Tag Archives: Masters

May the plinths influence you: Katherine Fiona Jones

It’s that time of year again, and so yesterday afternoon I took myself along to see the Masters exhibition at Cardiff School of Art. I’ve never been very impressed with their Masters exhibitions and this year’s show is no exception; as usual it’s much more ‘Meh!’ than ‘Wow!’. That being said there are perhaps two, or possibly three, real standout pieces of work.

However, rather than give a blow-by-blow account of the exhibition I’m going to return to our old friend Katherine (Katie) Fiona Jones (aka KEA Illustration). You might remember this blog post about the awful artist statement of hers that we came across a year or so ago on a visit to the art school. Well Katherine is back again with another abomination of an artist statement. Brace yourselves this really is horrific…

Invisible Realms is an exploratory body of work that examines fertile and feminine spaces without resorting to explicit depictions of female anatomy in order to encourage an audience to suspend their disbelief and enter a realm of deathlessness, a realm of the invisible (Luna 2004, p.98). The work itself encourages the audience to interact with artefacts and objects that have drawn influences from ritual coupled with their metaphorical reference to contemporary beauty plights such as; crows feet, hair and cosmetic procedures. The underlying themes and motifs for this body of work is the uncanny (as defined by Freud, 1919) and ritual, which have been substantiated by my research into the themes of the Mari Llwyd as a strong and empathic female archetype for the modern and historical woman. Finally this body of work is hugely influenced by the fears of castration and its historical reference to beauty and power, which are particularly linked to Goddesses like Aphrodite and the Great Mother. This body of work asks you to suspend your disbelief and to interact with these plinths in order to encourage your dialogue and discourses on modern contemporary depictions of female form. May the artefacts entice you, may the plinths influence you and may the conclusions be your own.

You can view Katherine (Katie) Fiona Jones’ original statement online in the exhibition catalogue here.

The work in the exhibition was equally shocking, but I’ll focus on the artist statement first because the idea that the person who wrote this now possess an MA rather disgusts me. If I had been presented with this anonymously I would have attributed it to a weak BA degree student… at best!

Katherine Fiona Jones’ statement reads like a game of tautological bingo; ‘dialogues and discourses’, ‘artefacts and objects’, and so on. The student`could have written half as many words and said twice as as much if she was a capable academic. Instead she presents us with a collection of independent statements about ideas could possibly be related in some distant way;

  • The first sentence tells us that the work is about ‘fertile and feminine spaces’.
  • The second sentence tells us that the work is about ‘beauty plights’.
  • The third sentence tells us that the work is about the uncanny.
  • The fourth sentence tells us that the work is about ‘fears of castration’.
  • The fifth sentence tells us that the work is about ‘depictions of female form’.

Clearly the student believes that there is a link between, for example, feminine spaces, beauty plights, and the Mari Llywd (a hobby horse?); and I’m sure she’s read a page or two about each of these things.

Unfortunately Katherine displays a complete lack of academic intellect in tying these themes together. For example, what does the uncanny have to do with contemporary beauty plights in this context? It’s like she’s been playing games of word association. Anyone can list a number of vaguely related themes, but as student in an academic institution I expect to see evidence of cogent thinking as means to produce engaging artwork, not research for research’s sake and art for art’s sake.

A student listing everything she has ever looked at – just in case – does not help the spectator. These ideas should be distilled into an insightful, concise artist statement that facilitates a greater understanding of an artwork.

In addition to this Katherine throws in a citation at the end of the first sentence which should make any academic worth their salt cringe with disgust as there is no accompanying reference. Without a proper reference, and taken completely out of context the student has cleverly managed to paraphrase Luna in such a way that one might think that this is actually written about her own work. That’s not the case at all though, because as we can see, whatever it was that Luna was writing about was written in 2004.

This just further highlights her lack of academic sensibility and makes her look like she’s playing at being an academic, acting how she thinks she ought to.

She saves the best for last however… “May the artefacts entice you, may the plinths influence you and may the conclusions be your own.” (Katherine Fiona Jones, 2014)


What kind of call to action is this? It’s a really cack-handed attempt at enchanting the spectator before they have experienced the work. As I understand it a plinth is a stand, podium, or base, which in an exhibition setting one might expect to be supporting a work of art. Either she doesn’t know what a plinth is or she thinks that she has created some rather spectacular plinths that are works of art in their own right. Having seen her exhibition work I can reliably inform you that Katherine’s plinths are completely unremarkable and definitely not influential.

