UCL Art Society’s ‘Escape’ Impresses with Talent, Variety & Fun

On Wednesday 11 March I left my flat in North West London in a huge rush. Midway through packing my suitcase for a trip to Vienna the next morning, I threw on my trusted Mick Jagger jumper over some silk joggers in major need of an iron, and hopped an Uber to Battersea. As much as I was looking forward to seeing UCLU Art Society‘s annual show, this year themed ‘Escape‘, I spent the entire cab ride slightly regretting having left the house considering how much I still had to do before my flight.

As my Spanish driver swiftly driver pulled up to The Gallery on The Corner, I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge queue of people waiting to get into the exhibition. I stood outside trying to get a glimpse of what awaited me within, and was immediately enticed by the sheet-clad female performance artist lying in the bay windows below what looked like a piece of fabric painted metallic silver, neon pink and blue. I knew right away this trek down South would not be in vain. (By the way, the performance artist turned out to be none other than Exhibition Director Ieva Matulaityte — can you say multi-talented?!)

Walking into UCL Art Society's 'Escape' at The Gallery On The Corner
Walking into UCL Art Society’s ‘Escape’ at The Gallery On The Corner

The vast range of genre visible through the window joyfully continued upon entry — photography, painting, video, photogram, drawing, installation and performance graced the two floors of the airy space, with Co-Curators Olivia Bladen (ArtAttack‘s own!), Edith Dormandy, Katrina Man and Alice Procter‘s thoughtful layout bringing everything together. When I found out from Olivia that all art submitted was accepted for the show, I beamed at the sheer success an open process can have. Give artists the opportunity and they will deliver. (This of course being one of the pillars of our mission here at ArtAttack.)

Two of my favourite works of the show were in the back alcoves downstairs: ‘People’s Breakfast’ by Juanma Garcia and ‘Join in’ by Gina Walker and Evangelina Moisi. The former, an installation consisting of a breakfast table covered in branded toast — think recognizable pop culture figures like Mao and Che and unmistakable logos like the Facebook “f” — was really a standout for me. I loved the way the toast seemed to mimic icons on an iPhone screen, clearly a metaphor for consumer culture and our society’s constant hunger for it.

'People's Breakfast,' Juanma Garcia, Gouache and wood glue on dried bread, 2015
‘People’s Breakfast,’ Juanma Garcia, Gouache and wood glue on dried bread, 2015

Quite different from the above, ‘Join in’, an interactive performance piece, invited viewers to splatter their choice of bright paint colours onto a giant canvas. Prior to this Pollock-esque splashing, the artists taped the phrase “fall/and fly” on to the canvas so that when pulled off, the white words would be clearly visible through the rainbow, group-painting effort. This piece brought a level of fun and interaction to the show, which I especially enjoyed. Also, there is something truly thrilling when a final artwork is partially the product of an audience.

Me doing my bit on 'Join in'
Me doing my bit on ‘Join in’
'Join in' (wip), Gina Walker and Evangelina Moisi, Performance piece, 2015
‘Join in’ (wip), Gina Walker and Evangelina Moisi, Performance piece, 2015

Another favourite was a wonderfully creepy painting by UCL Slade School of Fine Art 2nd year, Jake Lamerton. Entitled ‘How awful! At least we’re ok‘, the main subjects appear to be a perfectly contented middle class couple of grandparent age, until you see the real story — that from across their road a young man is jumping out the top story window.

'How awful! At least we're ok,' Jake Lamerton, Oil on canvas, 2015
‘How awful! At least we’re ok,’ Jake Lamerton, Oil on canvas, 2015

One of the most strangely beautiful works was ‘Second star to the right and straight on ’till morning‘, a series of photographs by Natalie Engerhorn in which the artist connected friends and family’s beauty spots with black ink to create patterns akin to star signs.

'Second star to the right and straight on till morning,' Natalie Engelhorn, Photography, 2015
‘Second star to the right and straight on ’till morning,’ Natalie Engelhorn, Photography, 2015

To be honest, there wasn’t one piece in the exhibition that felt lesser than the rest, and all together, despite the huge variety of work, the show proved truly cohesive, an impressive feat for the curators who had less than 12 hours to set up, and did not see some of the final pieces until that very day.

All in all, had I come upon ‘Escape‘ with no prior knowledge of the show, I’d never have guessed it was student run, open admission or primarily all-student work — the only clue that would have possibly led me to that conclusion being the clear plastic drinks cups left lying about dangerously close to a couple of the paintings. But knowing the exhibition was organised by a group of young university art students, did make it all the more exciting — if this is what we have to look forward to in the near future, I’m more than all in.

– India Irving

Escape’ was put on by UCLU Art Society and was on view for one-night-only at The Gallery On The Corner; For more information on UCLU Art Society, please use the contact page here.


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