ArtHiking to Highlands

Hiking to Highlands

I trekked up the hill to Highlands to attend their Creative Arts Showcase. The School of Art and Media hosted a lovely evening for friends and families to gather and admire the hard work of their students. Projects ranged from dens made out of cardboard boxes, to abstract paintings, to architectural plans for a redesign of the D’Hautree campus. The artwork tended to draw on themes of childhood, how to grow up, and – I suppose – how to grow back down. Many students used their pieces as a way of trying to understand themselves, their environments and the things that have influenced who they have become. The media side featured short films, magazines and one student’s attempt to better the branding of the pizza shop they work at. It was a great opportunity to be proud of everything they have achieved. The art exhibition will be open to the public 6-21 June, weekdays, 9am-4pm.

All of the artwork was amazing, but there were a few exhibitions that really stood out. Frankie Gouveia created an outfit that combined queerness with punk. ‘Lover’s Punk’ is composed entirely out of pre-loved and up cycled materials. It was a striking conglomeration of pinks, reds, lace and patterns. Reworked jeans reference the Stonewall Riots of 1969, whilst the blouse reads ‘Lavender is my colour’. Far from being the chosen hue of old ladies everywhere, after 1969 the colour lavender came to symbolise empowerment in the queer community. Only a month after Stonewall, lavender sashes and armbands were distributed to crowds marching to commemorate the riots. In a way, the piece itself is an act of protest. Patchwork reads ‘non-binary people don’t owe you androgyny’, whilst the mannequin holds a sign stating ‘lesbians aren’t a fetish for straight cis men’. Similar slogans hang on cardboard from the ceiling above the mannequin, testifying to defiance and breaking away from social norms.

Other students engaged with politics when forming their work. Jack Smaller created a triptych of satirical cartoons that show real journalistic potential. Trump takes the forefront in the typical pose of Uncle Sam, backed up by a legion of followers with pitchforks. Another references the Russian Federation and their extreme monitoring of public opinion. The cartoon exudes an Orwellian tone through the words ‘you never know who is on the wires, be careful what you say, do and think’. The third is blacked out, revealing a small keyhole to North Korea surrounded by the words ‘welcome to paradise’. It was the artist’s interest in politics that forged their artwork, writing that ‘through wit and manipulation of existing propaganda, I am challenging ideologies and inviting viewers to question what each political figure truly stands for’.

The third that really stuck out to me was the work of Amy Parker-Rann. Their exhibition, titled ‘The Metal Men’, aimed to express joy and fun through building figurines from scrap metal. The striking compositions are similar in style to the work of Tom Sachs. The ‘steampunk universe’ depicted by the artist was inspired by both the work of Ian Rolls and Beauty and the Beast. After many hours welding and creating, sculptures emerged from the echoes of a wild, child-like imagination.

After checking out the art exhibition, I went down to the media department to see what they had come up with. The short films on show made me want to laugh, cry and scream all at the same time. They were just so good and I couldn’t deal with how talented everyone was. I found one student’s rebranding of the pizza shop they worked at absolutely hilarious. It really made me giggle.

Shock horror, working for a magazine has made me really like… magazines. Evan Dos Santos created their own, featuring fashion photography of ‘Conor Steel’ in various locations. ‘Saturn’ was accompanied by a short film that oozed with talent. It was genuinely the coolest thing I’ve picked up in a while. Evan was shocked that I wanted to buy it, and I was shocked that this shocked them. We gaped at each other for a minute and then they let me run away with one of their copies. When Evan’s photography is flying off the shelves in years to come, remember we featured it first.

All in all, it was a totally inspiring event that simultaneously made me want to pursue a career in art and fashion photography. The problem is that I can’t do either of these things (the last time I looked at a blank canvas I decided to just papier-mâché it). Thank God the students at Highlands can commit to their work past the point where the novelty wears off. If they weren’t around to spice things up for us, the world would certainly become a lot more boring.

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