I made my way to Brick Lane heading towards the Old Truman building, as I got closer I followed the arrows drawn in chalk on the wall of the building to the Free Range exhibition, then the arrows abruptly ended at the entrance of a Vintage Shop!!


I was a bit dazed and hesitant to go in. The security guard sensing my bewilderment approached me and said whatever I was looking for ended here and with him. Very charming I thought. I smiled and told him I was here to attend the Free Range show and he showed me the entrance and said the exhibition was taking place upstairs. I did not believe him initially, as the stairway was dark, black and it looked like it was leading to a dingy night club, but he assured me that I was at the right place.


I proceeded upstairs to the top floor, on entry I was greeted by huge free standing white walls with different shapes, colours of art mounted on them. There were installations and sculptures all over the large open space. Looking slightly to my left, I was greeted by Steve Ellis and Joseph Gibney who welcomed me and offered me a catalogue for the event. I was in the space of emerging talents who had just graduated from the Leeds College of Arts and I know I was in for a treat.


The Free Range Show is in its 15th season, showcasing the works of recent graduates in the fields of fashion, arts, photography, design, interior design and architecture. It provides British innovative creatives with the opportunity to showcase their talent to a wider audience and in some cases this is the first show of their work outside their universities.

Free Range signHere are some of my highlights from the event.

Leeds College of Arts BA (Hons) Art


Ellouise Caswell

To my left I was immediately drawn to this huge sculptures of cut out cakes with vibrant colours made from cardboard boxes and sticking tape, which appeared to be the main attraction of the show, as it definitely caught the attention of the crowd with its boldness and size.


I was told the sculptures were assembled individually at a previous exhibition, but on this occasion the artist decided to stack them on top of each other, which has also made the work to be appreciated from a different perspective.


These delightful creations were made by Ellouise Caswell. She wants to use her work to celebrate the activities of women. Baking is an activity typically associated with women, by putting it in the fine art context, she is hoping these activities are recognised and valued.



Willow Stacey

These interesting shaped objects reminded me of sea lions basking in the sun on a black seabed. These amazing objects were created using plaster and are actually very heavy. People have been sitting on them and interacting with the pieces trying to move them. I was informed that the black paint on the art pieces were painted using paint normally used for chalk boards. I thought, it would have been interesting leaving pieces of chalk around, so that people could write on them and appreciate the work from a different perspective, just an idea.



Joseph Gibney

I almost missed the work of Joseph Gibney, as it had a subtle attraction and it was not attention grabbing compared to the other pieces next to his works. Joseph kindly talked me through the works of his other colleagues above. As he was talking, through the corner of my eyes, I noticed an art piece covering the window, that was distracting me from what he was saying, I made a mental note to have a closer look after our discussion.


It turned out the piece on the window was one of Joseph’s work being exhibited at the event. Joseph introduced me to his work and the techniques behind the works on display which I found fascinating. Through his works he aimed to show the world the other side of art, the unseen aspects of a canvas, which he has done by painting the inside of a canvas rather than the outside, which I though was clever and puts a different spin on how you see a painting. He is also interested in the reusability of the by-products of his artwork as he comes from a craftsman’s heritage which he wants to demonstrate in his works.



The pieces below were also fascinating, as you get to experience a different view and feel from the artwork depending on how the canvases are placed, be it leaning against the wall or hanging from the ceiling with light beaming through it. I like the multiplicity in use and presentation these pieces offer, which makes the pieces more lively and interacts with its environment.


Joseph has shown his work in New York with great interest and intends to pursue a Master Degree in Curating.


Steven Ellis

This is one of my favourite works from the entire Free Range Art show. I met Steven when I arrived at the event and I thought he was one of the lecturers, then we started talking and he showed me his collection of work. On first impressions, I was not blown away, but then Steven started telling me about his inspiration and the process that goes into his creativity. The artworks might look like simple drawings, but they are made from materials that creates an aging effect.


