In Haunt

A pair of pinstriped legs over 10 metres tall uncannily appeared one morning in Manchester Metropolitan University’s Benzie Building – a sign that the Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2019 had begun, showcasing cutting-edge work from this years’ graduating artists. The title of the show for 2019 was ‘Everything Starts From Something’ and this year could be considered even more striking than ever.

Featuring the work of over 1,000 students at Manchester Metropolitan University across art, architecture, design and media courses, Manchester School of Art Degree Show is an opportunity to find about more about some of the freshest talent working locally. Having run from the 8-19 June, this provided HAUNT Manchester with time to reflect on the particularly eerie and unusual ideas on show, and the artists behind them. A number have even gone on to develop designs for the upcoming Gothic Manchester Festival 2019 (to be held this October), on the theme of ‘Gothic Times’.

Here are just some highlights of the art and artists displaying at Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2019:

Jessye Persse

Jessye Persse

Themes of the gothic, death, madness and monsters emerge in the work of Jessye Persse – with a number of these designs to be used as the imagery for the Gothic Manchester Festival 2019. Often working in ink and colour pencil for evocative effect, Jessye has worked with a range of narratives and books, including Edgar Alan Poe’s The Raven, when creating her work. According to Jessye:

“My main area of practice is centred around storytelling, in particular, gothic narratives or fairy tales as I love working with dark and obscure subject matter such as murder, death and madness as they make for fascinating research and bizarre illustrations.

“I decided to work with Poe's narratives because I love his eccentric and absurd stories. I chose The Raven and The Black Cat because they depict animals (which I love drawing!) as ethereal beings that have come to torment humans which I think is a really interesting concept.

“I work predominantly using inks, watercolour and pencil crayon as these mediums allow me to create very atmospheric yet detailed illustrations and I often use subtle, limited colour palettes such as black or blue and white with one spot colour as this gives me the dark, traditional aesthetic that I like, with occasional areas of colour to add excitement.

“I really enjoyed creating the artwork for Gothic Manchester Festival. My idea was a literal interpretation of the theme "Gothic Times". I thought about an iconic Gothic Time Period - the Victorian era - and used traditional pocket watches and clothing to encapsulate the theme. As you can tell, I am more than happy for my work to be described as gothic!”

instagram.com/jessyepersseillustration

Imogen Ellerby Sansom

Clandestine

The creator of a three-storey high pair of legs which appeared overnight at the Degree show to powerful effect, Imogen has been studying Interactive Art and her work seeks to engage audiences, exploring ideas of impactful social change. What are the forces that loom over us? Are we living in terrifying times? The piece on display is called ‘Clandestine’ – underpinned by themes of political imbalance and  towering inequality – and Imogen spoke to HAUNT to tell us more about it…

 “Clandestine creatively responds to the struggles citizens face in our supposed democratic society, providing a visual representation of the profound imbalance of power. Politics is elitist, confusing and hard to engage with; I wanted to visually represent this in an understandable and accessible way. 

“The scale and absurdity of the piece is designed to attract attention, once engaged the audience should realise the more sinister (but ever relevant) message. I can only hope that this in turn prompts people to question the status quo and todays fractured political system. 

“The individuals Clandestine represents are capable of truly horrifying things. These monsters are manipulating human rights, capitalising and corrupting for personal gain.  We are living in terrifying times, hate and division is fuelled by these misplaced priorities of the ruling class. Whilst power is held by so few we must act as one to get our voice heard.”

instagram.com/the_occasional_creative

Michelle Shore

Michelle Shore

An artist and illustrator based in the Peak District, Michelle’s work often explores the wild and mysterious forces of nature and the power of landscape – with beautiful detail and depth. Whilst at Manchester School of Art she has been studying Illustration with Animation. Specialising in fine-line ink drawings, the interwoven inspiration of myth, folklore and stories can be seen in Michelle’s art. 2019 marks a busy year, as she has not only provided evocative illustrations for the Ruskin Map of Manchester (as part of the Ruskin in Manchester Festival 2019), but also imagery for the Gothic Manchester Festival. According to Michelle:

“I tend to focus on nature as I'm inspired by the beauty of the inner magic of the natural world and I try to illustrate this in my drawings. I live near the Peak District and am a keen hill walker, so I get a lot of my inspiration from the landscape, whether it's inspiration for ideas or a particular photo that I can use as a source later. Animals like owls and hares, which I particularly like drawing, inhabit those wild places and embody the mystery of those places. The darker/more mysterious side is where the magic is. Ink is a particularly good medium for illustrating as you can capture a flicker, a movement or an expression with a line. 

