Our Fave Moments of Graduate Art

Artist Molly Hughes explores their favourite degree show moments

Art is hard to write about sometimes. I have always struggled to put my feelings about it into words without keyboard smashing – especially when I’m so excited about it. I will however, for this piece, try my best to string together coherent sentences to discuss a few exhibitions I have visited recently and about the artists that I’m particularly inspired by. First on the list is ‘Epigraph’ an exhibition by the Foundation Art & Design at Carlisle College, held in the Lanes Shopping Centre in Carlisle. I had stumbled upon this exhibition by accident, but what a happy accident it was! Utilising the empty unit across from Primark, the two floors displayed the incredible up and coming talent. I was particularly excited by the diversity in the cohorts’ work, with different mediums on display from textiles to installations to film. A personal favourite of mine was the work of Ruby Marix Whitlock (image above) whose stunning monochromatic ink pieces blew me away. The line-work and shading in their fantastical pieces are incredibly pleasing to the eye – to the point where one print now lives on the wall in my own studio. I hope to catch more of Ruby’s illustrative style in more exhibitions in the future!

Another display of incredible student work was the Creative Community Degree Show at the University of Cumbria, Institute of Arts. It’s always an enjoyable experience to view what students from all courses have dedicated so much time and energy to. Given the quality of the work from the institution as a whole, it is clear just how passionate these guys are about their craft.

In the Fine Art course, Icelandic exchange students had joined the final year. One student whose exhibition stood out to me was Thorunn Birna Gudmunsdöttir (@thorunn_2o on Instagram) with an astonishing abstract painting at the centre of her display. Gudmunsdöttir had curated a space in which she could explore the hardships of her chronic illness and bring attention to her difficulty in being taken seriously by medical professionals as a cisgender woman. Upon closer examination, the abstract painting depicted her uterus, directly taken from an image from her endoscopy and displaying the most intimate parts of herself – the cause of her chronic pain.

“Recently I have been exploring the role that gender plays when it comes to seeking medical attention for illnesses that mostly affect menstruating patients and the history that lies behind it, while asking the question: “Is this really just what it is to be a woman or is the healthcare system still based on sexist principles?”. In my degree show work I highlighted this exploration of mine on gender bias within healthcare, and what that means for the overall patient experience. My goal with this piece was to showcase how bizarre it is that, as a society, we consider menstruating bodies to be so offensive that we need to sugar coat how we talk about them in order to have a fair discussion about serious topics like fair health care for all.”

Art Thorunn Gudmunsdottir

Finally, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of ‘Faces of Carlisle’ the annual Historic Quarter Art Festival hosted by Intro PR and Social, bringing attention to local businesses while supporting artists. It’s always a pleasure to see local artists submit their work for display, and this year there is a £50 prize in each category up for grabs. Amongst the incredible pieces featured one piece seemed particularly telling of our times, the photography of Molly Matcham taken in the historic Turkish Baths in Carlisle. The ongoing fight to reopen the baths after their closure in November 2022 goes on, and Matcham’s photos exhibit the importance of them to the community. It takes a certain type of talent like Matcham to capture the beautiful simplicity of daily life in a historic space such as this. Capturing both modernity and nostalgia, and highlighting the importance of community health spaces in an era of staunch austerity. I am truly obsessed with these photos.

Photo Molly Mitcham

Words Molly Hughes