At university I studied Fine Art. Courses like this in the UK tend to focus on developing concepts and improving your work with critique from your peers. The artworks themselves can take any form. Students can work with painting, sculpture, performance, photography, or a mix of these mediums.
In the UK we don’t study a range of subjects with one or two majors, like in the US. Instead, we dedicate the whole three-year course to just one subject. It’s great to be able to dedicate yourself completely to one area of study, but sometimes I envy Americans who get a more general education in everything.
My best memory was when I put on an exhibition of food-based artwork in a rented exhibition space in the city center. Ten artists displayed their work alongside mine and more than a hundred people came to see it. The exhibition title was “Chow Down!”, a phrase that means to eat enthusiastically, or to eat a large amount. I asked for submissions from artists who wanted to take part and selected the ones I thought would best fit the show.
A Malaysian guy from my university’s illustration course displayed a collection of beautiful egg-shaped sculptures. They were made from all different materials encased in transparent resin, so you could look into them and see tiny swirls of sand, metal bolts and moldy bread.
My friend Sarah displayed a work of installation art. Her creation was a ham sandwich, placed on the floor with a broom on top of it. I wouldn’t know where to start in explaining what this meant, but it looked really funny. A lot of the works were comical.
My friend Jon did a live performance work based on a scene from the book Matilda by Roald Dahl. For the entire evening he sat at a table in the gallery space and slowly ate a giant chocolate cake. I think it was fun at first, but by the end he was feeling really sick. It was uncomfortable to watch.
My own piece was also a performance. I had a friend join me to prepare meals for the exhibition’s visitors in front of a live audience. We dressed up as cartoon chefs and drew on fake moustaches. All the dishes were made with unexpected violent motions. We used hammers to mash together a salad and put concoctions in the microwave designed to dramatically explode. The piece was called ‘Luxury Pie’, which captures the nature of it. Pie is a cheap food for common people, not something you would expect to eat as a luxury.
I was nervous about being in charge of a big event and directing a group of talented artists, but the exhibition was a success. The artists worked well together and helped each other set up the gallery space. My housemates helped me by selling snacks and drinks to guests in a side room of the gallery.
Remembering Chow Down, I can’t believe how many people came together to help me do something so silly. I really am lucky to have so many amazing friends.
peer (noun) – a person of the same age or status
medium (noun) – the form of an artwork
enthusiastically (adverb) – cheerfully and with high energy
encase (verb) – to enclose or cover something
installation art (noun) – an artwork made from mixed objects or materials and set up temporarily in a gallery; an artwork connected to the space around it
concoction (noun) – a mixture of ingredients or elements