The pandemic has turned the lives of student artists upside down, but it’s also fueled new perspectives and creativity.
A new exhibition at London’s Saatchi gallery showcases the work of over 200 students who have graduated from the capital’s art schools this year.
Locked down in London
Melania Toma, from Italy, is among the artists being featured at London Grads Now. 21.
“I felt myself kind of isolated, inside this environment. I was very far away from my house, from my family, from my friends,” explained Melania, as she recalled the mixed emotions of being locked down in London.
“I had to find new places where I can work and actually that was so stimulating for me, for my practice, because it allows me to explore new paths, new interests.”
The Chelsea College of Arts graduate is showing colourful and striking examples of her work, which she describes as being related to “the transformative power of the self.”
Giving a new platform
The London Grads exhibition concept was born out of COVID-19. With the usual graduate shows cancelled, the idea was to give artists and curators an alternative platform. Now, it is back for a second year.
“The show is in celebration and support of arts education, at a time when government funding cuts have made the showcase of the graduates and their works crucial, with 100 percent of artwork sale proceeds going directly to artists,” commented Georgina Greenslade, Saatchi Gallery Project Lead.
“The selection presents a broad spectrum of mediums addressing issues that continue to motivate a new generation of artists and provide a unique insight into the creative minds of tomorrow.”
For those taking to the Saatchi stage with their work, being back in a physical exhibition space couldn’t come soon enough.
“This is a great experience for us. A lot of us have not shown any work physically during the last 19 months, everything has been online,” said LaTosha Monique, an artist and curator, from Goldsmiths University.
“We are showing a lot of our internal expression that we’ve experienced during the pandemic. So, you’ll see a lot of paintings, a lot of photography, some sculpture. And it’s just who we are!”
London Grads Now. 21 also features the work of Thomas Hjelm, who tackles isolation and loneliness - felt by so many during the pandemic.
Describing a piece he's showing at Saatchi, the Royal College of Art graduate artist and curator explained: “This piece was actually sort of, for my brother, who wasn’t very well a couple of years ago and he got a text message from a friend that said: ‘you’re in the storm now, put the sails down, this too will pass.’
“I feel that this is the sort of connectivity that we have all shared over this past year.”
Reviving London art
The art being showcased at Saatchi dives deep into many themes, including gender identity, environmentalism and racial politics.
“I think that the work that is showing now is showing that London is coming back to life and that the city, and the general feeling of energy and excitement is definitely being injected back into just creative culture in general,” beamed Lauren Bevan, an artist and curator from the Royal College of Art.
London Grads Now. 21 runs at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York Square, London, until 16 January 2022. Tickets are available here.