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A Portrait of a Young Artist Series: Gradex 2014 looking forward

Text and photographs by Alésha Bredell. Posted on December 8, 2014.

Ute Francke. 2014. Jewellery Design. Jewellery objects

The 2014 Gradex exhibition, on display in the Visual Arts department of the University of Stellenbosch, is telling of the hard work by both students as well as the lecturers. A total of 40 students, combining three disciplines namely; fine arts, visual communication design and jewellery design, are included in the exhibition.

Dr. Elizabeth Gunter, head of the department, states; “The Gradex exhibition that we stage every year aim to look forward as much as they trace the histories of the young artists showing their work for the first time in public. These exhibitions also capture and (with any luck) pay tribute to those often only faintly discernible imprints of their lecturers’ teachings.”

Students and lecturers in a collaborative endeavour create successful results with lasting impressions on one another and on the visitors alike. Each student, in their specific fields, with their own interest and diverse approaches to the same media is remarkable. For this reason, each individual student has something unique to offer. The conceptual motivations of each student, as they have articulated in the Graduate Exhibition 2014 booklet, immensely differ from one another.

Jeanne-Marie Roux. 2014. Visual Communication Design. GUS Poster design.

The poster designs of GUS (Gallery University Stellenbosch) by Jeanne-Marie Roux are simple and sleek in design, yet when reading her blurb in the booklet a personal and human aspect in her work is realized. The intricate and beautifully crafted objects by jewellery designer Ute Francke blend personal fascination of mechanisms with the incorporation of ideas of movement. Simon Barnard’s poster designs in black and white rather focus on creating public awareness surrounding bipolar disorder where he aims to make “something invisible-visible.”

In the application of charcoal dust to paper, Rentia Retief creates work inspired by the Overberg agricultural landscape which results in aesthetical delight and a sense of harmony when viewed. Although the works on display do not necessarily connect with one another on a conceptual level, the works none the less flow together, which is evident of effective curation.

The works on display range from personal and emotional explorations, as in the work of Beate Jordaan dealing with the experience of her father’s blindness and Shona van der Merwe’s work exploring notions of loss and mourning, to Lauren Nel and Emma Duncan-Brown who use design in a playful manner to comment on or convey deeper messages. It is clear that the artworks of the students are all very dissimilar from one another. However, there is a consistency when it comes to the conduction of the professional skill set of the students, prevalent in this exhibition.

At the opening, Kathryn Smith, a lecturer, artists and curator in her own right, gave a heartfelt speech on the various aspects of what it means to be a young person pursuing a career in the art world. She spoke about topics ranging from public art and controversy, the pursuit of money in a capitalist society but most importantly she concluded, on a hopeful note to young graduates and encouraged students to dream, because, in her own words, “this is a dream job.”

The Stellenbosch BA visual art graduates of 2014 can confidently move onto the next stage, whatever that might entail, with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the knowledge they have acquired from their lecturers and also from one another.

For more information, visit www.gradex2014.com.

Alésha Bredell is a currently completing her Honours degree in Visual studies at the University of Stellenbosch. She holds a BA degree in Applied Design majoring in Photography at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography.


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