In Steven’s works I see the dichotomy of construction and deconstruction, not just in the media, but in the notion of what is deemed to be normal and the otherness in our society today. His amazing works challenges perception of aesthetics and pushes the boundaries on what is considered to be the norm, by taking a subject out of its normal environment and placing it in a different context to enhance and challenge perception of the familiar.


Steven and I had an interesting conversation on originality and the idea of mimicking . We as human beings are conditioned to copy, which is how we learn as children, how cultures, religion and ideologies are formed. The old Masters copied from nature and contemporary artists today equally draw inspiration from each other and mimic techniques and styles in the works of artist they admire.


Steven is interested in the faculty of Mimetic which he defines as “ the human inclination to imitate, copy, produce and recognise similarities”, he uses this principle to explore cultural significance and the way materials used in the work are used to create a dialog within the works that they create, which to me is evident in the black bag below. I thought the black bag was an ordinary black bag and I was going to move it out of the way, but it was part of the art on display and made from the material used to create the drawings! Genius.


Steven also utilises the erasing out technique in his portrait works, why draw when you can erase out to create a perfect piece of art! Steven is equally passionate about the theoretical principles and research process that goes into his work and he introduced me to the theoretical works of Viktor Shklovsky.


Steven helps in the community where he runs an arts community programme, he believes in art as a facility to change. Steven is a winner of the Aon Community Art award and his works will be held in an auction later this year. I look forward to seeing Steven’s work on a national and international level, in my opinion he is an artist to watch and collect.


Cambridge School of Arts – BA (Hons) Photography

I made my way through a double set of open doors not realising there was more to see, I had already spent a couple of hours with the graduates from Leeds College of arts.


Vicky Learmouth

I was visually drawn to the photographic image depicting a woman’s womb. I liked the way the artist curated the photographs which was symbolic of the artist’s message of bringing attention to the womb and what goes on within with the barbed wires images. The image successfully brings awareness on what it means to be living with Endometriosis.


The condition is estimated to affect around two million women in the UK. Most of them are diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40. Endometriosis is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes painful periods or heavy periods. Source: NHS Choices


Richard Tooley

The works of Richard titled “Dominatrix” grabbed my attention from a visual perspective, but it was not a lasting impression. Although, through the images depicted, I can see how Richard is exploring uncanniness and unsettling images, which is the intent of these unsettling images. He also explores the issues of what is perceived to be private and public. What do you think about Richard’s work?




I was fascinated by the work of this artist, which I’ve called Selfie, as I could not see the title of the work. To me it depicts the stages and process a girl goes through to achieve that perfect selfie. Which I thought was simple and impressive from a concept and execution perspective. This work shows the trends in the world we live in today. It will be interesting to know the artist intent.




TV Installation

I was most impressed by this TV installation with two TV screens and the synchronicity across both screens. In the first screen, a man throws a Frisbee and catches it the screen opposite. Most importantly, I like the way the artist included a real rucksack to make the scene more real and captivate the audience. This pieces is best seen in person, as with most art pieces. Great work!




That’s it for now, I saw so much at the exhibition and it’s too much to fit in one post, please click here for the 2nd instalment of my visit.


What I have come to really appreciate more about art is that it is not just about appreciating the final product on display, but also the psychology behind the art, what was the artist thinking when he decided to create a piece, what are the ideologies and theoretical influences considered by the artist before his or her creation? It is almost impossible to get this information by just looking at the artwork.


It was a heighten experience having the opportunity to speak to these young emerging artist at the exhibition, it put an entirely different perspective on the works displayed and challenged my initial perception of the works before me. Works I might have just walked past, had more meaning and symbolism after speaking to the creators, having an insight into their background and the rationale behind their work made for a far more rewarding experience.


Thank you to Steven Ellis, Joseph Gibney for talking me through the works and thanks to the Free Range Shows organisers for providing graduates with this platform


 The 2015 Free Range event took place from the 5th of June to 13th of July 2015. The Free Range Shows is Free to attend.


Did you attend the Free Range Shows? What were the best and worst bits? Please comment and share.


Click here to see more from the show in part 2 of my blog post on this amazing event.

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