Degree Show Review

A short review of two pieces of student’s work from the degree show at university.

For part of my assessment for uni we were given the mini brief of completing a review of two pieces of work from the third year degree show. We had to choose one piece of work from an illustration student and one from a student from another discipline.


I chose this piece from an Illustration student, Polly Colquhoun, because I liked that it was a 3D piece and I found it intriguing. I also liked the texture within the piece. This piece of work consists of 3 3D scenes that are displayed within a wall. The scenes are accompanied by text which are lines from a contemporary opera called Death’s Other Kingdom. The scenes are quite small but they are illuminated from within which makes them eye catching. All of the scenes consist of black prints on white paper or card. The scenes occupied a space that was quite hidden, this allowed the viewer to stumble upon these little glimpses of a different world. It also allowed the viewer to explore these pieces in the quiet as it was slightly removed from the rest of the show.

This work communicates quietly as the pieces are quite small and almost hidden within the wall. They are there to be discovered rather than there to exclaim their presence. This work is imaginative because it looks unique and consideration has gone into the process of designing and making it. The printing technique and the conversion from flat pieces of work to a 3D scene demonstrates skills. I find the piece captivating because of the little details within the piece and because of how simplistic and rustic the different components look.

The work is inviting and intriguing as it resembles little worlds there for the viewer to explore and experience. The work as a whole coheres well, all of the scenes were made using the same technique of printing and they are all in black and white which makes them fit together well. They all have text underneath which adds more intrigue to the work.



I chose this piece by an Artist Designer Maker student, Sofia Calatrava, because of the interesting way that illustration has been combined with ceramics. I also like the animated ceramic piece that spins to highlight the transition shown on the pot. This piece  consist of multiple ceramic pieces that have been decorated with illustrations of faces. This piece is about personality and emotions. It portrays divided feelings. All of the pots follow the same design, glazed white with dark illustrations. A mirror is used to show the opposite side of some of the ceramic pieces, which also demonstrates the split emotion theme of the work. Some of the pots are quite large compared to others which could show that some of the feelings portrayed are stronger than others.

The work communicates quite boldly, the faces on the ceramic are quite imposing and hard to miss. The illustrations clearly show a split or a conflict of the artists feelings. I think that this piece is imaginative because of the combination of illustration and ceramics which is quite unique. It also demonstrates a number of skills which are needed to produce this work. The purpose of the work is to portray the artists self-perception and I think that this is communicated clearly.

This work is intriguing and slightly unnerving because of the stark faces present on the pots. It encourages the viewer to question their own self-perception and think about how they view others. The work coheres as a whole because of the uniformity of the ceramic pieces even if the illustrations differ. The work isn’t hidden in its space, its noticeable and confrontational in the way that it demands people attention.

Constellation Reflection

My reflection on what I have learnt from the constellation module at university.

What I Have Learnt

During this constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I have learnt many things about analysing work and making connections. I have learnt how to effectively analyse other work, and my own, and use theories from authors and academics to back up my analysis. This has helped me to explain creative decisions within my own work and the contexts behind these decisions. It has also enabled me to understand how messages and ideologies can be conveyed through people’s work and in turn it has enabled me to consider how I could convey messages through my own work. I have learnt how to unpick aspects of my work in order to effectively explain why I have chosen to include certain colours, figures or motifs within my work.

By using different subcultures as mini case studies I have learnt what each subculture can teach and inform me about my own practice. From looking at the gothic subculture I learnt that you can take inspiration from other styles and influences in order to inspire your own practice and that inspiration can come from a range of different mediums. For example many aspects of the gothic style is inspired by gothic literature.

From looking at the hip-hop subculture I have learnt that objects and possessions can be combined to create new meanings and political statements and this can then be applied to my practice. I also learnt that the context in which you use or include objects can create new meanings. I also learnt from this subculture that history and heritage can influence design. For example the inclusion of traditional African clothing within the hip-hop subculture not only brings two cultures together but it is also used as a political statement about African-American history.

From studying the punk subculture I have learnt that my practice can be a way to ask questions about the norm and it can be a way to challenge it. I also learnt about “re-signification” (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson), how objects can be modified or used in a different way to give them a new meaning or function. I also learnt that I shouldn’t be afraid to break the mould when it comes to my practice. For example punks changed the meanings of safety pins when they used them as facial jewellery, as well as changing the meaning of the union jack when they wore it on their clothing or when it was used on posters.

I have also learnt many things from attending the keynote lectures. For example the lecture ‘Teenage Kicks’ taught me that every object has a cultural CV and a cultural biography. It also taught me how meanings can be applied to objects and how connotations of objects can change over time. I also learnt that objects have social lives and that there are stories and culture embedded in them. This has been able to inform my practice as I can now consider this idea that all objects have a cultural biography when including them in my work. Using this information I can convey information just through the use of objects and I have learnt that the context that these objects are in can also change the way that they are interpreted.

I have been able to use what I have learnt from this study group in my own practice, Illustration, as I now consider what I want to convey in my work more carefully and how I an convey it. For example, in my work from last term, The Fake News Machine, I considered the materials I used more carefully as different materials carry different connotations. I also put more consideration into the font I chose for my animation because I wanted it to convey a particular meaning of boldness and prominence. This module has allowed me to become better at communicating ideas and stories through my work which is an important part of illustration. It also encouraged me to question why I was doing certain things which in turn allowed me to explain my creative decisions at the end of the project when I had to present my work.


How I Learn

During my first term constellation module; The Body, I found it difficult to use theory to back up my arguments and statements in my first essay. I didn’t know how arguments and statements from authors and academics could be used effectively in my writing to support what I was trying to say. During this second constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I was presented with an effective way to analyse my work or others and and a way to easily include theories in my analysis to support what I was saying. This technique called ‘Cath’s Columns’ given to us by our lecturer Cath Davies was a simple yet effective way to analyse a piece of work in detail also allowing you to easily include the theory needed to support our arguments. This technique is made up of three columns, in the first column the image you are analysing is described, for example, the colours used and other details of the image and the visual motifs are identified. In the second column the connotations of these motifs are explained. In the third column quotations from books and papers are included that support the connotations that you have linked to the different aspects of the image. This system helped me immensely when analysing my work.

The university experience has developed me as an individual as it has encouraged me to question more when looking at my own and other people’s work, it has also allowed me to expand my way of thinking when considering why I have made certain design decisions within my practice. Constellation has taught me to question things which has made me more inquisitive as an Illustrator. It has also taught me to be more analytical when looking at my own work and others. I have also learnt how important theory is when it comes to my practice and how it can help me to explain my work to others.