Shades of blue and green come together in a tufted wool wall hanging weaved with strands of wheat

Our Journal

Unique creativity of Extended BA students shines in Summer Show

Student Ambassador and first-year BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking student Chris Stone has been visiting our Summer Shows to see some of the diverse outcomes and creations of our graduating students. Here are his thoughts on the 2022 Extended BA Summer Show.

As a proud former Extended BA student, I make no apologies for stating that this was the Summer Show I was looking forward to the most this year. Prior to the private viewing on 16 June, I was transported back to our show last year. Produced under the restrictions of the pandemic, it was a testament to the creativity of the students and the boundless positivity of the motivational course leader, Helen Markes. I was keen to see how the staff and students have responded to the returned freedoms and unrestricted studio access of the past year.

Of course, they responded magnificently. The ‘View 35’ show (named to reflect the number of students exhibiting work) not only showcased the unique creativity and innovation of the students, but also provided new perspectives that challenge the viewer to look at the world in a different way. I will mention some of these works to illustrate the point, but I am not singling anyone out. All of the contributing artists are fascinating and highly individual.

Lecturer Helen Markes smiles up at Ross Middleham from the Met Office as he names the winners of an award

Met Office Content & Social Lead Ross Middleham gives out awards to Extended BA students alongside Subject Leader Helen Markes

Plymouth’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Sue Dann, who was present at the event, told me that she felt some of the work had the potential to change viewpoints. She mentioned how Rebecca Alford’s ‘Memory of Events’, made to reflect the gaps in the artist’s own memory, provided a symbolic view of her father’s dementia. My father had dementia too, so I knew exactly what she meant. Rebecca’s work really resonated.

Helen Butland’s ‘Eco Arms Race’ is a triumphant, tactile illusion and a reminder that art can affect all of the senses. Vases that look fashioned from opaque glass are in fact made from supple and collapsible latex. If that wasn’t enough in itself, I also discovered that the work evolved from the artist’s playful contemplation of escalating levels of human latex allergy.

Work by Rebecca Alford which shows white paper discs with black paint dripped over them in a gradual pattern
A woman examines a light orange coloured vessel made from latex
A fridge door shows magnets and hanging staff work cards on lanyards

Left to right: Rebecca Alford, Helen Butland, Darren Anthony

I am always drawn to politically motivated and topical art, so I was very taken with Darren Anthony’s ‘Polar Opposites’, comprising collages of found photographic material that juxtapose the everyday experiences of ordinary people with the daily atrocities of the war in Ukraine. The work also includes a fridge door with some thought-provoking and challenging magnets and adornments.

“the Extended BA has transformed me; I saw myself as a capable maker before the course, now I feel like an artist”.
Helen Butland, Extended BA student

Jasmine Barton’s beautiful wallpaper is powerfully disarming when you take a closer look. ‘Smear Tests' is a remarkably mature and bold statement about the embarrassment suffered by many women when they attend medical appointments. The artist has sought to normalise and celebrate the beauty and diversity of the female form.

The diversity of work is incredible - from Max Wilson’s cleverly reimagined oil barrel and chairs, to Dorron Britz’s suspended sculptures; Joanne Gages’s wood carvings to Benjamin Younes’ fascinating short animation, exploring the rigours of physical and emotional self sufficiency.

My Extended BA year felt like a life-changing event, as I progressed from green, raw rookie to serious student and emerging artist. This sense of transformation isn’t lost on the current cohort. Helen Butland told me that, as she now progresses to her chosen degree course, “the Extended BA has transformed me; I saw myself as a capable maker before the course, now I feel like an artist”. Similarly, Nate Connor said the course has “opened my eyes to what is possible. I used to just draw. I’ve done so much more than that this year.”

White misshapen sculptures hang from the ceiling in a white studio
Max Wilsons sculptures show a black chair and a wooden chair with tall five to six foot legs
A young woman in dungarees wears headphones whilst watching an animation on a screen within a busy exhibition space
Joanna Gages woodwork are long forms in various shades of wood leaning on a white shelf

Left to right: Max Wilson, Dorron Britz, Joanna Gage

Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader Helen Markes expressed much enthusiasm and respect for the students. She told me that everyone had contributed to make the show a success. The highlights of the year for her were the sense of collaboration and participation. She said the students were “heart warmingly supportive of each other”. Working alongside Helen is Barton Hargreaves, who remarked on the transformation observed in the students during the year. He says the course enables students to “take control of the creative process.”

Having experienced the Extended BA year myself, I agree with the sentiments of the staff and this year’s students. The ‘View 35’ show is a remarkable testament to all of them and the qualities of experimentation and exploration that underpin the course. I wish all of this year’s students every success as they progress through their studies at Arts University Plymouth. I also hope the Extended BA course continues to thrive and in turn transform those who are lucky enough to pass through.