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York College

Exhibitions at the Gallery

'The Structure of Things'

(24th April 2017 - 25th May 2017)

York College is pleased to present an exhibition by former Art Foundation Diploma student and York based artist Joy Simpson. Joy completed the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at York College in 2003 before progressing to study Fine Art at Northumbria University. 'The Structure of Things' combines abstract and figurative visual languages, relying on imagination and invention to compose an image. 


The image is often sketched out quickly, sometimes with pen on paper, sometimes digitally with a computer. When it comes to painting the canvas, changes are made to the original design, as the process of painting takes over. The paintings take influence from contemporary painting, as well as folk art and design practices. Joy incorporates representations of nature into abstract language through colour, form and invention. She also sues the theme of machinery in her work, as can be seen in the painting Structured Sensation and in Four Painting Machines. These give the artist an opportunity to be playful with composition and contain visual jokes.

Says Joy: “Once I went in to a James Turrell Skyspace and I felt my mind elevated from everyday worries and concerns. I made up a shape to symbolise experiences like this, experiences that are somehow transcendent. I call this particular shape a 'Pinched Ellipse'. These symbolic motifs are what I put into my paintings. They are motifs by which, through painting, I question the structures of life. What they mean to the viewer may be something different.”


Colours are used liberally and geometric shapes and lines are employed throughout the compositions giving a flat, static quality to the work, however in some places the compositions look like collage and emphasise her interest in the handmade. The oil pastel pieces are made quickly, each colour and form responding directly to the colour and form previously drawn. They are furthering her enquiry into composition and are almost childlike in exploration. She says: “I feel at this point in my practice I want to make some 'uncool' pieces of work. Work that is perhaps a bit 'naff' but in itself is moving things forward and giving a new enthusiasm to what can be the stagnant air of contemporary painting”.

'The Structure of Things' will runs from 24th April - 25th May 2017 in the York College Gallery.

'A Slight Breeze' by artist Bijan Amini-Alavijeh

(21st March 2017 - 21st April 2017)

Using drawing as his first medium to explore composition and the creation of new shapes, Amini-Alavijeh works initially with the structure of mathematical isometric grids, experimenting with their rules through a repetitive systematic approach. Abstraction of shapes born within the grid become motifs which, combined with uncertain colour palettes lead way for the transformation into painting.


‘A Slight Breeze'’ presents Amini-Alavijehs most recent series of investigations into the potential of the grid. Originating from the same blank grid, a system is created with each new drawing, as the starting point progresses from one corner of the grid to the other through precise, measured intervals. A continuous line follows the grid, deflecting its borders and intersecting itself until the end of the grid is reached- a corner, where the line can no longer be deflected. With each shift across the grid the outcome flips between both energetic and minimal patterns.

The addition of verticals enhances the movement of the intersecting lines and what remains is a shifted isometric grid. Extracting these verticals to create the body of a shape becomes the basis of each painting. An exploratory colour palette creates juxtaposing pairings broadened through use of layering, translucency and opacities.


Steve Hemingway, curator of York College Gallery says of the exhibition: “I am delighted to present this exhibition by Bijan Amini-Alavijeh. I am sure his unique vision will be inspirational to all of our students and staff. I had the pleasure of teaching Bijan eight years ago and it has been great to see his journey from student through to professional artist”.

A Slight Breeze will run from 21st March - 21st April 2017.

'The Voice Imitator'

(11th February 2017 - 16th March 2017)

'The Voice Imitator', a series of large-scale monotypes, is the next exhibition to grace the York College Gallery this month. The works are a collaboration by Kate McLeod and James Fisher and are in response to a short story by Thomas Bernhard.


“We were allowed to express our own wishes, which the voice imitator fulfilled most readily. When, however at the very end, we suggested that he imitate his own voice, he said he could not do that” Thomas Bernhard, The Voice Imitator, 1978.

'The Voice Imitator' is a suite of new large-scale monotypes made in collaboration by Kate McLeod and James Fisher. The works are a response to a short story by Thomas Bernhard, in which a voice imitator is invited to demonstrate his skills of impersonating well-known voices. At the culmination of the story, the voice imitator admits is unable to impersonate himself. To McLeod and Fisher this is a useful idea when considering the collaborative process. When artists are making something together, where does one voice end and the other begin? Do artists imitate their own visual voice as they enter into this kind of working relationship?

