Exhibited at Friar House as part of the Cambridge Festival 2024, organised by the University of Cambridge, students from the CSVPA Graduate School have embraced their individual disciplinary approaches and applied their unique perspectives as artists and designers to create rapid-response artistic impressions reflecting on and bringing to a wider audience what they have seen, heard and experienced during the Cambridge Festival.

Projects like this allow our students the space to experiment with material, form, colour, mediums, intention and interpretation, thus enriching their creative practice. They are challenged to take themes they may be unfamiliar with and document them using their skills in artistic communication.

Ed Dimsdale, Head of the Graduate School at CSVPA, said of the exhibition: “During the Cambridge Festival 2024, students from the Graduate School attended a variety of talks, events, workshops and activities, operating as ‘Artists at Large’. The turn-around time was generally very short, contrasting with the more extended period over which creative projects are more generally developed, but important skills and understandings are developed by having to respond so immediately to a given stimulus.”

“Students were encouraged to seek out events and talks that resonated with their own research interests, thereby broadening and deepening the scope of their own practices” Ed explained. “However rough, improvised and provisional, such creative documentation is also of great value to the Cambridge Festival organisers, who are able to reflect on how successfully University of Cambridge researchers are able to promote the public engagement of their high-level academic projects, which are not always readily accessible to the wider public.”

The pieces on show included:

CSVPA Masters Graduate School
Rapid-response artistic impressions, created by Ellen

Ellen, MA Visual Communications (Graphic Design) student

Inspired by the Makespace Showcase, Electro // Acoustic Day and Institute of Astronomy Open Afternoon, as well as her own passion for astronomy, Ellen has documented these three events while giving herself the freedom to embrace and play with an artistic medium she has previously not explored.

“I decided to combine all three of these events as they all feature completely different things, so I thought it would be interesting to bring aspects from each of them together” she explains.

The Electro // Acoustic Day comprised a series of concerts fusing classical music, vocal repertoire and electronic music, encouraging the audience to embrace new relationships with music, physical space and the embodiment of sound. The influence of this event shows itself through her use of space, reflecting the all-encompassing music that filled the concert hall and surrounded the audience, while elements of Astronomy can be clearly seen throughout Ellen’s piece.

Speaking on her creative process, Ellen said: “I often work digitally or with photography, so I wanted to create something different to my usual work. I thought that a mixed media experimental piece would bring aspects from all three events together in an abstract way. I hope that my works conveys the exciting and busy nature of the events.”

CSVPA Masters Graduate School
Rapid-response artistic impressions, created by Anna

Anna, MA Visual Communications (Illustration & Animation) student

Drawn to a talk titled ‘Solitude: The Science and Power of Being Alone’, Anna was inspired by the science behind the concept of solitude and its manifold implications.

“As someone who sees time alone as a vital component of my well-being, I found the topic particularly enthralling. One revelation that struck me was the delineation of four distinct types of solitude” explains Anna.

Keen to capture the insights of the event, Anna used charcoal on translucent paper to capture the essence of each of the four types of solitude. Describing her creative process, Anna said: “Sketching, for me, has always been a deeply solitary pursuit, akin to a form of meditation. Even amidst a room filled with other students during life drawing classes in school, I always felt myself absorbed in my own world, with nothing but my charcoal-stained hands and the live model before me occupying my thoughts. Because of this, sketching feels like a strange mix of all these four solitudes to me.”

CSVPA Masters Graduate School
Rapid-response artistic impressions, created by Nikhita

Nikhita, MA Visual Communications (Graphic Design) student

Embracing the challenge of responding to a subject she held little knowledge on, Nikhita felt compelled to creatively document the event ‘Molecular (e)motion: How biochemistry drives our emotions’.

“I hated science subjects with a passion during my school days. However, this event completely altered my perspective. It unveiled to me the fascinating world of Biology and Chemistry, which I had previously underestimated” she elaborates.

Nikhita’s response captures the intriguing insights she gained during the talk, most prominently the revelation that a single neutron, or brain cell, could extend up to 3 metres in length, despite appearing microscopic.

Describing her finished piece, she said: “In response, I crafted two neurons to visually represent this fact.” She paired these neurons with a piece of artwork projected onto the wall and layered with a stop-motion film. “The artwork in black and white endeavours to depict the elusive nature of memory. Memories intertwine, creating a pixelated and blurred representation in our minds.”

Experimenting with stop-motion video, Nikhita sought to find a way to visualise the effects of oxytocin on the human system. “In times of stress or adversity, cortisol floods our system, persisting for approximately 26 hours before degrading” she explains. “Conversely, when we experience relaxation, oxytocin is released, degrading within a mere 30 minutes. The stark contrast underscores the endurance of negative emotions compared to positive ones, serving as a vital survival mechanism. Learning this made me feel better about my own emotional reactions.”

Through drawing the viewers attention to the effects of oxytocin, in contract to cortisol, Nikhita aims to emphasize the importance of actively seeking happiness, especially when our bodies seem resistant.

A still image taken from the rapid-response artistic impressions, created by Siena

Siena, MA Visual Communications (Graphic Design) student

Motivated by the Electro // Acoustic Day, Siena’s creative response to this event is paired with her reaction to the accompanying sound-visual installation entitled on common ground | breathing.

An immersive sound expereince, Electro // Acoustic Day offers the audience an opportunity to explore diverse performances and experience non-traditional modes of listening as they absorb cutting-edge electronic music. on common ground | breathing mirrors this through the installation of films, created by CSVPA Graduate School students, collaborating with musicians from the University of Cambridge, who have crafted the score for each film, inspired by electro-acoustic sound.

Inspired by the marriage between audio and visual showcased through on common ground | breathing, Siena decided to create her own audio-visual piece. Revealing her initial inspiration, she said: “I decided to experiment with ink, inspired by the abstract ink brochure design.”

Watching Siena’s film, the viewer is mesmerized by the shapes and colours of the ink as it defuses. Seeking to visualise sound through the movement of ink, she experiments with stylistic visual techniques to manipulate the movement and speed of the ink, accompanied by its own electro-acoustic inspired soundscape.

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Siena’s annotated programme from Electro // Acoustic Day

Presented alongside Siena’s audio-visual piece is an annotated programme from the Electro // Acoustic Day. A piece of art in itself, visitors to the exhibition are given a fascinating glimpse into the workings of an artistic mind as they follow the creative thread inspired by a stimulus.

Involvement in the Cambridge Festival is just one of the plethora of opportunities presented to our students in the Graduate School to encourage the development of their individual creative practices.