Class of 2017: The North-West’s Top Fine Art Graduates Revealed

Classof_St Helens - Cherise Foster - 'Is Everyone Looking' Oil on Canvas 14 x 46 x 36cms_slider

Who are the top emerging artists graduating from art schools across Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside this year? Jack Welsh asks the tutors to nominate those that have really stood out…

It happens every year: I ask Fine Art tutors across the North-West to nominate the best and brightest from their graduate cohort. After last year’s Class of 2016 feature, however, I was in for a surprise: featured UCLan student Sam Pickett fired off follow-up emails to said Fine Art tutors.

Pickett’s proposal was simple: to bring the work of fellow Class of 2016 students together within an exhibition. Several months later, and after much hard work, the exhibition Class of 2016 opened at UCLan’s Hanover Project (September 2016).

Pickett explained that our feature was the catalyst for the artists to meet, share ideas and discuss commonalities between their respective practices. The resulting exhibition in Preston not only celebrated these newly graduated artists, but was also a tangible reflection of artistic talent flourishing across the region.

“These new, nominated students have blazed a trail through their studies”

Both Laura Robertson (TDN Editor) and I were delighted to see such an unexpected and enterprising outcome spring from our initial conversations.

Will it happen again this year? We hope so, as these new, nominated students have blazed a trail through their studies, and are nailing ambitious final shows. And the great news is, you can see all of these shows, in person, at their respective art schools.

So, here is our Class of 2017, presented in chronological order of openings, from shows already open to balmy mid-June parties…

St Helens College: Cherise Foster (pictured, top)

Nominated by Wayne Robinson, Curriculum Leader

Cherise Foster works with oil on canvas in a traditional manner, employing photography to challenge how we view ourselves and others, framed by concerns around “the gaze” and it’s numerous implications.

In summarising Foster’s work, Wayne Robinson refers to a quote from the book The Object Stares Back by critic James Elkins: “All seeing, I think, is painful. Every photograph is a little sting, a hurt inflicted in its subject, but even more: every glance hurts in some way, freezing and condensing what’s seen into something that it is not.”

See Vortex, the University Centre St Helens Degree Show at The World of Glass, St Helens

Open now until Friday 23 June 2017, 9.30am–4.30pm


Classof_Wirral Met - Louis Jeck-Prestidge-slider

Wirral Metropolitan College: Louis Jeck-Prestidge (above)

Nominated by Vincent Lavell, Course Leader

Louis Jeck-Prestidge makes sculpture using discarded materials. These objects often reference the home and are inscribed with psychological and emotional experiences. Abject, quirky and very human, these inanimate objects engage the viewer in a very direct confrontation with the materials and systems that govern our daily rituals and surroundings.

See Wirral Met College BA Fine Art Degree Show at Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead

Open now until Sunday 11 June 2017 (Wednesday-Sunday 10am–4pm)


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Liverpool John Moores University: Peri Simonsen (above)

Nominated by Rory Macbeth, Head of Fine Art

Peri Simonsen has developed a beguiling installation baring the physical and mental scars of the decline of traditional slate mining in her native Wales.

Using digital collage, glitchy avatars, and exposed greenscreen as tools, Rory Macbeth notes that: “Her work unpicks our understanding of our immediate environment and our assumptions regarding technology. The future, Simonsen is saying, looks worryingly like the past, and the loop we are stuck in is the continual nuanced set of loops we stand in within her installation.”

See the Liverpool School of Art and Design Degree Show at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, Duckinfield Street, Liverpool

Preview Thursday 25 May 2017 6pm

Open Friday 26 May to Friday 9 June 2017 9am—5pm (apart from Sundays and Bank Holiday Monday)


classof_Hope - Olivia Maddocks-slider

Liverpool Hope University: Olivia Maddocks (above)

Nominated by Lin Holland and Tony Smith, Senior Fine Art Lecturers

Fuelled by research and exploration into painting in the expanded field, Olivia Maddocks has created a degree show that blurs of the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Her exhibition features a series of painted sculptural shapes that playfully invites the viewer to become an integral part of the work.

See Liverpool Hope University Fine and Applied Arts Degree Show at the Cornerstone Campus, Shaw Street, Liverpool

Preview Friday 26 May 2017 5-8pm

Open: Saturday 27 May to Tuesday 6 June 2017 9am–5pm daily (10am–4pm weekends)


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University of Cumbria: Emily Hartness (above)

Nominated by Jane Topping, Programme Leader Fine Art

Emily Hartness interrogates the layering of factual and fictional pre-existing stories, intertwining these as collective installations. Employing a range of media, from performance to set-design, Hartness brings the making process to fore through simplistic aesthetics that reveal the structure and production of the work. Her degree show questions the relationship between performer and spectator by incorporating elements of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt: making the familiar strange.

See the University of Cumbria Art & Design Degree Show at Institute of the Arts, Brampton Road Campus, Carlisle

Preview Friday 2 June 2017: Professional opening 4-6pm / Friends and family opening 6-9pm

Then open 10am–4pm daily, Saturday 3 to Saturday 10 June 2017 (closed Sunday)


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University of Salford: Daniel Wiltshire (above)

Nominated by Brendan Fletcher, Programme Leader: Visual Arts

Daniel Wiltshire’s latest work explores digital image-making and the surges and glitches that contribute to the corrupting of data and new visual forms. His work explores film/video and printmaking. His digital abstractions are densely layered and filled with formal discontinuities that offer a dizzying and at times psychedelic view of the digital sublime.

