University of Chichester fine art degree show

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Multiple casts of 24-year-old Katana Ashby’s head find her mouth open mid-scream. In each case, the mouth has been filled with concrete.

As Katana explains, her art is the means to explore the pressures on women in today’s society.

It can be viewed as part of the final-year BA fine-art degree show 2015 at the University of Chichester.

“I am looking at the idea of what it means being a woman, what it entails, how we are encouraged to act and how we are treated for acting that way.

“I am looking at the idea of femininity and all the connotations that come with it. I take influence form film and popular culture and compare it to the historical representation of women.

“There are so many pressures on women. I am looking at the typical roles for women. I am looking at the idea of beauty and at the idea of being a mother and how we are constantly portrayed as things to look at.

“My work is called Seen and Not Heard. I am looking at these roles and trying to deconstruct them.

“I have started using the mouth as a symbol for woman. I am looking at the way the lips have been over-sexualised, how mouths have been made to become a symbol of sex rather than a symbol of our voices.”

Katana has explored the notion through performance art in which she has tapped over her mouth.

She has also explored the idea through videos, some of which have been taken off Youtube because of the suggestions of violence they contain. More details on www.katana-ashby.com.

For the degree show, she is expressing it through the concrete poured into (her own) open mouth in the casts of her own head.

“I wanted the sculpture to capture the feeling of being trapped, of not being able to speak.”

22-year-old Alice Samways, from Oxford, is another student who has made the most of her time in Chichester.

“I like the fact it is quite a small art department. Working here you get to know everyone. It’s like a real community, and you get a lot of interaction with the tutors, much more than you would in a big-city university. It’s very human here.

“You get a lot of help when you need it, and you get to realise what you want to do. I have been able to try a bit of everything and focus it down to what interests me.

“My work is mixed media. It doesn’t just use paint. It uses grit and sand. It’s very textured.

“I use plaster and all the stuff that we have swept up off the floor, mixed up with it and with paint and natural things like dead leaves and bits of dead plants. It’s about entropy.

“And then once I have mixed the materials together and built up the surface, I let people walk over it so it cracks up. When you are making a painting, you are trying to take control of your materials, but with time it falls apart. With this, I love the fact it is not permanent.”

South-east Londoner Gabby Simon, 21, is a video artist on the course: “It’s what I have been doing for the past two years.

“I started off doing performance art and looking at the body and our relationship with space, how we moved about space, the areas we live in and inhabit.

“My work has turned into trying to affect the body in space. I like to play around with our perceptions and create an environment that is intriguing and challenging.”

Gabby will use projections on opposite walls to immerse the viewer in black-and-white flickering light: “It’s like the experience of the space moving around us. It’s about giving life to the static.”

After the course, Gabby will be returning to London where she would like to work in galleries, maybe curating. She is also contemplating an MA.

The course at Chichester has given her confidence for the future, she’s delighted to say –a great starting point for all the challenges still to come in her career.

“When I came here, I thought I was going to be a painter, but when I started, they gave me so much freedom. At school, it is just ‘Draw this! Paint that!’ When I got here, I thought I would try to do a bit of everything.”

The BA fine art degree show 2015 is in the artOne building on the university’s Chichester campus Monday to Friday, May 18-22, 11am-6pm; and Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24.