Ranging from projection and painting to sculpture and installation, the whole span of contemporary art forms are on show at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies as the class of 2022 mark the end of their time at university with their final degree show, Sitting With It.
After recent years have forced people to take stock of life decisions, Sitting With It prioritises rest over rapidity and asks you to sit with uncertain concepts.
George Storm Fletcher, a 24-year-old student from Ely, Cambridgeshire, is exhibiting Magnolia which, incorporating print and performance, centres on a coffin sitting in a magnolia setting.
Since the sudden death of their father in September 2020, Fletcher has sought to stimulate conversations about death through text-based public interventions, but is now using a number of forms for their degree show work.
“I wanted to look at loaded objects,” Fletcher said.
“As soon as you see a coffin, you think ‘body’, and then you go ‘dead body’, and then ‘death’.
“I’m playing with that, because it is a coffin - but it's also not a coffin.
“I think these symbolisms that we put on objects come from nowhere, to some extent. Why? It's just made of plywood, it's not a special thing. I spent hours making it - but it's not special.”
Fletcher, whose work Force Your Parents To Make Funeral Plans will be exhibited at the Royal Academy this summer, has mixed feelings about the degree show bringing their studies to a close.
“It feels very exciting - I'm very excited for everybody to come in and see what we're trying to do, but it actually just makes me want to keep doing it, and to stay here!” Fletcher said.
“It’s a real shame, because about three months ago, we all started coming into the studio and having these conversations that are so important and make you feel so good.
“But then we’ll have to clear out of the studios and we won’t have that space any more.”
In a studio along the corridor, Zoe Ley, a 22-year-old student from London, is also reaping the rewards of such conversations as she uses mosaic cutters to create hundreds of little pieces which will eventually comprise her degree show piece LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, 2022.
“I have been a lot more open to using different resources in my third year,” Ley said.
“But what is different about this year is people coming in and being able to discuss their ideas and say ‘oh, you should use this material’ - the technicians suggested I use jesmonite and I hadn’t thought about that.”
Formed using jesmonite, tile adhesive and grout, LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, 2022 is a Roman-inspired mosaic depicting a skeleton with a wineglass emblazoned with the phrase ‘Live, laugh, love’.
“It’s all about mimicking and using my own visual language to make something that looks like it could have been excavated, that is kitsch when you look at it closely,” Ley said.
“People trained their whole lives to make mosaics, and it's a very permanent material.
“But now we put this phrase on materials like plastic or just on decor around the house. It's quite an interesting contrast.
“I feel good, I feel like it’s all come together in the end.”
After the excitement of the degree show is over, Ley is looking forward to exploring the thriving arts scene beyond the walls of the school.
“I really like the atmosphere in Leeds,” she said.
“I think the art scene here is really good at the moment - there are so many places that have studio spaces, and so many events going on that I always miss because there's just so much to see.
“So I really want to stay and get a bit more engaged in that.”
Fletcher also intends to stay in Leeds, though they’re already feeling nostalgic about leaving the studio behind.
“I’m staying here in this beautiful city, I'm going to look at doing a Masters because it feels like this is what I’m meant to be doing, and I’ll do some trade stuff on the side,” they said.
“I never feel happier than when I'm just seeing people making stuff, giving people second opinions.
“It's the best.”