Free Range, the annual London graduate exhibition that brings together multiple universities from around the UK show together, opens its Art Week this Thursday at the Old Truman Brewery, on Brick Lane. The previewed pieces are bright and playful, with many artists working outside of the traditional mediums to experiment with neon, glitter, metallic foil and more.
The selection from the University of Hertfordshire is especially strong (and exuberant) with Lily Rankine forming pieces from low-level materials—coloured plastic ribbons, star-shaped sequins, polystyrene—to create something that is energetic and plays up to a flamboyant crafty aesthetic with a tongue in cheek.
Romily Alice, from Leeds College of Art, has a similar vibe, crafting female figures in luminous pink in her specially built neon studio. The use of neon can be a bit stale now (each art fair has at least three, spelling out statement words or funky shapes) but it feels fresh here, her figures placed on raw blocks and surrounded by tropical plant life, as though posing in the life room, or perhaps worse, for sale in a window.
Belina Jayne Ayers, also from Leeds College of Art, goes for the garish aesthetic too, with a selection of figurines one might find in a charity shop piled together against a sunflower yellow background. The effect, though sort of upbeat, is also enjoyably sinister.
Zoe Barber removes the faces of her sunnily clothed figures to create a sense of unease, in one work placing a man in red trousers and a pink shirt with sleeves jauntily rolled up next to another in peach shorts and a summer tee. They each have an arm stretched toward one another, though rather zombie-like, one figure’s skin washed in green, the other in purple, as they lounge in an apartment room that is chopped up and collaged so the viewer has little grasp of the actual layout and dimensions of the space they inhabit.
Another University of Hertfordshire graduate, Elizabeth Cahill, creates semi-formal sculptures from a mix of art and everyday materials. In one work, a stack of boxes are piled together upside down, some made roughly from card, others appearing to have been sculpted lovingly by hand. In another, soft fleshy tones are placed together with industrial wire mesh.
Chloe Gatrell from Norwich University of the arts utilizes building materials in grey and brick tones for sculptural works that have a mix of handmade and readymade aesthetic, some pieces retaining a traditional brick form, others sculpted into tall vertical pillars.
The art week will see a total of fifteen universities and art schools come together, each with its own exhibition title (including V. Serious Art Show from University of Bournemouth and Modern Love from University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts).