Students learning their art in Chichester

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In May final-year fine-art students at the University of Chichester will be offering their degree-show exhibition – a major part of their overall marks as they launch themselves into the art world for real.

Arts editor Phil Hewitt caught up with some of them as they plan for a big year ahead.

To you and me, a discarded, deflated football is a discarded, deflated football.

Tim Sandys Renton

Tim Sandys Renton

But to Sam Lloyd, it’s an object of endless potential, as he is currently demonstrating at the University of Chichester.

Sam takes the balls and preserves them forever in their flattened state by covering them with thousands of single, tiny dots of bathroom sealant. It sounds strange, and it is strange, but the result has to be seen to be believed – genuinely-striking art works which make him an artist to watch as the final year progresses.

36-year-old Sam finds himself completely at home on the course: “It’s a good place to be. I came to see some of the degree shows. I liked what I saw, and I thought that I would apply.”

It’s been the perfect platform for his speciality: taking objects, putting them together and getting something completely different.

Sam is already in teaching, but the idea is now to use his fine-art degree as a stepping stone to a formal teaching qualification.

“You need to have the degree in order to get the piece of paper. I have been teaching for four years, but I am not a qualified teacher.”

Also relishing the course at Chichester is south-Londoner Oz Bhatti who was instantly attracted to the Chichester atmosphere: “I wanted quite an open fine-art degree that allows you do to everything. I wanted to play around with a lot of things and feel free and open.

“I am a painter. That’s quite a new thing really. It was in the second year that I started painting. Now I am playing around with the idea of 3D meeting 2D, the idea of what a painting is, what the act of painting means.”

As he says, he hopes to continue playing with ‘the objectified nature of painting’; his hope is to move on to do an MA, ideally at Goldsmiths in London.

“I wouldn’t want to do that in Chichester. I am really thankful and I have loved it here, but my ultimate aim is to be a practising artist, and I want to reintroduce myself to the central London art scene.”

Holly Newnham, aged 24, from Bognor, is delighted at the fresh start the University of Chichester has offered her. She started off studying architecture at Oxford Brookes, but found it just wasn’t for her.

“I wanted to do something that was pursuing all of my interests. Art was always my favourite subject at school and what I did outside of school. I wanted to do something purely creative and explore different media and different ideas. I found architecture quite restrictive. I thought it would be more creative, but it wasn’t.”

In her art, Holly explores what she calls ‘traces of activity’: “I am interested in patterns and in decay. I am trying to make work that is a little bit harder to find, not just about having a white wall. I am interested in interventions in space. I am interested in the micro rather than the macro reading of the work, what it looks like from a distance and then what it looks like when you go up to it.”

Coming to the course as a mature student is Janet Woodward, from Locks Heath. She had to give up art at the age of 14 because it didn’t fit into the timetable.

She went on to enjoy more than 40 years in teaching: “I started out in primary schools and I have done all kinds of teaching. I was teaching basic skills to adults at Fareham College and St Vincent College. I specialised in English as a second language.”

Janet retired two years ago, but effectively has been working towards taking her degree for the past five years: “I didn’t ever have the chance to see where I could take my art, and I haven’t done yet! But it is very interesting to have the time to try it out!”

As for her art, Janet is interested in layering images, looking at industry from the 19th century and looking at how contemporary artists represent that industry: “It’s a mixture of printing, photography and using acetates to layer up the image.”

Overcoming greater odds than anyone to pursue her artistic dream is Sarah Fencott, aged 26, of Havant. With Friedreich’s ataxia, she is wheelchair bound – no impediment to producing artworks which explore colours and lines.

“I started doing it a couple of years ago. It’s just a need. It’s something that I can do. All the colours mean things. They are all connected to each other.

“It’s quite a bit of a struggle, but I love doing it. I just wanted to do things that I like doing,”