Reflecting on works from 2015’s degree show at Central St Martins (MA and BA) it seems many of the artists have reflected upon the everyday in their practice. Stephen Johnstone (The Everyday 2008: 12) writes “the rise of the everyday in contemporary art is usually understood in terms of a desire to bring […] uneventful and overlooked aspects of lived experience into visibility.” Hence we will assess the ways in which these graduates look at areas of everyday life that do not normally gain attention.
Jean-Paul Moreira has painted a selection of road signs, commonly seen in everyday travel. This ‘holy’ triptych consists a national speed limit sign, a roundabout sign and no through road sign. These might suggest the way his practice is going at different times, full steam ahead making, going round in circles or stuck for ideas in a dead end. Hence it reflects the everyday life of the artist, much as Maurice Blanchot (Everyday Speech 1962 in Johnstone 2008: 34) said “… the everyday is what we are first of all, and most often: at work, at leisure, awake, asleep, in the street, in private existence.” Moreira’s work also signals an interest in travel as in the psychogeographic experiments of the Situationist International, and the dérive (which translates as to drift). By extracting the road signs from the street and using their image in the gallery space we are asked to view them as aesthetic works over being communicative symbols.
Magda Skupinska has used everyday foodstuffs as materials for painting and sculpture, referencing still life with a contemporary twist. Juncture incorporates fruit into sculpture much like Jeehee Park did in 2014’s Slade MA show. Meanwhile her abstract paintings that seem to somewhat reference Color Field Painting in their textural contrast between unprepared rough canvas and impasto painted chilli, turmeric and chocolate, which could possibly indicate the contrast of Skupinska’s experience of life as an artist with that of cooking and eating.
Jou-Yin Wan has painted a series of depictions of everyday life in her Daily Life series like scenes of people on buses or in bars, picturing their form and clothing yet leaving their bodily features blank so that the viewer reflects upon being the subject, participating in mundane activity. Taking the example of traveling on buses this reflects everyday commuting, making this unnoticed time and travel noticeable, demonstrating use of the dérive, more directly than Moreira, to recall her experience of the city, which may contrast with her home culture.
Similarly Jessica Windhorst reminisces everyday surroundings from her past in her painting I Miss You Mickey. However this is not a dérive, instead we are invited to consider her reflecting solitarily through the clinicality of this image that is not everyday, symbolic of moving in or out, with our focus drawn upon an empty chair.
Molly Blunt’s Sub Rosa uses once everyday plaster ceiling roses, the quantity reflecting their commonplace, to suggest the ceiling is bearing down on her, the weight of the world being brought upon the artist by the importance of this exhibition. The sculpture lying on the floor, there is no attempt to lift this weight as a figure of Atlas might. Likely reflecting long periods of contemplation in a room with a ceiling rose, Blunt draws out attention to these sculptures that usually lie in the periphery of our vision.
There could also be an everyday nature to Rikki Turner’s work, Untitled (Lacuna), formed of 72 aluminium tiles, each abstractly painted, these could have been produced daily, or at least demarcating time like the way On Kawara (who recently had a retrospective at the Guggenheim) made daily series such as paintings of the date, the ‘Today’ series. Meanwhile the choice of paint used and the intensity of brush marks may reflect the artist’s mood like Abstract Expressionists.
Ben Highmore writes in Everyday Life and Cultural Theory (2002: 3) that “The non-everyday (the exceptional) is there to be found in the heart of the everyday.” Indeed the works being discussed are those that stood out amongst the show.
What does it say about contemporary society that many of this cohort are interested in the everyday? Contentment with life under the recently ended coalition government, such that politics are not so important to the artists perhaps? Perhaps instead it is a result of institutionalisation at the university. Highmore (2002: 5) says “If Western modernity can be seen as the emergence of new and different temporal experiences, then, for the most part, these experiences are connected to an institutionalized world of work and organized instruction.” However these artists have clearly co-opted into the institution of the college and the institution of art unlike artists such as Andrea Fraser who critiqued art gallery structures.
Laurie Langbauer notes (The City, the Everyday, and Boredom: The Case of Sherlock Holmes, 1993: 81) that “The boredom of everyday city life is the boredom of the assembly line…”. Hence it seems there is a level of boredom present among these students, Kyungmin Cho staring at windows repeatedly, yet not through them as there is no horizon visible in these paintings, perhaps reflective of everyday life in a city basement flat. Nicholas Serota (The Everyday: A Conversation 2000 in Johnstone 2008: 76) said “I think the difficulty for many observers of contemporary art is to understand that the everyday in art is in itself an insight rather than necessarily a representation.” As such, Kyungmin Cho offers the viewer the opportunity to experience boredom in a similar manner to the artist’s experience rather than a representation of boredom, although Cho’s paintings have an aesthetic quality that is pleasant to absorb, carefully studied, inviting the viewer to pass time looking at the image of an everyday window in a way that in everyday life we would normally look through the window as though it were not there, making the overlooked structure visible.
Karl Marx writes (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy -Volume I, 1867, translated by Ben Fowkes, 1976: 548) that “Factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost, […] the machine does not free the worker from the work, but rather deprives the work of all content.” Perhaps hence these young artists address the everyday because they are exhausted from doing part time work in areas such as retail to support their studies as tuition fees have risen. Furthermore this would explain the minimal abstractness of Turner’s piece, its production itself a conveyor belt of manufacture. However Highmore (2002: 19) writes that “Boredom can affect the body and mind as a form of existential and physical tiredness.” So their interest in the everyday could result from exhaustion from either being over or under worked with different artists in either situation.