40 Degree Shows, 3 Months, Top 20 Artists; Part 1

In search of the UK’s next big thing. Art Retail Network’s Degree Show Picks

The Summer of degree shows has long come to a close. Every year hundreds of degree shows outwith capital cities or  town centres are missed due to the time and expense of reaching them and the industry’s predilection for certain schools. Every year Art Retail Network attempts to push ourselves to the limit in reaching as many degree shows as time allows for so you can access the best of the season from the ease of your laptop. Now that things have quietened down and the new academic year is under way we have put together our reflections on the best of the Summer to help fill in any of your degree show gaps.

After much debate we’ve picked our top 20 degree show artists for you to discover across two blogs. In no particular order we’d like to highly commend the work of the following artists from across the UK;


  1. Paula Bergin, Northbrook College, Sussex

Web: www.pbergin7.wix.com

Paula Bergin exhibited large colour-threaded, metal  frame installations at Free Range conjuring complex notions of both national flags and craftsmanship.

  1. Alex Beswetherick, Leeds College of Arts

Web: www.alexbeswetherick.wordpress.com

Alex Beswetherick channeled Umberto Boccioni in his dynamic OSB2 board sculptures depicting fractured figures in abstraction (Image below)

Alex Beswetherick

  1. Natasha Bridges, Northbrook College, Sussex

Natasha Bridges’ work uses water to interrogate porous materials to metaphorically question the oppositional and conflicting nature of the bodily.

  1. Beverley Chapman, Chelsea College of Arts

As you enter the gentle ticking of an old slide projector, balanced atop a white  carousel horse, holds your attention directing you to projections depicting elements of the horse’s production.  

  1.      Bex Gibbons, University of Cumbria, Carlisle

Bex Gibbons explores the complexities of mental illness by covering the entirety (floor, walls, windows) of her small exhibition space with text transfers, with sentences taken from seemingly mundane conversations and thoughts that may occur to those suffering mental illness.

  1. Jacob Pierce Jones, University of Cumbria, Carlisle

Investigating the notions of the utopian society, institutionalism, and authoritarianism, Jacob Pierce Jones creates an installation presenting the space as if it were a city recently rocked by revolution. Newspapers lay discarded across the floor, radios play news reports, lights flicker in the darkness, and posters with revolutionary calls to action hang limp off vendors’ carts.

  1. Megan Pottle, Oxford Brookes University

Megan Pottle uses delicate sand sculpture to investigate the intimate, fragile notion of mourning, time and loss. Gradual changes in the sand infer the force of time and memory.

  1. Mew Welch, Northbrook College, Sussex

Web: www.mewwelch.com

Mew Welch creates piles of chunky wooden blocks decorated with moments of striking fluorescent colour, which invoke both shapes of old fashioned childrens toys, and characters of the alphabet or linguistic symbols. (Image Below)



  1.      Meng Xiao, Goldsmiths University of London

Meng Xiao’s performance centres on the process of thought and the future of science. Sat within a small white cube of a room, wires monitor the brain activity of the subject printing a record to be displayed on the walls surrounding them.


  1.    Mairéad Keating, Edinburgh College of Art

             Web: www.maireadkeating.com

Mairéad Keating captures notions of innocence, childhood and maturity in this portrait series of children, taken at a Youth Club in Edinburgh over two years. (Image Below)


Stay tuned for Part 2 of 40 Degree Shows, 3 Months, Top 20 Artists when we outline the second half of the list and investigate the graduate artists working in painting, illustration, multimedia, and cross-disciplines.

About the Author

Jena Connolly

I am the Head of Operations at Art Retail Network, Glasgow. I completed my MSc in Art History at Edinburgh College of Art with the thesis ‘Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Rural Occupations within Changing Landscape (1565): The role of femininity within dualistic systems of peasant depiction.’, and prior to this I studied a BA at the University of Queensland, Australia. My studies focus on the legacies of art history in contemporary art discourse, particularly notions of gender and nationhood.  


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