When one thinks of Central Saint Martins, one automatically opens a large chapter of art history and contemporary art practice. An exhaustible list of the art world’s greats have studied in the building on Charing Cross Road; Gilbert and George, Bruce McLean, Anthony Caro, Peter Doig, Anthony Gormley, Peter Blake, Rebecca Horn and Mark Titchner to name a few. We passed over the threshold eager to view the offerings of the MA graduates of 2010, carrying this great history within our collective memory.
We stalked the corridors, climbed mountains of stairs, and weaved in and out of studio spaces, looking for something; looking for someone that revived the phantoms of the past. We climbed the stairs again; in desperation we looked out over the rooftops of Central London, hoping we would catch the fleeting ghost of original thought. The over-use of metaphor in this review is clichéd, yes; but clichéd is the perfect word to describe the work we encountered. It is also the ideal distraction from having to say how much this degree show disappointed.
What we discovered was simple: work that was too aware of the history of the walls within which it was produced. The overwhelming sensation we felt was supreme arrogance. Why should these students try? Galleries can promote these artists with the Holy Trinity: Central. Saint. Martins. These students presume their names are written on gold. Who cares if it challenges contemporary practice! Success is measured through the ability to sell.
It feels right to end this review with a clichéd rhetorical question: If Central Saint Martins is synonymous with history; then what is history synonymous with? Ghosts - and it appears that building on Charing Cross Road is full of them. Such a shame they aren’t making the artwork.
Photo credit: Fin Fahey (2006)