James Fisher WEB

'The Voice Imitator' monotypes were made in a single weekend using a bespoke woodcut press. McLeod and Fisher rapidly drew on materials and visual language from their individual practices to bring to the collaboration. McLeod, for example, found ways of compelling the clay, familiar in her sculptural work, to operate within a printmaking process. The suite is organised into a series of diptychs, with conversations between silhouetted profiles emerging in these groups of prints. The head is a visual device common to both McLeod and Fisher’s work, but in 'The Voice Imitator' it is adapted, open-mouthed, to foster a new pictorial dialogue.

Kate McLeod WEB

Kate McLeod trained at Goldsmiths College (2001-2004) and the Slade School of Fine Art (2007-2009). In between studying, McLeod spent three years working for Sir Anthony Caro at his studio in London. McLeod’s figurative clay sculptures are improvised and precariously braced; the materials are fragile and perishable meaning the works are ephemeral, the structures temporary. She has exhibited these works around the UK and Europe including: Royal British Society of Sculptors, Postbox Gallery, Andipa Gallery and NGCA. In 2012 she was awarded the Brian Mercer Bronze Residency, Pietrasanta, Italy. 

James Fisher trained at the Royal College of Art (1995–1997) and was a recipient of an Abbey Scholarship in Painting at the British School at Rome in 2001. He was awarded a PhD in Fine Art at the University of Gloucestershire in 2009 following a series of exhibitions that explored relationships between painting, music and text. Fisher’s paintings have been described as ghost machines, assemblages of materials producing spectral and inhuman encounters. His recent exhibitions include Doppelgänger at the Eagle Gallery, London, and Towards Night at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. Fisher’s work is held in many private collections in the UK and Europe and public collections include FIL Plc, London; the Jerwood Foundation, Hastings and the Hive, Worcester.

'The Voice Imitator' exhibition will run between 11th February 2017 and 16th March 2017 in the York College Gallery.

'In The Making'

(3rd February 2017- 9th February 2017)

‘In The Making’, a group show by BA (Hons) Contemporary Craft students, is due to open in the York College Gallery on 3rd February 2017.

In The Making WEB1

The exhibition will showcase the talents of third year students as they undertake their final year of study. The eight artists: Lydia Munro, Jake Augur, Layla Khoo, Daniel Nyman, Olivia Lawrenson, Dawn Ridsdel, Alex Palmer and Sharon Wilkinson address contemporary relationships with craft and how craft is perceived today. The decorative, the functional and the thought-provoking will be on show; from beautiful handmade silver jewellery, ceramic jars and contemporary 3D printed works, through to sculptural works addressing themes of loss and environmental damage.

In The Making WEB2

Art & Design Technician Dawn Ridsdel says: “In a world which is becoming increasingly homogenised and automated, the simple act of making becomes both a refuge and a necessary means of expression of the original and the unique. The title of the exhibition, ‘In The Making’ reflects how we, as learners, are being formed into the artists of tomorrow, and how the things we make shape us and the world around us as much as we shape them.”

‘In The Making’ is due to run until 9th February 2017 in the York College Gallery and is sponsored by Stage One Creative Services Ltd.

'Down in the Echo Chamber'

(6th January 2017 - 31st January 2017)

Two former students, Alex Haywood and Matthew Fletcher, who studied the Art Foundation course at York College have returned to their old stomping ground with a collection of new works entitled Down In the Echo Chamber.  While different in methods of execution, both artists employ forms influenced by cartoons and consumerist graphics, humour, and the increasing middle-classness of the art world.


Two peacocks walk into a bar. The first peacock turns to the second and says “what did you think of that exhibition?” And the second peacock replies “well I thought it was interesting, both artists appeared to have used familiar narrative elements, symbols and motifs whilst presenting unfamiliar scenarios. Elements are exaggerated, saturated and repeated. The commentary is all about how in society if we fail to look outside of our own sphere of influence we risk thinking we know what is going on around us; but in reality we are just spectators of familiar scenarios. For example, if you were to present a piece of text as a joke but then abandoned that format and write a monologue it confuses how your brain expects to interpret the information later on.”

After completing the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design in 2011 and 2012 respectively, Aled and Matthew then progressed to study BA (Hons) Painting at Edinburgh College of Art.  They now live and work in Scotland, Aled based in Glasgow and Matthew in Edinburgh. Aled is a former student of Manor CE Academy School, who also studied A Levels in Fine Art and Photography at York College, and Matthew is formerly of Fulford School.


Art & Design tutor Steven Hemingway taught both artists. He says: "It is wonderful to have two former students come back to the College to put on such an inspiring exhibition. It is great to see how they have developed during their degree’s and they are a real inspiration for our current students on the Foundation Diploma and other courses. Edinburgh College of Art is one of the best places to study Fine Art Painting and it is a challenge to be offered a place on the course, let alone do as well as these former students have.”