This Guardian article features well known artists reminiscing about their degree shows. I was inspired to hoke out the lamentably few photos that exist of my own degree show at Wimbledon School of Art.
I came from a traditional convent grammar school art background. We were rigorously exercised in analytical studies; sliced fruit and decaying fish heads relentlessly copied from life. The creative freedom of art college was alarming and I found it difficult to take things off-road. I'd been taught to draw, not to express myself. It seemed indulgent and I suspected fraud all around me. After my foundation year I moved to Wimbledon to study sculpture. They had gantries and arc welding. In my third year they bought me a cement mixer. I wanted to make 'proper art'. I wanted to give people pleasure or make them think about the object. I bucked against the system; wanted people to talk about what I made, not why I had made it. Artists statements were left blank in protest. 'If you can't get what I'm trying to say from the object without me telling you, then I have failed'. I had a strong position on the point of fine art, if only that I failed to see the point.
In third year I settled into a maritime theme; curiously as I ended up going to sea for twelve years as a photographer. I was immensely satisfied with ships and hulking great metal things and swaths of concrete. I titled works like 'Harbour' and 'Slip'. I was aiming for simple visual play and perception. As you approached a piece such as the one below it suddenly broke up. As you walked around it, it took on a completely differently aspect.
The main piece was a double work called 'Fringe Element' and 'Crew Cut'. The solders were at eye level and looked like grocers grass at a distance. In the absence of the internet I scoured the toy shops of London for the plastic men.
I have yet to get over my 2.1. I wanted that Hirst (First) very badly. That lack of hyperbole let me down although the objects were well received. I had earned an award from the Royal British Society of Sculptors for £1000 in my third year. It was quite a bit of money in those days. A piece 'Wave' was selected for the New Contemporaries 1994 exhibition. However by the time I received the letter the work was already in the skip. It was a crushing disappointment. That year amongst others, Fiona Banner showed a wall-sized handwritten transcript of 'The Hunt For Red October', it was a wonderful piece of whimsy. Banner was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2002. I often wonder how my life might have turned out if I had showed at that exhibition and received a little encouragement.