Final hurdle before the big wide world for University of Chichester artists

Final preparations under way at the University of Chichester as the latest batch final-year fine art students embark on their degree show.

The show makes up a substantial part of their overall marks, but just as importantly, it helps focus them for the challenges ahead as many launch themselves as working artists.

Elliott Way and Alex Hopson

Elliott Way and Alex Hopson

As always, the students are full of enthusiasm for the course as they approach the final hurdle – and full of excitement about their future.

Keiko Iwamoto came to England from Japan in 2003, feeling that her native country was too restricted: “I didn’t feel I fitted in. In Japan I think people are expected to behave in a certain way, and I don’t like that group thing.”

She came to the UK in search of greater opportunities – and has found them, the fine art course in Chichester in particular.

“I wanted to do wood-carving since I was very small, and I came here wanting to do wood-carving, thinking that I was a wood person, but I was introduced to other materials such as stone, and that has now become my process. From the first year, I was carving stone, different types of stone.

“My work is just getting on with the carving without deciding what I want to make. I don’t sketch it out before. I find the form through the process of carving.”

And in that sense, she regards her work as a collaboration with the material – a fascinating process which she hopes she will take her to the next level with an MA in Chichester.

Also enjoying his Chichester experience is 36-year-old Italian Andrea Vassallo – despite tough times just recently which at one point left him thinking he might not get to the final-show stage. His 24-year-old nephew committed suicide a couple of months ago, a tragedy reflected in Andrea’s work which had already been focused on themes of life and death, following his father’s death from cancer in 2007.

Andrea’s work is a cast of himself, glowing white in a small dark room which you approach through black curtains. The feeling is of a morgue or perhaps an operating theatre.

“I try to keep it open (to interpretation)”, Andrea says. “My hope is that people will relate to the object.”

Fellow student Elliott Way, 22, has also endured traumatic times and now stands on the verge of monumental change. Born female, Elliott came out as transgender last September and has just started to take male hormones to help him towards becoming the man he is convinced he is.

Elliott, originally from Dorset, is finding art a great way to explore all the issues.

He started with textiles and then worked in print before moving into photography which he is using as a means to explore his own body.

“It has not been a fun year dealing with what is going on, but I feel like taking the photos and examining the body in close-up manner reassures me that even though this was the body I was born into, I don’t feel any less the man I feel I am.”

Chichester has been a supportive environment – and the course excellent: “I have loved it. It has just gone so quickly. It feels like yesterday that I was having the interviews. I have absolutely loved it here.”

The BA Fine Art Degree Show 2014 is on: Saturday, May 17 and Sunday, May 18, 11am to 5pm; Monday, May 19 to Friday, May 23, 11am to 6pm; and Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25, 11am to 6pm in artOne, University of Chichester, Bishop Otter Campus, College Lane, Chichester, PO19 6PE.