Some 40 art schools up and down Britain have selected the best of their degree show graduates and shipped their art works down to the capital. A smattering of London schools are also showing.
It provides a chance to buy art in up-to-the-moment styles priced, in the main, below pounds 1,000. Stylistically, the show looks like any contemporary art fair - there is hardly a contemporary trend that some student has not picked up on. You can spot the Rauschenbergs, the Whitereads, the Tony Craggs and the Gormleys. It is a student's business to try out the styles of artists he or she admires while searching for an individual voice.
The sculptors seem the strongest performers, many of them developing Pop ideas into new slightly politicised, variants - ecological concerns are prominent. Kari Vickers, of the University of Northumbria, has produced a life-size papier mache cow. 'She did it from memory,' her tutor told me admiringly. 'You see, she lives on a farm.'
She has also made a series of coloured etchings that imitate the naive paintings of prize pigs and other farm animals so carefully bred by late 18th century farmers. She has plastered these images around the sides of her cow and placed her on a carpet of plastic grass, marked out with pebbles as a maze. Her aim is to highlight how we manipulate nature; the maze is a reminder of the Cretan minotaur, the ultimate cross- breed. Her cow costs a mere pounds 750.
Nicoletta Comand, of Central St Martin's, has sculpted shelves of apples into human faces and allowed them to shrivel. She calls this The food I ate turned into flesh and coyly describes the price as 'negotiable'. Her fellow student Andrew Bird has no such inhibitions. His massive plaster and wood realisation of decomposing humans and bits of animals, a grand declamatory piece, is titled Every season of the flood I saw a god born from the buttocks of a cow and priced at pounds 3,500.
Another artist investigating the mysteries of nature is Miriam Lilley, of Loughborough. She has invented an imaginary nest which seems to have been built by some large insect; it has walls of grey papier mache and fragile shelves of tissue paper inside. She has cut it, like a natural history specimen, to reveal the interior. She is asking pounds 590.
Every style of oil painting is represented, figurative and abstract, analytic and expressionist. The oil sketches of Julie Bates, from Bristol, are particularly worth mentioning. Their crude drawing and bright colours are reminiscent of the early days of German Expressionism but her themes are individual: a Brylcreem boy ogling a girl with amputated legs, a he-man sitting on a tiger skin drinking cherry yogurt. There are four canvases of this kind priced at pounds 328 a time.
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