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Budding Artist Credits Worcester Course After Being Selected for Prestigious Regional Exhibition

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A Worcester Fine Art graduate has credited the University’s unique approach to learning with helping her grow as an artist, after she was selected to exhibit her work at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

23 year-old Emma Starkey, who is from Birmingham, is one of three Worcester graduates to have been hand-picked to take part in the prestigious New Art West Midlands (NAWM) 2015 exhibition, which will showcase the work of 30 of the region’s most promising emerging artists in four venues over the coming months.

All of the artists involved are graduates from Art courses at one of five Midlands universities; Emma completed her Fine Art degree just last year.

Two of Emma’s performance pieces – Sickly Sweet and Attempting Omega – have been selected for the exhibition. Sickly Sweet evolved from Emma’s initial reaction to a piece of music; she chose a selection of materials based on her instinctive impulses towards the music and worked to develop the project.

She explains: “Honey and oil were the two main ingredients, and, in the performance, a trio of Perspex bowls are used to display the gradient transition from honey to oil. The figure in the performance consumes the liquids, starting with the honey.

“The act begins as quite sensual, but as she consumes the oil, it soon transforms into gluttony, as the amount is sickening. The materials used expose the body’s reaction to media exploitation; it can be sensual yet gluttonous, and can expose a humanness which is both vulnerable and empowering.

“My other piece, Attempting Omega, is an attempt to clarify the blurry line between animal and human by using ethically-sourced antlers. For this piece, I decided to shave my hair as a bonding sacrifice, as the hair was dyed; the ritual also removes human convention from the piece.

“I wore the antlers as an extension of my arms and walked around a tight, barn-like space. The piece can appear awkward at times, but hopefully invokes an alternative, spiritual value. My aim again is to inspire a counter image between both the human and the inhuman.”

The two innovative performances, Emma says, are a testament to the time she spent at the University of Worcester, during which she was taught to strip back all she had previously learned and ‘rediscover’ a making process.

She says: “Worcester offered a different learning approach to that of other universities. It was an unorthodox, ‘learning through making’ approach which I hadn’t come across before.

“I spent my first and second year at university exploring materials, rediscovering a making process and stripping all previous knowledge back to bare material. This was the most challenging time of my life, and the most rewarding. I started to use an intuitive approach to investigate video and performance, neither of which I'd worked with prior to starting at university.

“Before coming to Worcester, I had never performed time based work. My paintings were stuck in a rut, but they are now charged by new ideas through the multi-faceted performance work."

Emma’s work will be exhibited at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until May 17, and she says she is delighted with the recognition her work is already attracting.

“When I found out about being selected for NAWM, I felt proud and astonished,” she adds. “I’m happy at the thought of others considering my work worthy of being seen at such an event and such a venue.

“I often visited Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as a child to appreciate local art and traditional paintings. It’s a place I’m very fond of and often return to.”

Find out more about Emma’s work at www.emmastarkey.co.uk. New Art West Midlands is a Turning Point West Midlands initiative, and is currently being showcased at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. For further details on the various exhibitions, visit newartwestmidlands.org