Artwork exploring identity and exploitation gives Reading strong showing in regional graduate exhibition19 October 2020
Two graduate artists from the University of Reading are putting their degree skills into practice in an exclusive exhibition after they were shortlisted for an award.
Khadija Niang and Natalie Sired hold two of the four online exhibition slots in the Platform Graduate Award 2020 by Oxford Modern Art, a leading UK contemporary art institution. Their work is being displayed publicly at https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/event/platform-graduate-award-2020/ this month.
The annual initiative supports emerging artists from the University of Reading and others across the South East in furthering their practice. Following the exhibition, one of the artists will be awarded a £2,000 bursary and mentoring from a professional artist.
Khadija graduated in BA Art and English Literature from the University’s School of Art this summer. Her exhibit, titled It’s Not Just Hair and running from 12-18 October, explores her cultural identity, as a Senegalese woman who has never lived in Senegal. She uses film, sculpture, sound and watercolour to represent her feeling separated from her culture during her upbringing in Europe and Africa.
“Through my degree, I learned the value in being vulnerable. I have always been afraid to create work about myself, but through this process I found a lot more meaning and personal growth in my work when it was so personal." - Khadija Niang, University of Reading graduate artist
Khadija said: “Having my work selected has given me a lot of confidence in myself and my ability. Having graduated during Covid, I think I started to feel a bit disillusioned about the idea of being an artist or being within the art industry. However, this experience and exposure is definitely a meaningful push towards seeing possibilities in the future.
“Through my degree, I learned the value in being vulnerable. I have always been afraid to create work about myself, but through this process I found a lot more meaning and personal growth in my work when it was so personal.
“I have gained a lot of skills in terms of working collaboratively and learning aspects of an exhibition beyond just showing the work, such as the promotion. I think had it been an offline exhibition it would have been a lot easier to not engage with the marketing aspects, but I found this invaluable, especially as this gives the opportunity for a wider audience to engage with my work.”
“My degree taught me about what goes into producing an art exhibition, and most notably the collaborative teamwork involved in making everything run smoothly" - Natalie Sired, University of Reading graduate artist
Natalie graduated in BA Art and Film & Theatre. Her work, titled BEEFCAKE, uses poetry and film to challenge patriarchal portrayals of women and nature, and the exploitation of both.
The work subverts the idea of women as objects, and reflects on the current state of the environment and our impact on it, and. is being exhibited from 19-25 October.
Natalie said: “Working with MAO has been invaluable in learning about the process of building a professional exhibition. I think it’s easy to feel down about the lack of a physical exhibition, but with it being online we have had exposure to a different type of working.
“My degree taught me about what goes into producing an art exhibition, and most notably the collaborative teamwork involved in making everything run smoothly. Also having various dynamic relationships with our art teachers and lecturers taught me how to cultivate a successful working relationship, and so I learned how to communicate effectively in that sense which helped me immensely in this experience.”
The Platform Graduate Award exhibits the work of graduate artists from the University of Reading, Oxford Brookes University, and The Ruskin School of Art every year.
In 2019, a Reading student’s embroidered cushions telling the story of her uncle’s struggles with homelessness were one of three exhibits in the show.
Both Khadija and Natalie were part of this year’s Reading School of Art annual Degree Show, put on by final year students.
The show, titled Asbestos Streams, took place during the Covid-19 lockdown, meaning many of the pieces were displayed in the students’ own homes, and featured elements inspired by their experiences during the pandemic.