Katherine Fiona Jones’ exhibition work also makes it very clear that she doesn’t understand what a visual metaphor is. She references ‘crows feet’ in her statement which also appear in the show, literally not metaphorically. One of the objects on display is made up of dried crow’s feet. Really? I would even expect first year degree students to grasp visual metaphors!

Her statement and work (in my humble opinion) were by far some of the worst on display at the Cardiff Masters exhibition, but she certainly wasn’t alone in the level of academic and artistic ability that she displayed. I can only conclude that there is a lack of academic rigour in the assessment of these students both from the tutors who mark their work or external moderators who grade the work. Clearly the standards are low, whether this is the result of lecturers’ fear of actually failing a student, or their own lack of academic nous isn’t clear.

I would expect the work that is displayed as a part of this public exhibition to be the best possible work that a student is capable of producing. After all, it is the culmination of their Masters studies and any student would want to put on their best face. If this the best that Katherine Fiona Jones has to offer then god only know what the university’s criteria for grading work are.

Quite frankly, the idea that she has successfully walked away with an MA after producing this god awful display really angers me. It devalues those similar qualifications held by myself and others across the country, not to mention her peers. It was my understanding that an MA is an academic qualification, however, Katherine Fiona Jones seems to be the proof that all you need to do is pay your tuition fees, produce some work, and Bob’s your uncle!

I suggest that Katherine makes use of some external assistance to write her artist statements in future. The Arty Bollocks Generator would be a good start; it certainly won’t make her statements any less comprehensible or effective.

I was not encouraged to interact with the artefacts.
My disbelief was not suspended.
The artefacts did not entice me.
The plinths did not influence me.

My conclusions are my own!

UPDATE: I’ve been reliably informed that the tweet, linked to above, exclaiming Katherine’s delight at achieving her MFA was posted before the grades were given to students… suspicious, what?

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Art & Design Masters Exhibition 2012

We took the opportunity to sneak into Cardiff School of Art & Design at Howard Gardens earlier this week in order to have a look around their 2012 Masters exhibition. With smaller numbers of students studying at this postgraduate level Masters courses are held up as the flagships for their parent institutions. With this in mind we were looking forward to seeing whether this latest crop of students had produced any memorable masterpieces.

Those familiar with Howard Gardens will know that visitors are welcomed into the main gallery. This is a dedicated gallery space that hosts a programme of monthly exhibitions by both established and emerging artists. As with school’s undergraduate degree show earlier this summer this gallery space was given up to the exhibiting students for the duration of the Masters exhibition. In fact the main gallery housed an exhibition of work solely by MA Ceramics students.

We’ll come back to this exhibition space later though and instead start with a look at the work in the exhibition space behind the gallery. After all it’s better to finish on a high isn’t?

The exhibition space behind the gallery accommodated a mixed exhibition from students studying MA Fine Art, Masters of Fine Art, Masters of Design and MA Art and Design – no we don’t know quite exactly how all these courses differ from one another either.

With there only being nine students exhibiting across all four of these courses students work was scattered around the exhibition space making use of spaces that was most suitable for their work rather than being clustered together by course title as is sometime the case with the more jam packed undergraduate exhibitions.

The first body of work we encountered, by Jan Williams, was perhaps the highlight of this second exhibition space. We’ve come across Jan’s work once before but the work here was quite a departure from the traditional painting I’d experienced last time. One large wall was painted with geometric forms all in shades of white and the back wall was lime-washed. In the middle of the space hung a white painted wooden frame which could well have been the stretcher for a painting.

According the blurb accompanying Jan’s work she is interested in architectural forms and their relationship to memory and identity. This is quite apparent in the beautifully subtle work presented and in fact we found that the most engaging piece of work that she presented was a video documenting the lime-washing. Seeing the time spent working to repetitively wash the wall gave a good understanding of how the process could help the artist to contemplate her own identity.

The rest of the work on display in this second gallery space unfortunately left us a little cold.