Wiltshire’s work has been exhibited at Corto Accademia, Macaerata, Italy and he has a forthcoming film screening at HOME, Manchester. He has exhibited prints in the Hot Bed Press 20:20 Print Exchange (national touring exhibition) and at the Hepworth Print Fair, Wakefield.

See the University of Salford’s Visual Art Degree Show at Allerton Studios, Frederick Road, Salford

Preview 6pm Thursday 8 June 2017

Open from Thursday 9 June to 15 June 2017: 10am–4pm everyday except Sunday


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Blackpool and The Fylde College: Laura Barnes (above)

Nominated by Ann Carragher (Fine Art Lecturer) and Nick Kowalski (Programme Leader Fine Art).

Inspired by the disciplines of drawing and sculpture, Laura Barnes explores the relationship between the flat surface of paper and the 3D object. Through a variety of layers and mark-making techniques, the contours and physical sensations of her own self-portraits are amplified through a series of pen and ink studies; marks which Ann Carragher considers as: “metaphors for what we manipulate, hide or reveal about ourselves and identity.”

See BUZZ - Blackpool & Fylde College, Creative Arts and Digital Industries Graduate Show 2017 on:

Thursday 8 June to Sunday 11 June 2017 10am-6pm. Preview Thursday 8 June 6-9pm at Media City, The Studios, Broadway, Salford

AND on

Monday 19 June to Thursday 22 June 2017 10am-5pm at University Centre, Park Road, Blackpool


classof_UCLAN - Beata Wrobel-slider

UCLan (University of Central Lancashire): Beata Wrobel (above)

Nominated by Victoria Lucas, Lecturer in Fine Art

Through experimental processes drawing on art, design and architecture, Beata Wrobel’s aim is to create artworks that position dreams, emotions and memories as values that exist beyond the constraints and distractions of capitalism. Wrobel’s works are also reminiscent of things that she experienced as a child, and she carefully select these memories; reviving them and placing them back into the world as objects.

See 45 Reasons: Fine Art / Drawing and Image Making Degree Show 2017 at University of Central Lancashire, Hanover Building, Bhailok Street, Preston

Preview Friday 9 June, 4–8pm. Open Saturday 10 to Friday 16 June 2017 10am–5pm


classof_MMU - Liam Fallon 'Boys Keep Swinging'-slider

Manchester Metropolitan University: Liam Fallon (above)

Jointly nominated by Brigitte Jurack (Head of Sculpture, Time Based Arts/Research Leader Art, Fine Art) and Chara Lewis (Senior Lecturer Fine Art)

Liam Fallon explores queer culture through materiality. He subverts the masculine connotations of hard materials such as jesmonite, plaster and steel, through sensual colour and forms inspired by the physical actions associated with queer and erotic social spaces; his sculptures slump, lean, push and pull; resulting in work charged with movement, weight and dependency.

See the Manchester School of Art Degree Show at Grosvenor Building, Cavendish Street, Manchester

Preview 6pm Friday 9 June 2017

Open Saturday 10 June to Wednesday 21 June 2017


classof_Lancaster - Alexandra Francis-slider

Lancaster University: Alexandra Francis (above)

Nominated by Gerry Davies, Senior Lecturer in Drawing

In nominating Alexandra Francis, Gerry Davies writes: “For three years Alex Francis has used drawing to examine the manner in which freely circulated digital images disintegrate and metamorphose, sometimes changing beyond recognition. Using stills from video footage of scoops and blocks of melting ice-cream, she has made monumental drawings of banal and frivolous confectionary morphing into shapes and forms which evoke the bodily.

“Out of the swirl of collapsing material coalesce bruises, rips and spillages. Drawn in white chalk on black paper; sugar, cream and artificial flavouring raise intimations of death, contextualised with theory from Walter Benjamin, Kristeva and Hito Steyerl, Alex Francis is one of the most gifted and intelligent young artists Lancaster has produced.”

See the LU Degree Show, 53 More Things to do in Zero Gravity, at The Peter Scott Gallery, LICA building, Bowland Annexe, Tuesday 20 to Tuesday 27 June 2017

Preview 6.30–8pm Tuesday 20 June 2017


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University of Chester: Sam Benjafield (above)

Nominated by Maxine Bristow, Reader in Fine Art/Programme Leader MA Fine Art

Working between drawing and digital rendering, Sam Benjafield attempts to evoke a sense of isolation and abandonment through scenographic digital drawings. By meticulously editing and manipulating sterile marks into somewhat recognisable forms, Benjafield creates environments that oscillate between reality and the imagination. Benjafield is currently working on miniature installations that accompany these virtual spaces.

See the University of Chester Degree Show 2017 at Kingsway Buildings, Kingsway, Chester

Preview Thursday 15 June 2017 6pm–9pm

Open from Friday 16 June to Wednesday 21 June 2017 10am–4pm


Jack Welsh


All images courtesy of the artists, with thanks

Posted on 25/05/2017 by thedoublenegative