2024 Festival Dates: 6 & 7 July

Blackburn Art School’s Degree Show Goes Digital

3rd June 2020

Last year, Blackburn Art School’s Degree show was part of the Festival of Making and we were looking forward to another packed private view for opening night and a true celebration of the Graduates’ achievements. This year they’ve had to think creatively to share their work as we are in the midst of exceptional times. Blackburn Fine Art students are now launching their Degree Show online, so we thought it would be a fitting tribute to their work to share a digital gallery and enjoy the results of their studies.

BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree Show, Blackburn 2020

‘Deconstruction 15′

Michelle Elaine Ayers

Oil on Polyamide

The painting is a riddle. When you look at only one part, each of them is abstract until you see the full picture, like a criminal case, seeing only one frame makes no sense. It is an analogy of seeing the world. Seeing only outside the window tells you nothing, reading only one paper tells you nothing and talking with only the one you know tells you nothing, as you are not able to see the full picture.



Christian Bell


Through his own research project, Christian has explored a site-specific cultural heritage, and through collaborative and participatory processes, produced a body of work which has now been re-constructed within the frame of a digital device, both from which his research manifested through a social media platform, and of which we seek out contemporary social and cultural spaces in response to the current situation.

Disrupting the sentiment of nostalgia, the distortion of both memory and imagination, and physical and virtual participation is reflected within his work while reminiscent of a visual aesthetic and spoken memory provoking a sense of time and place.

Christian uses his practice as a vehicle to interrogate and disrupt the narratives around community engagement and co-design, and to re-interpret the synthesis around the aesthetics of socially engaged and participatory art.


‘What Lies Beneath’

Emma Smith

Mixed Media on Board

This piece is inspired by the works of Damien Hirst with his Spot and Spin painting. I wanted to create a piece where simple colours would be seen from afar but close up, they are intricate designs, what you see in the piece depends on your prespective, every single circle is different in colour. Each one has a unique pattern inside. I also appreciate the abstract behind each circle the patterns inside were left completely to chance, there’s a risk to it as once the alcohol ink hits the resin it’s out of your control a sort of luck decides the fate of what happens within the piece. This chance has been apparent throughout my last two years of university, so it only felt right to leave my piece to decide what it wants to become, almost like it has a mind of its own.


‘Paula, Nurse’

Susan Brazendale

Oil on Linen

In response to lockdown due to COVID19, Susan Brazendale has responded to Tom Croft (portrait artist). Croft requested that the nations artists to take up their brushes and in an intimate and powerful documentation of the current time, say a big thank you the NHS frontline works, by offering to paint them and then send them the work.


Paula is a part-time nurse, who works nights, while doing a BA (Hon) Fine Art Degree and looking after her family. Susan Brazendale shows us the deep and powerful impact the toll of working in full PPE has. The exhaustion and worry are very apparent in this thought-provoking piece. It was a complete honor for the artist to be able to offer to paint Paula in this exposing and emotional work.


‘To Disappear’

Maia Knowles


Movement has always been an interest of mine ever since I held my first camera. I love the various outcomes I can create just by moving my body, I also love the distortion; it’s obvious that it’s a real body but the shapes are so unnatural and unique.

In this photograph, I’m moving from right to left with my left foot firmly planted on the floor as I move the top half of my body and my right leg. The fact that my right leg is semi-transparent and opaque due to the nature of the photography, suggests a weightlessness and a phantasmal look.

I used a domestic environment because the context is important, and due to the lockdown, I am the only person I can rely on at any time of the day for my photographs.

I have been lucky during this pandemic as I could still work from home and create the photographs I wanted. The lockdown has allowed me to develop a raw and performative body of work that speaks of the times we are currently in.



Gareth Stalker

Oils on stretched canvas

If art is a lie that tells the truth, then surely this is where tattoos should be?

Tattoos (like a lot of mediums) throughout history have been used as a popular way to express a passion, a right of passage to ascension, or to even tell a story, yet, unlike other genres and even given their popularity, they are still not socially accepted by the hierarchy of the art world.

Other styles that we regard as fine art today were not accepted straight away, in fact, some were seen as a threat to the fine art world and dismissed completely.