Donna Lee Downe presented an MFA archive to which visitors were invited to contribute. This appeared to be cut up slices of paperwork and notes that she had collected throughout the course of her studies. The archive as presented was clearly a document of Donna’s MFA experience.

There was however, no direction for visitors; we were simply asked to make a contribution. As outsiders to the work we couldn’t really get our heads around the way in which shoe-horning visitor’s contributions into this archive was of any value to the project without any form of guidance. It seemed ill thought out and simply an act of audience engagement for the sake of it.

Paul Appleby presented a collection of photographs printed from glass negatives he found at the bottom of a cupboard full of junk. The act of presenting recently re-discovered images like this is hardly new and this presentation certainly wasn’t very inspiring. Of course there is a Romantic quality to old images like these but presenting them as the work of art themselves is tiresome. It’s a shame that Paul didn’t feel inspired to create some new work of his own as a result of this discovery.

Shaun Featherstone had created an installation based upon his Great Frock ‘n’ Robe Swindle newspaper which was an anti-Queen’s Jubilee publication. Obviously this exhibition was several months too late as the Queen’s Jubilee has been and gone and the work would have no doubt had more of an impact if exhibited at the height of the celebrations..The installation relied on a punk aesthetic to convey Shaun’s stance. This might have been effective in the late nineteen seventies but with the aesthetic having been popularised and made palatable by the fashion industry the impact of the work was questionable. We left the exhibition still undecided as to whether Shaun’s work was a serious stab at the monarchy or whether it was a tongue in cheek dig at those voicing their anti-monarchy opinions.

In addition to these art installations there were a number of other works by students who took a more design based approach to their practices. Unfortunately these were all let down by atrocious presentation.

Steven Coleman’s poster was slapped loosely across the wall whilst his panels of text were horribly mounted with grotesque bubbles of air between them and their foamcore support. Bobby Alkady’s name was hand written on his information plaque: clearly the student had forgotten to include this (some would say reasonable important) piece of information on his exhibition literature. Chris Moebus’s printouts were also horribly mounted.

There was also one sculpture constructed from magazines standing in the middle of two exhibition spaces that we were unable to attribute any credit to.

Fortunately our spirits were lifted as we headed back into the main Howard Gardens gallery. The MA Ceramics course in Cardiff is well regarded and it’s not hard to see why.

When recalling the show Sharon James’ ceramic sculptures are the first to jump into my mind. The sculptures were developed using 3D CAD software which produced the vividly coloured organic looking objects presented to us here. They were fair sized and somewhat surreal looking objects which gave us the feeling of entering into a strange world akin to Alice wandering through Wonderland.

Conor Maguire’s large black installation also made a lasting impression. It was great to see some work in this exhibition that really went some way to explode the idea that ceramics is ‘merely’ craft. The jet black sculpture was as far removed from the traditional pottery that the uninitiated may have expected to see as one could get. The work was comprised of elements including what appeared to be a brain alongside what could be read as a laden crucifix or even a pyre. This allegorical work provided a lot of fuel for thought.

The rest of the work on display fitted more closely with our preconceived idea of what a ceramics exhibition might look like but was totally engaging throughout from Alaa Abdullah’s Arabian influenced spheres to Laura Lillie’s objects exploring the processes involved in the creation and development of her work.

The exhibition of ceramics in the Howard Gardens gallery was produced to an exceptionally high standard as was the work on show. One can understand why the gallery was given over to an exhibition of work solely from this one course.

When the other courses involved in this postgraduate exhibition start to aspire to achieve the standards set by their Ceramics counterparts Cardiff School of Art will have surely have a Masters exhibition to be reckoned with.

Until then…

Cardiff School of Art & Design
Masters Exhibition
7 – 14 September 2012

You can view a digital copy of the exhibition catalogue as a pdf by clicking here.

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CSAD Masters Exhibition

We took ourselves over to the Howard Gardens galleries at Cardiff School of Art and Design last weekend to have a look around the Masters Degree shows. The exhibitions feature work by students studying postgraduate degrees in Art and Design, Ceramics and Fine Art.

The main gallery space through which we entered the exhibition housed work by MA Ceramics students and we were pleasantly surprised. I must admit that we had fully expected it to be an exhibition of ceramic vessels and figurines. What confronted us instead was an array of abstract ceramic objects and installations that certainly bucked the notion that ceramics is craft and not art. Work by Julia Rempel and Michelle-Rose Quinn in particular stood out as we explored the gallery.

