Jane McNair (MFA 2)

A gathering of materials, there are so many, colours jostle, there are clashes and collisions, groupings and pairings. Some pieces stand out as themselves. Others make something new when they are together.

Different combinations depend on surroundings, grey stone floor, red brick, greens of grass, moss and leaves, purple heather, copper beech and buttercups, blue sky, white cloud, white walls.

Shabby cardboard slumps against a corner, sprawls on a floor, creased through use, and age, and unwantedness. But it carries colour JOYOUSLY, paint splashed and sploshed about with delight, the wonderful freedom of brush marks sloppily painted.

Colours are free to move and change, dance with the light, dawn soft pink and apricot, day bright gold and blue, hazy purple evening, moonlight, starlight…

Colours of childhood, boiled sweets and jelly tots, felt pens and fairy tale illustrations, flowers and gardens, fields and hills. The path through the woods, mauve, warm as dark heather, and all the tones through violet chocolate to orange.

Tinsel and balloons, egg cups and pipe-cleaners, streamers and ribbons, spirals and swirls, spilling over, flowing away, washing up on a shore.

Anything can happen.


︎ @janemarymcnair

Philippa Clarke (MFA 1)

Muddy boots and grubby fingers are indicative of Clarke’s studio practice and her investigations into contemporary landscape. Her paintings and drawings shift between forms of abstraction and narrative representation, exploring crossovers and distinctions on a variety of scales, from tiny monotypes, to large works on canvas and sculptural installations. The abstract work often involves sensory drawings that evoke the feeling of being embedded within the landscape, whereas the inclusion of photographic and printmaking techniques hint at human intervention. Marks are often erased or buried, leaving fragments and traces that emulate all-but-obscured features in the terrain.

Capturing the tonality and texture of the rural landscape is fundamental to Clarke’s approach. Yet behind the Romanticism of landscape there is another hidden aspect: that of kings and conquests, cultivation and food production, microbes and magic; the unseen rules and boundaries of power. Clarke seeks to challenge her own preconceptions in order to uncover the complex layers of landscape. In doing so she incorporates geological, sociographical and literary references into her way of working, both implicitly and explicitly in her application of marks and materials.

During ‘lockdown’, without access to her studio, Clarke’s practice has taken a figurative turn as she documents her everyday landscape in a series of daily charcoal drawings and writings. From a reluctant family walk, to a midwife setting off to work, the drawings reveal glimpses of daily life in extraordinary times.


︎ @philippajclarke

John Collett (Graduate Diploma)

John Collett’s work revolves around the fictional universe of ‘Esquivale’, a place in which humans are not the dominant species. Exploring different modes of storytelling and a variety of media – drawing and painting, sculpture, music and sound design, video, and narrative – Collett’s world-building project proposes hypothetical situations that differ from reality in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Esquivale presents comparisons between animal and human behaviour through snapshots of a world filled with all manner of sentient creatures, peculiar landscapes and curious events.

Collett invites the audience to form their own opinions on the attitudes and actions of the creatures of his fantastical land. He presents alternative trajectories of evolution and societal structure as satirical reflections on what our own world is and isn’t. His aim is to encourage reflection through an entertaining and engaging delve into utopian and dystopian fantasy.

Collett’s world-building is also informed by his education in historic craft practices, performing arts and linguistics.


︎ @johnecollett

Nina O’Connor (Graduate Diploma)

With a lightness of touch and pared-down palette, Nina O’Connor creates delicate, fragile, forms using natural materials. Combining stitch, weave and soft basketry techniques, her work ranges from intimate hand-held objects to large-scale immersive installations.

Drawing out and upholding values that nurture the self are at the heart of O’Connor’s practice. Her work is focused upon the senses, particularly the haptic, where information is gleaned by active movement of the hand rather than passive contact. Exploration of the surface texture is emphasised by simple construction methods that reveal the materiality within making. The process influences the fabric, without controlling it, creating an energy equally at home in both resolved and unresolved form. Aligned with O’Connor’s intention to allow materials their authentic voice, her tactile forms - sensed by the hands - foster a curiosity about the natural world and a respect for material processes.

Remaining in touch with the immediate environment through its cycling seasons and harvests, O’Connor is provided with an ongoing material for potential explorations in site-specific colour and sculptural form. Working from home during ‘lockdown’, she is enjoying sourcing local materials for eco-colour and hand-made cordage, working outside and in her garden shed.


︎ @ninasoconnor
Ruth Glasheen (MFA 1)

Ruth Glasheen’s work extends construction techniques developed through her experience as a textile maker and basket weaver. By combining specific materials – most recently paper and raffia – Glasheen creates forms that maintain their solidity and formal character even when removed from the ‘loom’.

