Odd creatures and infinite space: art and design degree show moves online



Fine Art student Nadia Kawafi rises to the challenge of exhibiting her work to an online audience during lockdown.

Nadia
Nadia's creatures from her degree show animation.

We caught up with Nadia to find out about the challenges and opportunities that executing a degree show online during these strange times presented to her and her peers. She also shared with us her plans for the future and why art is so personally important to her.

Can you describe the art you’re exhibiting for the degree show?

"The art I’m presenting at the degree show is a frame by frame animation of odd creatures who appear to be floating in this infinite space. I’ve coupled the animation with music I composed myself on Logic. My art focuses in on trying to engage the audience in a captivating way, trying to draw some sort of emotion out of them, whatever that may be. I strongly believe it’s important for art to make the viewer feel something tangible, as this allows them to connect with the work and themselves. To me, art that stops me in my tracks and makes me mentally pause is the most effective form of creation."

What made you want to study art?

"From a young age, I have always loved drawing. This stemmed from my adoration of the films of Studio Ghibli. These movies made me feel this incredible awe and always captivated me, inspiring me to learn to draw as I had seen on the screen. Illustration is a massive part of my practice – I studied art as I saw it as an effective vehicle to move people and connect to them. Art is an incredible method of teaching, inspiring and helping people in one way or another and I wanted to have the chance to fully explore my creativity and fulfil this idea."

What were the challenges of presenting your art in an online gallery instead of a physical one?

Nadia - graduating artist"I usually create installations for exhibitions – spaces that the audience can enter and interact with, creating an all-encompassing space that effectively removes them from reality. So to have that physical space taken away really threw me off. I felt really held back by the realisation that my work now had to translate through a screen, but as artists we always find new ways of achieving what we have in mind. I think it was actually an important thing for me to go through as it really made me rethink my practice without the ‘comfort blanket’ of installation. It challenged me to find new ways of creation that accessed the same feelings in me that I feel in my installations. Another great thing about the show being online is that the engagement will skyrocket compared to having the physical show in Liverpool. We have really incredible curators working with us for the show that usually wouldn’t have been able to under usual circumstances. I feel really grateful that our university hasn’t allowed the degree show to be affected negatively by this situation, they’ve found ways to make it work to our advantage and I think that’s a really incredible thing."

With assessment and delivery of education moving more online, what sort of impact do you think this new way of working and studying might have on students?

I think as we’ve seen with our degree show, online education can actually sometimes open up doors that usually aren’t there. We have curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist (Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London) working on our show with us which would otherwise not have happened. So in many ways, online assessment and delivery of education can be a good thing. But I do also think the social side of being in university and interacting with tutors and peers is really vital in terms of growing and learning about yourself. There needs to be a balance.

What support did you get from your tutors?

To begin with, I found this time of working away from the studio and in my home really difficult as I couldn’t motivate myself. I’d lost that comradery of living with my housemates who were on my course and the whole world kind of felt like it’d been turned upside down, making work feel really difficult. But despite this, our tutors were really on it with maintaining contact and trying to make this time feel as easy as can be. Our course leader and my personal tutor Rory Macbeth has been an incredible driving force in not allowing us to lose hope with our degree show. He even came up with the idea for our show to be exhibited on Mars of all places! He has consistently been there to talk with me and help me out no matter how busy he is and has just been so vital in keeping me moving on through this time. Our whole tutor team has been there for us consistently and it has been so conducive to us creating the degree show we have. They did not allow this situation to take away from what we have been working up to these past three years and I am extremely thankful for that.  

What have you learned about yourself?

I think the most important thing I’ve learned from my course is to trust my intuition and stop comparing myself to others. My artistic practice has allowed me to realise that even though I don’t know it at the time, I always know what’s best for me and how to achieve it. It’s been really motivating to realise my own capabilities and know that I can work at a level that I’m proud of.

What has been the highlight of your time at LJMU?

"The highlight of my time at LJMU has been meeting so many like-minded people who I really get on with. The independence I’ve gained from my course and the way the tutors treat us as equals has allowed me to grow and have more confidence in my abilities. There isn't a specific moment that I’ve enjoyed the most, the experience as a whole was just a joy to be a part of and I’m sad to see the end of it!"

How are you going to celebrate your achievement?

"We’re having a Zoom opening party on Mars with my peers, tutors and the director of the School to open the show and celebrate our achievements. Caroline Wilkinson will be giving out residency prizes to those who have excelled this year. I think this will be a really exciting and celebratory way to round off the year and touch base with everyone."

How has lockdown been for you?

"Lockdown has been quite an odd experience but has shown me how lucky I am and how important it is to just be happy as you are. It’s shown me that holidays and experiences may bring you a lot of happiness at the time but it’s important to be able to maintain that even when you can’t access that way of living. I’ve learnt how incredibly important routine is in stopping yourself from staying in a negative mindset. The most helpful thing has been making sure to leave the house once a day to go on a walk or a cycle to just ensure that the body feels like it’s expelled the energy it needs to."

What’s next for you?

"At the moment I’m writing proposals for residencies at both The Royal Standard and CBS Gallery as our university offers us the chance of applying, which is really helpful. So hopefully if I get accepted at one of these then I’ll be an artist in residence for six months which would be an incredible experience. If not, I really want to continue focusing on my illustration, trying to find ways of generating income through prints, clothes or even hosting workshops. I’ve always had a dream of working on character design in a video game or animation company, so I will also begin to look into possible internships I could apply to within this field. But we will see, I enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing where my life will go. The fact that there are tons of possible professions I could get into is really exciting and makes me hopeful for the future."

Take a look at Nadia's online exhibition and the rest of the Liverpool School of Art and Design Degree Show. If you've been inspired by Nadia's work and her passion for art, find out more about studying at Liverpool School of Art and Design



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