One of Rempel’s exhibits consisted of oversized salt and pepper shakers fixed high up on the gallery wall with piles of salt and pepper beneath them apparently having fallen forth from the perforated letters on the top of the vessels. There was something of a fantastical quality to these shakers that perhaps could have been exploited even further. As we stood beneath them we were reminded of tales such as that of the Borrowers or even Alice in Wonderland as she shrinks before falling down the rabbit hole.

Quinn’s work consisted of what appeared to be items cast in clay which included a pair of boots, a pair of gloves and an empty coat hook. The objects were not coloured but all presented in a white ghostly finish. There was a really lovely subtle suggestion of presence without presence. There was a definite sense of time, and to some extent place, about the work that certainly set our imaginations wandering. Our only criticism would be not of the work but of the space allocated to it. Quinn’s work would definitely have benefited from having more room to breathe. This feeling was exacerbated by the apparently disproportionate amount of space that was allocated to the Fine Art and Art and Design students.

You would have to be beyond blind to miss Dom Williams’ work as you enter the Fine Art exhibition space. The giant, hot pink, plush toy in the centre of the studio space towers over visitors. The creature has an amplifier installed inside it and so could be heard grumbling and rumbling as its tail was agitated by visitors. Accompanying this was a graffiti wall upon which gallery goers were invited to make their own contribution to the exhibition with Posca pens and markers. Williams’ work seemed to us to be indicative of a trend that we’ve seen in the arts over that last year or so which has seen more urban art forms encroaching upon the world of fine art. It is something however, that until now we have not really seen within Welsh art.

Exhibited alongside these bright bold works were some more traditional drawings and paintings from Hilary Wagstaff and Cathryn Lowri Griffith. These works were interesting but ultimately didn’t grab our attention. Dan Griffiths’ video installations however, divided our opinions. The first that we saw was a dark room in which broken skateboards and old skate shoes were suspended from the ceiling. The floor was littered with reclaimed TV screens on which were playing videos which had been recorded whilst the artist had been skateboarding around Cardiff. On the wall was an inscription indicating the number of skateboards and shoes that Griffiths had been through and also suggesting that all of the recordings being show had taken place over a two year period. Although engaging, the presentation of the work did nothing to convey the passing of time that the title suggested was of importance and ultimately the work felt somewhat fragmented.

The second video by Griffiths was a reel that was over twenty minutes long showing him trying to perfect a hop on his skateboard. One could imagine some visitors dismissing it far too quickly (as we witnessed) assuming that because it featured skateboarding it wasn’t for them. However, the endless repetition was fascinating. It is something that most all of us have experienced at some point in our lives: repeating an action to perfect it, and after having spent some time sat watching the video we actually found that it became somewhat soothing.

Minna Oberg’s work was also rather fascinating. Entitled Failed, the artist presented a number of photographs of an installation that didn’t quite happen. It was clear that photographs had been taken in the space in which they were presented. It was lovely to see that artist had been able to see, and accept, that the work she had intended to present was failing and that she had the confidence to react to this situation and still produce something note worthy for the exhibition. It was a shame since we are rather partial to a little installation art but the photographs presented the possibility of such a work of art and in some respects allowed the visitor to imagine the finished work themselves.

There was further work on display on the fourth floor which included prints, paintings and drawings but unfortunately these left us a little cold. The fifth floor was occupied by just one artist; Alan Goulbourne. His exhibition consisted of a number of abstract paintings and prints alongside some large installations which included an effigy of tree assembled from the branches of felled trees. If nothing else you can clearly say that Goulbourne is prolific but ultimately he failed to inspire us on this occasion.

Overall we enjoyed our little excursion to Cardiff School of Art and Design for their postgraduate exhibitions. There really is a little something for everyone on display whether your passion is for ceramics, painting, sculpture, print making or drawing. There is far more on display than we have managed to covered here as some of the work was just not to our taste and some was unfortunately so poorly labelled that we have no idea whose, or in some cases even what, it was.

You should definitely go and check it out for yourself whilst you can. The exhibition is open now and will continue until the 24 September 2010.


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