Showcasing the Country’s Student Art Talent

Housed in Brick Lane’s Old Truman Brewery in London, a space which proudly boasts Gilbert and George and Julian Opie, amongst its clients, Free Range 2008 is a showcase dedicated to the best in UK student talent.

Billed as “the world’s largest art happening,” the event focuses on both new talent and affordability. Free Range gives students a platform to showcase their work in a well-known Central London location and is open to students from colleges and universities across the country not just London. Participating art colleges at the Fair include Brighton, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Manchester and Reading. Each college creates their own tailor-made exhibition, which rotates weekly over an eight week period in several locations. Varied disciplines including graphics, illustration, printmaking, product design and textiles are exhibited.

From a student’s perspective, the difficulty of becoming a professional artist is widely appreciated. The hardest transition from student to graduate to artist is the conundrum of following art as a chosen profession, as it is not only a high quality of work that is needed for success, but also other factors such as the number of exhibitions an artist has and at which galleries. Exhibitions like Free Range aim to open doors for emerging new artists. The art industry, like many of its other creative industry counterparts, depends on talent, luck, and of course, funding. For many new artists, it’s incredibly difficult to find suitable work experience and consequential opportunities. Discussions with current undergraduates from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, who are exhibiting at Free Range 2008, shed some light upon these concerns.

Romchat Sangkavatana is a second year graphic design student. Upon graduation, he aims to continue studying by doing a course in marketing. “I’m looking to do something business and art related. I’m originally from Thailand and over there, art is not consumed on the same level as it is in London. I’d like to work in two areas that interest me and also try using my artistic background in different contexts for example, advertising.”

Romchat continues, “Everyone knows about the difficulty of finding jobs as artists. I think it depends on the quality of your work at the end of the day, not the name of the college you attend. It is a constant challenge.” Romchat is particularly excited about having his work aired to the public for the first time. “I haven’t had an opportunity to show my work publicly yet. Free Range is a great exhibition to be a part of as it’ll give students new and different exposure as well as an understanding of what exhibitions involve.”

Ying Ping Mak is a second year Illustration student with a keen interest in animation. Originally from Hong Kong, she too is aware of the difficulty of making a successful career as an artist after graduation. “London is a difficult place to get experience and exposure because of the high level of competition. I want to be a freelance illustrator when I graduate, and I hope showing my work at Free Range will open up some work-related opportunities for me.”

Second year graphic design student Helen Friel is excited about new commissions that have already come her way during her degree course, including work for music videos and record labels. She is hoping showing her work at Free Range will develop this even further. “I’m creatively very open to the type of work I’d like to do. I enjoy the music side of things, but I’d also love to do children’s books.” She also regards Free Range as the first steps towards launching a career in the art world. “This is going to be my first public exhibition and I’m excited about a lot of people potentially able to view my work in an open physical space.”

The organisers of Free Range are very enthusiastic about the potential reach of the exhibition. Free Range Director Tamsin O’Hanlon explains, “Free Range is an unprecedented display of youth, art and creativity. Its vast scale, variety and location sets it apart from other more parochial student art events. Free Range offers the best opportunity for the general public and the art-buying community to uncover tomorrow’s talent at today’s prices.”

Make up your own mind and perhaps be the first to own the work of these new outrageously talented artists.

Free Range ran from 30 May and continued until July 21 2008 at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

Dee Sekar

Dee Sekar is Editor of Soma Soma Scene and founder of Decasia Club.