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A Magazine for Sheffield

I Am: Hallam Degree show round-up

There are signs dotted around Sheffield City Centre, leading from the train station to various venues within the Sheffield Hallam campus, along with some a little further afield. These signs direct you to one of the largest displays of work by artists, designers and makers, not only in Sheffield, but across the North. I AM is the title given to this year’s collection of degree shows and incorporates work from a wide variety of courses housed at Hallam, but for the purpose of this review I’m looking at four courses that all fit under the canopy of the School of Art – BA Fine Art, BA Creative Art Practice (CAP), MA Fine Art, and its close relation MArt. Stretched across two buildings, the fruits of many years of labour can be found in contrasting sites, from the open, cavernous spaces of S1 Artspace’s main gallery and their expansive basement space to the more separated spaces of Arundel Gate Court (AGC), which for most of the year play the role of student studio spaces. I’m always looking out for the differences between the work produced across the different courses that Hallam offers. In this case, my job was made almost impossible, as the quality of work spanning the whole school was evident from the minute I entered the galleries. Certain works, however, did stand out. The work of MArt graduate Helen Fletcher could be found on a light grey wall within the highest gallery space at AGC and it was unavoidable from the doorway. Fletcher has mounted clear resin casts of mechanical gearboxes onto traditional wooden hanging plates, usually associated with hanging the fruits of a hunting trip to the countryside. This slightly macabre take on the advances in industry seems to give a nod to modern day living. Moving downstairs, I came across the CAP offering to this year’s feast, and artist Alex White presented one of the stand-out works. A silver framework surrounds a pile of jet-black sand. Buried beneath the sand is an electrical fan, with just enough emerging for the object to be recognisable. This combination of volcanic sand and a static fan allude to some ideas of memory or kinetic potential. The fact that the work itself is contained within a rigid cube makes me think of how ideas are housed in the mind, whether through the act of dreaming or through the complex task of figuring out how an idea can become physical in some way. This is something all artists grapple with. The work is complex yet simple, suggestive yet static and, above all, it stands out from the other work that surrounds it. Despite having already seen enough work to satisfy my appetite for a month or two, I ventured over to Trafalgar Street to visit S1 Artspace. The work that I first encountered will probably be the work that I remember for the longest. What Heliya Badakhshan presented seemed unquestionably contemporary, yet on closer inspection, and having read some information about the work, her intentions seem timeless. Badakhshan states that the work is far away from traditional descriptions and is more about feeling and experience. The main thing that makes it stand out is that it requires no previous knowledge of art history in order for the viewer to take something from it. It is raw, primal and honest. If I were to pick one work from the entirety of I AM, it would be the work of Heliya Badakhshan, but that isn’t an easy decision. As always, the students of Hallam have really pulled it out of the bag. If my experience at art school is anything to go by, the pressures of the degree show are immense. It all comes down to this. Under pressure, some people thrive and some people buckle. The students at Hallam must have shoulders of iron, because the work really does hold its own. )

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