Meet the artists behind the most eclectic range of work to date in Sheffield Hallam’s 2024 studio show

This year’s show for MFA Fine Art students at Sheffield Hallam opens next Thursday and features a diverse range of disciplines, artistic approaches and subjects – from queer people in media to writing as performance art.

Now Then asked all nine participating students to share their work to create a permanent record of the show and tell us a little about their practice and inspirations ahead of next week’s opening night at Persistence Works. The show takes place between May 16-19.

Maz Ellis describes her practice as a “combination of the worlds of art, fashion and beauty and how they relate to each other”, and her use of natural forms such as abstract flowers in her oil paintings belongs to a lineages stretching back to the great designers. like William Morris.

“Growing up, my mother introduced me to a world of beauty and flowers,” she told Now Then. “I highlight this in my practice because I have a deep connection to these subjects and want to preserve these moments.”

Like Morris, Ellis is influenced by artists such as Pat McGrath, Yayoi Kusama and Kin Wai Sin, particularly the way they fused fine art with high fashion. “My practice brings joy and light to these areas that I look at, but it can also convey underlying political or economic topics,” Ellis said.

The play of light and color is a touchstone in the work of Helen Carr, originally a glass artist who has recently worked “in a variety of materials from twine and rope to perspex and vinyl to create sculptural installations adaptable to location”.

“My work is conceptual and process-based,” she told Now Then. “I’m often drawn to temporal materials that capture a moment or change over time. I aim to bring pieces that provoke a new way of seeing.”

Carr says the work he created for the study exhibition explores the possibility of capturing “a modal moment in time”.

“Taking inspiration from Neolithic sites, this work offers the viewer a moment of reflection and an opportunity to experience themselves in space and time.”

The multidisciplinary work by Harry Nixon-Kneale (full disclosure: this article’s author’s partner) explores attitudes towards homosexuality over time, with a particular focus on how queer people are represented in the media – as “the best “sexless gay friend” or the excessively promiscuous stereotype, as Nixon-Kneale puts it.

The abrasive nature of the work “acts as an antidote to those tropes, hoping to provide a more rounded human representation,” they told Now Then. “Recently, I’ve been exploring a triad within myself—sexuality, humor, and humanity—through the guise of my alter-ego Jock-U-Lar, to show that I can be all three and not limit myself to one representation.

“The pieces in the studio show are inspired by the worlds of cruising, camp and voyeurism to create a space for myself and the LGBTQ+ community to endlessly be themselves.”

Delyth Barlow’s work consists of a series of “interactive soft sculptures” that are made of foam and covered with hundreds of sections of acrylic wool hook, each hand-made by the artist, her mother and her friends.

“The concept comes from my experiences living with a chronic illness, which taught me the importance of embracing every moment of joy despite the pain you may feel, as it helps you move forward,” she told Now Then.

“My illness has often made me feel left out, for things that are out of my control. So we created three pieces that are inclusive at every step, from their creation – inviting friends and family to add their own sections to the work – to the exhibition, where the public is invited to play with the sculptures.”

“Always, there is another truth,” sculptor and painter Ravi Modi says of his spiritually oriented practice. “My work allows me to witness the magic in our bright world.”

His work, mostly sculptural but also including self-portraits and even poetry, is characterized by abstract versions of natural forms. The sun, moon and their orbits appear again and again, often cast in precious metals.

“My childhood, marked by isolation, was illuminated by the vivid narratives of my paralyzed grandfather,” he told Now Then. “Through his stories, he created a realm of imagination that enriched my reality, making me walk into the darkest part in a brighter way.”

Working in an eclectic range of mediums, Linda Cassel’s practice explores competing and sometimes conflicting ideas about identity and belonging.

“The work I do centers around the notion of being visible but invisible and developing identity in a world where unseen forces try to control difference,” she told Now Then. “I use my body as object and subject to tell stories that reflect, address and document social history.”

Cassel believes that dialogue “forms the basis of understanding,” and her work often juxtaposes motifs from different cultures to create striking compositions. “Making objects that incorporate elements of my body and everyday objects creates this chance to question what you’re up against,” she says.

Greg Kurcewicz describes his strikingly original style as coming from the “ground zero of painting,” asking, “What is the minimal gesture that can survive and be interpreted by the viewer?”

Inspired by minimalist painters such as Jonathan Lasker, Brice Marden, Steve Parrino, and Gerhard Richter, Kurcewicz deconstructs the act of painting and breaks it down into its constituent elements, with a particular focus on marking.

“My work comes from a position of reviewing the death of painting, but then from a rebirth as a result of playing with its constituent parts, that is, what is the figure, what is the ground? What is the expression, what does the gesture still mean?”

Tim Hardman blends a text-based practice with performance art in his unique body of work. He describes writing as “a drawing method” that allows him to pursue an interest in fading authorship and using a slower practice.

“More recently, in relation to this, I’ve been researching the idea of ​​rehearsal as a practice,” he told Now Then. “Work and performance without finality or need for production itself, but action and inaction.”

His undergraduate exhibition contribution sees him writing existing texts from memory, in the gallery and in real time. “Various found and curated texts were used to explore, extrapolate and articulate different states of emotion and being,” he said. “This is also a deliberately slow and laborious process; the act of making, of drawing, of gesturing, are not only a driving force, but also a key and central aspect of my practice.”

“I’m an artist who plays with sound and voice,” says Vix Stephenson of their video-based work. “I make kind of weird films – I incorporate religious practice and I want my life and my art to be integrated. My work is slow, intentional, reflective.”

Stephenson describes their performance piece as “born out of a desire to film in the Peak District and interweave my love of nature and media”.

“The audience is asked to take time to stop and reflect, listen to the sound and allow the images of the landscape to encourage a meditative state, so often overlooked in our everyday society.”

Find out more

Sheffield Hallam’s Master of Arts show is open at Persistence Works:

  • May 16, between 18:00 and 21:00
  • May 17 – 19, 10:00 – 18:00

The entry is free.

The Persistence Works Gallery has ramp access from the street during exhibition hours and accessible restrooms at ground level.

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