This is where Gareth challenges these stigmas by using conventional practices from the renaissance style pose, to the window showing a vast landscape. A figure of a higher standing appearance, expressing

what could be his passions and beliefs. What would be the outcome if he had clothing to hide such body art and does the fact it’s a painting make it more acceptable? What would be the atmosphere if he was just sat in a room with such exposed markings?



Leasha Anderson

House paint on canvas

Leasha had to adapt the scale of her usual paintings to the surroundings she now had to work in during this pandemic. She decided it would be wise to work on a much smaller scale of canvas, however still focusing on the monochrome look that she uses in all of her pieces.
Leasha channels her anger and frustration on to the canvas leaving a chaotic feel, and using her on the spot raw emotions.


‘PS, Hope to see you soon, as stated.’

Kristy L Simpson

Mixed Media, Assemblage Box

During these uncertain times in lockdown, I have sought solace by taking my frustrations out on organising and decluttering my home. I had no idea that by sorting through my possessions I would be recalling the past and awaken an emotional response, that has helped me to navigate the current circumstances. Psychology today tells us ‘emotional memories are powerful and serve to guide and inform us as we navigate the present and prepare for the future’.

My work is a combination of treasured objects and everyday things to reflect the journey I make towards my father through my memories and dreams. It is also a celebration of the time we continue to share because, much of who I am is because of him, and I see him in my children every day. Lockdown has brought these things together and it is in confined spaces that I have encountered these feelings, and it is in a confined space that I present them.



Eleanor Driver

Polaroid Images

Eleanor explores the boundaries of gender roles and eroticism with the artistic intention of sensual movement.  She uses a feminist agenda to keep her work androgynous, leaving the viewer to form their own opinion of the images they see.

She uses the camera as a tool to challenge the audience, and forces them to think about their own physical identities and the taboo of hidden desires behind closed doors.

The essence of the naked flesh against the virginal white is captured in a series of photographic movements. Their intention to ignite the senses and take the viewer on their own journey into the beauty of the human form.


‘Weight of the World’

Paula Simpson

Video Installation

The weight of the world is a fusion of visual performance and auditory stimulus, which takes the viewer on a journey into the mind of a medical professional living and working within the Covid-19 pandemic.

The artist brings to the forefront their own fears through a series of images incorporating the hospital sign. ‘Welcome to covid-19: Part 1’ in which they are buried under a multitude of bricks. Each brick constituting to the magnitude of the situation the world has found itself to be in. The video represents the over whelming weight of the responsibility for the salvation of human life, and the effect it is having on the multi-disciplinary workforce, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The steady heartbeat repeated throughout the video creates a claustrophobic ambiance, and reminds the viewer that we are all human, and with human emotion comes fear, even from those we look to for strength and guidance during dark times.

The artist compares the reality of the crisis to that of dystopian fiction, and performs their own creative poetry during the video installation.


‘Geometric Flow’

Sean Croucher

Virtual Reality

This piece reveals the inherent geometry found in natural forms. Due to the Corona outbreak, Sean was unable to realise this sculpture in a traditional gallery space, so he constructed a gallery space in virtual reality to develop an experience that is as close as possible to a physical space. Sean has used virtual reality to create his interpretation of what a perfect reality would be by using geometry, nature and a gallery space.


‘The Last Bee in Existence’

Bradley Smith

Linocut print on canvas

Quarantine has been life-changing for everyone, Bradley’s exhibition piece had to circumstantially change due to the pandemic. His work has been influenced by both Alexandra Gallagher and Elizabeth Waggett. The link he made between these two artists came from their passion for nature and organic elements. Bradley’s research into these artists fundamentally connects his own work to theirs.

Bradleys work is based on the impact on the environment, due to the government’s sale of greenbelt land and the adverse effect, this has on Nature. Bradley repurposed the design of his piece from screen printing to lino printing.

Bradley has captured the essence of the last bee in existence by expressing the importance of the bee, he has perfected this by printing the background in black. This is to show the emptiness of life without bees and honey, the white image of the bee expresses the importance by its boldness and suggests a future world stripped of the vibrancy of nature.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020!




2019 Trusts & Foundations

The National Festival Of Making Delivery Team

National Festival of Making is supported by the Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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