“City dwellers can see this magic too, if they are careful enough to look. The glimpse of an owl lit by a street lamp on a misty night, or an urban fox shimmering under a silver moon have a special beauty, and somehow seeing them in an urban landscape can remind us of a magic that still exists if you know where to look and how to see. It is so easy to forget the essence of the natural world when surrounded by glass and concrete, and when nature crosses from the wild of a natural landscape to a cityscape, it brings a little of the wild magic with it. 

“Telling a story is very important in my work. Every picture tells a story and I want people to look at my work and feel a sense of what the image is saying. If someone sees that moment that I've tried to capture and it speaks to them, then I've done what I've set out to do. Sometimes I don't even know the story I'm telling until I'm finished. It sometimes unravels itself as I draw, and that is something I love to see. Stories give us a sense of place and time, and art is the way in which I capture this. I enjoy working with narratives, finding a way to tell a story, depict a mood, a place, or a little piece of magic.

“The degree show is a culmination and celebration of 3 years of hard work, blood (usually in the form of paper cuts), sweat (deadlines) and tears (artist angst). You need to celebrate your achievements and the Degree Show gives you an incredible opportunity to say ‘this is me, this is what I do’. There are always things you wish you'd done differently, but that's the way you move forward. The School of Art is the only faculty where students' work is open to scrutiny by the public, which is both exciting and hugely terrifying. 

“I'm also thrilled to have submitted artwork for Gothic Times this year (the name of the Gothic Manchester Festival 2019). My inspiration for this came from a cracked hand mirror, and the line from Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shallot came to mind: ‘Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack'd from side to side’. The gothic lurks in the shadows, between cracks in time, and this gave me the idea for my designs. 

“I also designed the location map for Ruskin in Manchester: From Devils Dark to Beacon City this year.  I had a huge amount of fun pulling this work together. I tried to keep the buildings a little quirky to fit in line with Ruskin, and I was pleased with the outcome.”

https://michelleshoreillustration.co.uk/

Aleksandra Manastirska

Aleksandra

Combining the influences of Bulgarian folklore with the study of Illustration with Animation has led Aleksandra to create fantasy horror designs – artwork that often bursts with energy and certainly arrests the eye. A passionate gamer, Aleksandra aspires to go onto provide concept art for game companies. She reflects on her inspirations and the Degree Show:

I have always been fascinated with European folklore. It provides infinite creative possibilities and allows you to mix elements from nature, history and the world around you.

"I usually don’t find my work weird, but asking my friends, majority of them told me it was the work where I mix human and animals together. I tend to draw a lot of human and animal hybrids. The reason for that is I enjoy experimenting and seeing what will happen when I combine couple of them together. We have infinite imagination and no limitation, so I tend to go to weird paths when designing my creatures. Most people find them scary or weird, but it doesn’t bother me.

“I tend to draw things that interest me. This is important to me, because I can express my feelings and ideas better with drawing than with words. I enjoy creating and sharing my work and each piece takes on a life of its own as I draw it. 

“A lot of my work is a mixture of traditional and digital. I like the flexibility and control I have over shading and linework, so initially I use pencil or pen to sketch out the initial details and once I have my base I transfer it to digital to add colour and finishing touches. I like to utilise the colouring tools of digital software, because I can iterate quickly and have the freedom to experiment. Mixing them together gives me the best of both worlds.”

instagram.com/thealexim

Bjorn Martin

Goodbye Old Friend

Bjorn Martin is an artist and illustrator based in Manchester – his work often character-focused with vivid, even disturbing, detail and depth. He also is significantly involved in the city’s live art scene, capable of creating powerful paintings and drawings in the space of a few hours in front of an audience. These events have included ‘Therapy Session’ at Hatch on Oxford Road, and ‘Overdrawn’ at the Bay Horse Tavern. The piece above, titled 'Goodbye Old Friend' was created at one such Hatch Therapy Session event, with Bjorn completing the painting live in about three hours. It is inspired by a piece that people can see for themselves in Manchester Art Gallery - 'The Chase' by Richard Ansdell.  From inpsiring acrylic pieces to pen and ink sketches that pack a punch, we talked more to Bjorn about the dark side of his work…

 “I struggle to define a clear-cut reason for why I am drawn to darker themes and images. I have always had a fascination for the horror genre, be it in literature or film, and I feel like this has definitely transpired into my stylistic choices nowadays. I used to love drawing monsters as a kid and I still do. Would I describe my work as Gothic? Not entirely, no. A lot of my work has its roots in street art and comic books, and while there is a lot of elements to be found in my work that are reminiscent of Gothic culture, I would hesitate to label it as purely Gothic art.