The variety of three-dimensional forms created is partly determined by the structures upon which they are woven, from conventional tapestry looms to ‘found’ armatures of fencing and plant supports. Glasheen often supplements her looms with concrete forms of her own making, each articulated with rebar anchors upon which weavings are hung, stretched, or threaded. These partial structures are then brought together to form works on different scales, as sculptural objects, installations or site-specific interventions.

Glasheen, who hand-dyes all her materials, is also concerned with the perception of colour and pattern, especially how these imply and affect meaning. Her works pose questions as to the presence of coded information or hidden meaning, implicating the complexities of our visual understanding of the world around us.

The perception of a measurement of two metres, highlighted by the introduction of ‘social distancing’ measures, have become a recent preoccupation. Coinciding with the base measurement of the lengths of rebar she uses in her woven constructions, Glasheen is exploring this extrapolation of distance through her work, particularly in its placement in the environment accessible to her under lockdown.

︎ @ruth.glasheen

Ruth Heaton (Graduate Diploma)

Ruth Heaton’s work explores spatial complexity and perception, architectonic composition and colour. Influenced by Minimalist abstraction and the built environment, she works across painting, sculpture and printing to explore the relationship between form, material and space. This interdisciplinary approach reflects not only the methodical and technically informed precision of process-led work but also an intuitive sensibility in relation to drawing and colour.

Boundaries and crossovers between two- and three-dimensional practice are consciously explored. Sculptural lines transfer over into increasingly complex grids and visual systems within paintings, built up in layers in order to create a sense of rhythm and depth through the repetition of visual phrases, structure and tone. Order is quickly challenged by perceptual ambiguity, asking the viewer to navigate an uncertain path within the spatial complexity of the work.

Although the development of objects requires an immediate consideration of the technical aspects of making, this soon becomes a departure point from which to work more responsively. This necessitates a concern for both the intellectual and the poetic, and the tension arising between order and uncertainty.


︎ @rutheheaton

Phoebe Connolly (Graduate Diploma)

A celebration of place and the flora and fauna that exists within it lies at the heart of Phoebe Connolly’s practice. Using a combination of drawing and engraving, Phoebe works with line and light to capture fleeting imagery on surfaces as diverse as paper, wood, metal and glass. The engraved line is able to harness such delicate detail as to impart liveliness to line and illusion to form.

Having grown up in East Sussex, surrounded by the South Downs and Coast, the wild and cultivated landscapes of that region remain strong influences in her work. Using both close observation and working from memory, Phoebe’s experience of place is often intertwined with the existing narratives she discovers within the materials. The encounters she traces in line and light onto the materials create new narratives that explore the balance of diversity, power and fragility in the natural environment.

Phoebe’s work often begins with walking in the landscape, making preliminary drawings and collecting natural and manmade objects. Drawing on historical and scientific research methods, including traditions of meticulous looking and detailed analysis, she weighs up juxtapositions of the natural and manmade in order to encourage the viewer to see their environment in a new light.


︎ @phoebe.connolly

Trudi Browett (Graduate Diploma)

Trudi Browett’s sculptural practice brings together all manner of found materials and objects as ‘pseudo-domestic’ scenes that carry complex associations and emotions. Emphasising evocations of personal memory and cultural nostalgia, Browett draws out intertwined themes of vulnerability and care, danger and protection, escapism and fantasy, encouraging the viewer to reflect on their own experiences as part of their response to the work.

Incorporating painting, collage, printmaking and cast concrete, Browett’s installations imbue everyday objects with layers of unexpected and often unsettling narratives. Her carefully constructed scenarios are often elegiac, conveying fear and loss, at the same time as exposing layers of surrealistic humour, often in association with the workings of the child’s mind.

Browett worked as an Occupational Therapist for many years and draws on that experience in her studio practice. Her research into the role of memory and the impact of childhood trauma have led her to explore neuro-development and the internal mechanisms we use to contextualise or make sense of our experience.


Cathy Griffiths (MFA 2)

Inspired by walking in solitary accord with the immediate environment, Cathy Griffiths embraces the present with the rhythm of a steady beat. Her current work is rooted in a desire to capture the evanescence of her wanderings and to record the selective nature of her findings. Walking effects a light touch on the landscape and for her it encourages the experience of reflection and tranquillity.

Key to these ideas is the knot and reflections on the materiality of thread as an effective embodiment of memory. A knot is folded in on itself. It may be joined up and retrieved, undone and rewound, added to and subtracted from, but it has a structure that rolls and curves inward.

A feeling for the handmade process of working and the use of commonplace fabrics or threads allow Griffiths’ use of materials to evoke a quiet and reflective calm. She is developing works that combine thread structures with natural material fragments: ‘scores’ that effectively record and annotate a diaristic form of experience. 

West Dean College of Arts & Conservation
West Dean, Chichester, West Sussex
United Kingdom  PO18 0QZ