0.27 Degree Show
The graduating students of 2017 chose to mark the significance of the completion of their degree by using a title which references the legacy of previous degree shows at this institution. They are indeed the 27th group of students engaging the public in stimulating and curious artworks since a fine art degree course existed at the University. There is a maturity and strong sensibility in this decision, indicating that they are aware of their role in this accumulation of cultural output and that they themselves will form part of that legacy.
In a contemporary world, which is so frequently unsettling in terms of socio-political issues, the students, across the board, are driven to reflect and comment on the times that we live in and the forces that surround us. It is a testament to the whole group that they are thoughtful and considerate about what is happening around them, at a local, national and global level. This is done, not with a dogmatic or absolute position but, with a humble, thoughtful curiosity, often focused inwards on their own concerns but, importantly, with an openness towards their audience.
Technological and commercial forces are highlighted in a number of works, where the impact of products and digital forms of engagement and communication are scrutinised and reflected upon. They are able to reflect on the consequences of these forces in terms of personal and societal identity. They embrace the contemporary world whole-heartedly but at the same time do not take it for granted, or as a fait accompli; they see the potential to positively contribute to their, and our, future through public engagement and discourse.
The role of the artist in contemporary society is writ large as a concern, as the heat of the increasing marginalisation of the arts within education and society is felt amongst the students. Thankfully Stoke-on-Trent's bid for the UK City of Culture 2021 reminds us of the value and enrichment of cultural engagement for society. The region is best known for the role that the arts have taken in its industrial heritage and its contribution to popular music. What has not been so vocally recognised is its contribution to culture in its wider contexts, including contemporary art. Alumni from the Fine Art course at Staffordshire University have exhibited their work internationally in some of the biggest institutions, a recent graduate is testament to this - having exhibited at Tate Modern.
We hope that many of our students will remain in the region as the Stoke-on-Trent prepares itself for the City of Culture bid, contributing to the cultural life of the city both in this specific context and for the future. We wish them well in whatever they undertake in the future and trust that they will continue to fight for the value of culture in society, and challenge the forces that seek to undermine this, wherever they are and whatever they may do.
Professor of Fine Art