“My techniques are very much traditional. I love painting and drawing, so any illustration I create tends to be a product of a heavily paper-consuming process. I do use Photoshop to touch up on colours and other minor details, but what drives me is the satisfaction I get from physically making an image.

“It’s hard for me to pin down a concrete list of inspirations, as these are ever-changing and ever-expanding. Regardless, here is an attempt at the task: I am inspired by the imagination of James Jean. I am inspired by the way David Hughes makes use of lines. I am inspired by the level of detail found in the work of Johnathan Wayshak, and I am inspired by the way Will Self strings words together. Bukowski inspires me in the way he writes about the world, and Ewan McLaughlin inspires me by his use of humour in his art. I would also have to mention the late Frank Frazetta, who inspires me not only by his sheer skill at painting, but by his unbelievable aptitude for visualisation.

He also reflects more on Manchester’s thriving live art scene:

“A live art session pretty much consists of me (or anyone, for that matter) painting live in front of an audience over the course of an evening. It would be unfair of me to talk about this without mentioning the guys at Overdrawn Art – they are a company based in Manchester that put together interactive art events at different venues throughout the city, and it was through them that I was first given the opportunity to paint for a crowd. Two years later, I have been a regular artist at their events - including the one they put together at The Bay Horse Tavern. The opportunities I have found here in terms of artistic development are incredible. There definitely is a vibrant and strong artistic community in Manchester, and I am both grateful and proud to be a part of it.”

https://www.instagram.com/bjornscribbles/

Alfie Sellers

Ghostlife

Studying Fine Art, Alfie Sellers has created a visually striking life style brand that is eye-catching and unnerving in equal measure: Ghostlife. Featuring a range of tightly-branded, unusual items ranging from speakers to the likes of packaged ‘spit’ and ‘dandruff’ – all carrying a kind of ghostly aesthetic – we spoke to Alfie to find out more. The concept itself is rather mysterious…

“Ghostlife is about authenticity and longing; how we all live a ghostly life of distance and fiction, interacting with symbols and other representations, through filters and fixed systems. It’s also about Hauntology. I am inspired by Limmy, Gene Ray, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Free Design, H.R. Giger, Space 1999 and 2000 Today.

“Ghosts are a stylisation, redefining or denial of death. Ghosts are death as life. Sheet ghosts and so on are a further stylisation on top of this; a stylisation of a stylisation, or a fiction on a fiction. I am using ghosts, specifically un-deathly, ubiquitous representations of them to discuss this act of stylisation, redefining and fabricating in general. I am not trying to debunk ghosts but alter, reduce and simplify the idea of ghosts (and other things) until they fall away or resemble one another.

“In terms of materials, the plinths were made with MDF and then clad in styrene. The plinth’s tops, their logos, the screen's frame and the cardholder are all perspex. The logos, screen frame and card holder were all laser cut from vector files using the laser facilities. The 3D models for ‘Insert’ and ‘Surround’ were created on Fusion 360 & 3D printed in acrylic at The Shed. The gum, nail clippings, dandruff, tissue, spit are all packaged in off-the-shelf baggies and vials, whilst the labels were created on InDesign and printed using an outside company. The stands are cut Perspex shaped using a hot wire strip heater. The video work was created on Premier Pro using found footage and elements created using Photoshop, Illustrator and Fusion’s rendering functionality.”

“The Ghostlife ghost is designed in the likeness of an inflatable ghost they sell at Poundland around Halloween. ‘Fanfic’ talks of a future or alternate today where we are the clientele of a corporation (distancing agent) that sells us vestiges of one another as if designer toiletries. It’s silly, futuristic alchemy. It’s dystopian and distant but I think it’s a very romantic vision in a way. Chewed gum, nail clippings, dandruff, used tissue and spit are typically thought of as disgusting things unless they are your own, though if you’re in love with someone (or a creeper) they cease to be disgusting. Spit can be sexy. There is something utopian about a future where we all long for one another’s debris and fluids indiscriminately.

“Ghostlife definitely talks of consumerism, though I think it is, or at least I’d like it to be less specifically about consumerism and instead about how truth or validity can, in our culture in general, come to seem.”

Please be advised that the above is just a small selection of the array of talent at Manchester School of Art Degree Show. Want to tell us more about your work? Please do get in touch at haunt@mmu.ac.uk.

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