“Remember, the biggest creative endeavours happen when your back is against the wall,” illustrious Irish artist Vincent Devine told final-year design students at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone this week.
The Tullamore-based artist, whose work featured in Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, was speaking at the launch of the TUS Graduate Showcase – the first to be held back on campus since Covid-19 began.
“You were thrown into the deep end with this pandemic and have entered into this brand-new almost post-apocalyptic world, and I think it’s a very exciting time to be alive,” the keynote speaker told the students, whose university journey began at the start of the pandemic.
This year’s exhibition – Ultimate - features the work of final year BA in Graphic Design, BA (Hons) in Graphic and Digital Media Design, and BA (Hons) in Animation and Illustration.
Conceptualised by the students as part of a branding exercise, this year’s theme is all about transformation – the journey of life, as design lecturer Tara Cullen explained. “Ultimate represents carving out your own path and doing, ultimately, what you want to do, and living the life you want to lead."
She continued, “It’s fantastic to be back after two years online – for the students to be back in the studio working on their projects in person – and for them to be able to share their hard work with the public.
“A massive amount of time and effort has gone into preparing for this showcase over the last few months and weeks. It’s been such a valuable experience for the students – it’s their first real showcase as emerging professional artists - and as people will see when they visit the exhibition, there is real talent on display.”
More than 60 final year students participated in this year’s showcase, which covers a breadth of media and topics, including identity, sustainability, mental health, creative chaos, and self-worth.
One student, Julia Borisenko, highlighted the impact of fast fashion on the environment in her work, using typography and imagery of barcodes and clothing labels to communicate how the clothing industry produces an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste annually, much of which is burnt or finds its way into landfill.
“Every year, I am impressed by the calibre of work on display. The students have absolutely knocked it out of the park,” Dr Séan Lyons, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Informatics, enthused, speaking at the design showcase.
“It’s been a challenging couple of years with Covid-19, and it’s fantastic for the students to be back on campus, exhibiting their work to the public in the company of their classmates, family, friends, past graduates and, of course, industry representatives.
“The diversity of the work is just unbelievable, and I'm really excited about watching their careers develop over the next few years and seeing where this takes them because, honestly, based on the quality of this work, they can go anywhere they want.”
For the first time this year, the showcase includes a cinema set-up to display the work of students from the BA (Hons) in Animation and Illustration, who have produced a wide variety of animated, illustrated, and original artwork, among them graphic novels, comics, and animated film.
“The work showcases their individual areas of interest, their study of the world around them and their capturing of story and intrigue through form, colour, texture and movement. Through their unique approaches they have created bodies of artwork that represent their artistic talents,” animation lecturer Yvonne Hennessey said.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the showcase, the scope of which has been particularly ambitious this year. The exhibition is open until Friday, 27 May
Visit www.gradshowcase.ait.ie to learn more.