WSA Degree Show Catalogues
As we celebrate the 2017 Winchester School of Art (WSA) degree shows, we have taken the opportunity to explore the Library’s archive collection of invitations and catalogues from the last four decades. Here Tom Cullimore, who has curated the exhibition, gives us his thoughts on, and highlights of, this unique collection.
The design and production quality of the ephemera has always been a high priority – WSA having needed to present students’ work at a professional level, and to capture the attention of the art world and the wider public. It is fair to assume that most audience members have formed their first impressions on the basis of the posters and invitations used to publicise the exhibitions. In that material, trends of format and style have emerged and receded over time; the earliest examples are the most idiosyncratic. The invitation to the 1986 Degree Show is a large piece of grey card which has been folded in such a way that makes it resemble a concertina. Details of student prints have been reproduced on one side of every fold, signaling the variety of approaches taken to artistic practice at WSA in the 1980s. Postcard invitations were mainly used in the 1990s, and recent invitations have incorporated prominent dots, referring to those on the WSA logo.
Information on the students’ work has usually been published in catalogues, each one of which has represented the work of students completing a different course. The current Degree Show exhibits the work of students completing BA degrees in Fashion & Textile Design, Fashion Marketing/Management, Fine Art, Games Design and Art and Graphic Arts. Previously, the Fine Art disciplines of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking, for example, produced separate catalogues at WSA. The exhibition installed in the welcome area of the WSA Library highlights the growth of the general Fine Art BA and the development of other courses since 1982.
Copies of the catalogue editions have been available at the venue of every WSA Degree Show. Their covers, bindings, text and image contents and other elements have typically been intended to interest the exhibition audience. For example, the enigmatic cover of the 2006 Fine Art catalogue, which starkly depicts a gun in a faux-naïve style of drawing, has surely been intended to appeal to people who are curious about certain ironies at play in modern and contemporary art. Similarly, the yellow cover and green cut-down dust jacket of the 2013 Graphic Design catalogue have been combined with highly crafted typography to make a relatively complex yet elegant book form, a product of intelligent graphic design. Perhaps the covers of the other Fine Art catalogues on display represent the graphic and aesthetic preferences of audiences in the 1980s and 1990s.
The catalogues of the 2001 Fashion and 2002 Textiles BAs have been ring-bound at their top, giving them the looks of note-pads which might have been used in fashion or textiles studios. By contrast, the pages of the 2003 Fine Art catalogue have been stacked in a cardboard box, rather than bound; the box has then been wrapped in a piece of red ribbon. This indicates a comical attitude of opposition to book binding – the maker employing the kind of absurdist humour which is often used as a tactic in contemporary art.
Every year, most of the catalogues have included basic pieces of information about the students – their date of birth, their contact details, etc. However, the written content of the catalogues has developed over time. Early in the 2000s, for instance, the Fine Art catalogues started to include student statements, providing a means by which Fine Art students could communicate with their audience; more recently, short essays have been printed in the catalogues of many courses.
A small number of the catalogue editions have featured special elements or appendages. For example, the 2001 Fashion catalogue has been inserted into a card case alongside a stick of rock, which has been branded with the WSA logo. A distinctive feature of the 2004 Printmaking catalogue strikes a very different tone: lines of black thread have been freely sewn to decorate some of its pages, and much of the stitching has been made visible, foregrounding the techniques used to make the book.
The ephemera discussed here are included in the current WSA Library exhibition, which will run until 6 July 2017. The Library is open every weekday, between 9:00 and 17:00. If you would like to look at any other material in our archive then please make an appointment by emailing email@example.com