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Installation view of several paintings and one large quilt hung on white wall

London Grads Now at Saatchi Gallery

Written by Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date 24 August 2020

Saatchi Gallery invited the College to take part in London Grads Now, its celebration of the 2020 class graduating from London’s art schools. We speak to Mazzy-Mae Green and Greta Voeller, students on MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, who took on the challenge to devise and produce an exhibition of their fellow students’ work all in a matter of weeks.

Having worked together previously, the duo set about researching the graduating work on the online Central Saint Martins Graduate Showcase. Comparing their individual lists of artists and designers they saw immediate overlap and talking through those moments of crossover, Voeller and Green began drawing out the exhibition’s concept.

“Much of the work has this melancholic but also hopeful feeling,” says Green, “it made us think of nostalgia redefined as not longing for the past but a hopeful feeling about continuity… It’s important for us to challenge dominants perspectives and stagnant meaning, for us to present a concept – but also works – that are breaking down boundaries.”

Installation view of several paintings and one large quilt hung on white wall
London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (Photo: Justin Piperger, image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London) Caption

The collection, titled Moving Past, Moving Closer: Nostalgic Encounters, is bound together not by a subject but a sentiment. “We really liked the idea of ‘solastalgia’,” says Voeller, “an emotional response to changing environments. It’s made by combining ‘solace’ and ‘nostalgia’ so it’s the feeling of being nostalgic towards changes in physical environment around you. We moved away from that in its specifics but kept hold of this idea of something that feels like home but doesn’t limit you and doesn’t make you repeat yourself, instead it fuels you.”

Across the selected works there is the exploration of borders and boundaries, be those of realities colliding or the body as a site where the self meets the world. Inspired by the tale of Narcissus, Alexander Dixon, MA Fine Art, creates composite images which bring two distorted realities together, part emergent and part erased. Bunmi Agusto, BA Fine Art, explores the self through painting reflecting on both the cultural and biological connotations of terms like “alien” and “hybrid”. Also graduating from BA Fine Art, Femi Adeleye explores digital image-making, questioning optimisation and memory by pushing software to “work badly to simulate a future decay”.

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    London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (Photo: Justin Piperger, image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London)
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    London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (Photo: Justin Piperger, image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London)

Bodies are a recurring motif. Giulia Federici, MA Fine Art, combines cling film and plaster to present limbs glitching out of a wall, seemingly trapped within, while Rowan Riley, also MA Fine Art, presents Leg an embroidered sculpture that brings embodied experience of pain and sensation to its surface.

The work selected isn’t confined by discipline either; BA Graphic Communication Design graduate Jahnavi Inniss presents a huge handmade quilt, commemorating names of Black British people who’ve made meaningful, but as yet unrecognised, contributions to British history.

While the exhibition is defined by concept, it also represents Central Saint Martins within the ecosystem of London’s art schools – the College is exhibiting alongside the Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths, the Slade and other UAL Colleges. “It definitely expresses something about CSM,” says Green, “something we’ve noticed quite strongly – an interdisciplinarity, very conceptual and non-traditional. That’s reflected across the work here.”

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    London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (Photo: Justin Piperger, image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London)
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    London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (Photo: Justin Piperger, image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London)

The project began in late July and by the last week in August, the two curators are installing work in the gallery, the schedule itself has been a feat. Initially working remotely and in different countries, Green and Voeller were selecting through a combination of digital imagery and imagination so finding themselves in a gallery for the first time in six months, unpacking and confronting the physical works was a peculiar experience.

“It’s been a bit of a surprise and shock at the same time but we’ve truly enjoyed it.  We’re passionate about this kind of work. For me, working with Mazzy has been an absolute pleasure… To be able to put our brains together. It’s rare that you can get to such an intimate level with someone, when we’re at such a physical distance, and make something so personal and close to home.”
Greta Voeller

Full list of exhibition artists and designers: Jacqueline Nicholls, Heini King, Alexander Dixon, Femi Adeleye, Tijana Petrovic, Li Chen, K Blick, Bunmi Agusto, Huiping Yang, Rene Matić, Hesi Glowacki, Matthew Dommett, Teresa Zerafa Byrne, Selin Uyar, Katy Gardner, Abby Wright, Charles Binns, Jenny Klein, Giulia Federici, Jahnavi Inniss, Rowan Riley and Lorna Carvill.

Moving Past, Moving Closer: Nostalgic Encounters is part of London Grads Now, a selling exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, 3 September – 11 October 2020. The graphic identity for the entire Saatchi show has been designed by Abbie Lilley and Lili Phillips, also graduating this year from BA Graphic Communication Design.

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