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The University of Southampton
Winchester School of Art

Next generation of artists, designers and creative professionals embrace new technologies at Winchester School of Art BA degree show

Published: 27 June 2013

Some 280 final-year undergraduates showcased their work at this year’s Winchester School of Art BA degree show, one of the largest exhibitions of student art and design in the south of England. As in previous years, the 2013 show (17-23 June) transformed the campus into exhibition space for a range of exciting and challenging new works including sophisticated fashion pieces and vibrant textile designs, illustrations and animations, large-scale sculptures and interactive digital installations. With works exploring contemporary global and social themes, many incorporating cutting-edge digital technology, the show affirmed the School’s reputation as an international centre for ideas.

The annual degree show is a key opportunity for Fashion and Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fine Art and Graphic Arts students to demonstrate their skills and articulate the concepts underpinning their work to the public and to invited industry representatives.

Nick Stewart, Progamme Leader for Fine Art, says: “Our students have a rich and diverse experience during their time here and meet an amazing range of artists and thinkers from around the world, so they mature quickly and challenge themselves at a high level. We are constantly surprised by what students produce for the degree show and this year was no exception.”

Digital inspiration

As well as demonstrating students’ skills in traditional media, the show reflected a growing interest in the creative possibilities offered by new technologies.

“Artists have always been early adopters of new technology,” says Nick. “This year, more than ever, many of our students took their work into digital realms in extraordinary ways. I’m sure this is an area that’s going to develop, in terms of networking, social media and communication across national and international boundaries, so it’s an exciting time for an institution like ours.”

Fine Art student Lorna Barnshaw’s innovative installation involved a series of photographs that revealed hidden layers when viewed through a specially designed smartphone app. Ellie Maltby, also studying Fine Art, used 3D scanning and printing to create an interactive work that explored the public space in which the work itself was displayed. Ellie’s installation was one of many made possible by the state-of-the-art facilities available to the School’s students. “The idea that you can scan a building, turn it into a model and click ‘print’ to create it is quite new,” says Ellie. “I would never have been able to do it if I wasn’t studying here.”

Digital innovation also featured in Fashion Marketing students’ projects. “We ask our students to evaluate the critical issues in fashion from a marketing perspective, and the use of technology is one of the hot topics they identified,” says Amanda Bragg-Mollison, Programme Leader for Fashion Marketing. One project examined the gap between online and offline shopping experiences from a consumer perspective and many featured social media as an inherent component of marketing strategies. “We have had excellent feedback, not only on the quality of the visual presentations but also the depth of students’ strategic understanding of current fashion industry issues,” adds Amanda.

Contemporary debates

A recognition of wider societal issues was in evidence throughout the show, with students using art and design to creatively explore current debates. One example was ‘Chimera’ by Graphic Arts student Rebecca Higgins, in which she aimed to represent people’s fears about genetic engineering. “Fantasy and fiction have influenced what is imagined to be possible,” Rebecca says. “My contemporary Chimera is an exaggeration of the engineered monsters seen in films and games.”

The environment was another focus for students’ work. Emily Baker, Fashion Marketing student, says: “For my final project I came up with the concept of Sustaining Fashion, a pop-up event that aims to raise awareness of ecological sustainability among young people, as this was found to be the consumer group with the least knowledge of sustainability issues.” Emily’s project was one of three from the School to be shortlisted for awards at Graduate Fashion Week 2013.

Enhancing employability

The degree show is an important element of the School’s emphasis on employability, giving students valuable experience in presenting their work as well as exposure to creative industry professionals. This focus on future careers is a thread that runs through every programme and pathway offered by the School.

Sharon Williams, Fashion and Textile Design Teaching Fellow, explains: “From day one, all of our projects are devised to enable students to create a portfolio of work that is industry-ready. Students are able to show their work to industry at events like Graduate Fashion Week and New Designers. Students are also encouraged to take internships, and these can have a dramatic effect on their understanding of themselves as designers and their position within the industry.”

A multidisciplinary approach

New to this year’s show was the inclusion of work by the first graduating cohort of students taking the Graphic Arts Motion Graphics pathway. Justin Burns, Teaching Fellow in Graphic Arts, comments: “This year’s show offered further evidence of the integration of our learning pathways, with motion graphics, graphic design, illustration and photography exhibited alongside one another and many projects encompassing both traditional and technological media. This multidisciplinary, multi-platform approach demonstrates that art and design are often at their best when disciplines overlap.”

There will be more opportunities to see graduating students’ work this summer at events including:

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