled several paintings, a selection of photography, various sculptures, and even a projection film and some etchings. All the work seemed to collaborate extraordinarily well considering there was no fixed theme. Two triangular sculptures mirrored each other, suspended in the air, and many of the wall works reflected the themes of life and death, maybe subconsciously echoing the symbolism of the newly inhabited church. The stained glass windows glowing warmly in the dim light added to the ‘alternative’ vibe of the setting and the impressive architectural pillars warped your perception, hinting at another time zone. Contemporary art meets religious scenery and Roman stone walls? I guess you could make of it what you wanted – and grab a cocktail while you were at it.
And the highlight of the evening, you may ask? It’s got to be Jack Stanton’s haunting performance piece. Standing in front of numerous television sets all playing the same moving image of inside someone’s mouth, Jack sang an imposing verse into a microphone, his own mouth moving simultaneously with those on the screens. It became apparent that the lights and tiny people seen on the TVs as the mouth opened, were mirroring that of the crowd standing to watch the performance. Clever, unexpected and bizarre, the artist swiftly departed without any description of his work, leaving the audience puzzled but appreciative of the fleeting illusion they had experienced.
Such a vibrant and successful private view was absolutely the right way to end our Hilary term. I only hope us Ruskin students manage to keep it as fresh and exciting for our Trinity exhibitions, because this term is when it really counts. With paintbrushes, pencils, tools and technology in hand, all I can say for now is, watch this space.