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Steptoe and Son explored through fine art: new exhibition at UAL CSM

University of Arts London PhD Fine Art graduate, Dean Kelland, explores masculinity in post-war British sitcom in a new free public exhibition at UAL Central Saint Martins this week. Flawed Masculinities: “Rupturing” 1950s/60s/70s British TV Sitcom is on display in The Crossing, UAL Central Saint Martins Granary Square from 24-29 May 2016.

The Englishman’s Panacea (Performance Film Still) – Dean Kelland

Much like Grayson Perry, UAL’s Chancellor, in his recent show All Man, Dean Kelland, UAL graduate and Birmingham based artist, explores concepts of masculine identity. In this latest exhibition, his sketchbooks show how he explores failure as a central quality of male cultural icons from post-war British sitcoms using multi-media in his artwork. His work The Englishman’s Panacea which features himself in character as Harold Steptoe from the comedy classic sitcom Steptoe and Son will be screened as part of the exhibition.

Dean Kelland commented: “Steptoe was one the many male figures that were part of a cyclical pattern of failure, where the root of the comedy came from. I wanted to explore this notion and what it means for masculinity.”

In this work, Kelland stands before a mirror in what is seemingly his morning ritual. Referencing Samuel Beckett’s plays Waiting for Godot and Film, the action is repeated with each new manifestation taking us further into the identity of Steptoe whilst simultaneously investigating the mechanics of performance and portraits of masculinity.

The Englishman’s Panacea (Performance Film Still) by Dean Kelland. Image courtesy of the artist.

Born in Great Barr in Birmingham in the 1970’s, Dean Kelland reflects on his experiences growing up in the midst of changing social mobility, politics and identity which inform his artwork:

“Television was always there for me when I was growing up.  I now see these shows like a mirror that reflected the cultural shifts exquisitely back to its audiences. Sitcoms and comedians may be overlooked academically, although that is changing, but for me they say it better than anyone did and I wanted to highlight that through my artwork.”

From Birmingham to London via Fine Art and Comedy – An interview with Dean Kelland:


Sitcoms aren’t often the subject of Fine Art – what influenced you to explore sitcoms?

I get quite defensive about comedy and in particular sitcom because it is often regarded as a lesser or perhaps more superficial area of popular culture. The writer Andy Medhurst once said that if you want to know what is hurting society at any given point in history then look at what people are laughing at – that sums it up for me – sitcoms are as good as any other art form when it comes to measuring temperature of the times.

When did you’re interest in Sitcoms begin? 

My interest in situation comedy started in my childhood when at the age of six I was given an old black and white portable television by my older sister. Sunday afternoons on BBC2 were a rich source of ‘repeat’ episodes of sitcoms featuring the programmes selected for this research project as well as The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Butterflies, Rising Damp, Open All Hours, and Porridge. The world that opened up to me through that small screen provided something that at an early age I couldn’t fully identify or articulate.

How did this develop over your career?

Fast-forwarding to adult life, my journey through arts education saw me trained in Fine Art before moving on to specialise in photography. I showed work at a range of national venues before developing a career as a lecturer in art and design, and I’ve enjoyed developing the skills I would later use for this PhD. My broad experiences took in everything from sculpture, painting and graphic design to interior design, textiles and fashion. I returned once more to Fine Art to study for my Masters degree, and utilised these multiple disciplines to develop a cross-disciplinary practice approach to conceptual representations of – of all things – the British landscape.

Upon completion of my MA I decided to throw this approach away…I asked myself why, as someone who had grown up in a working class suburb of Birmingham, I was spending time interrogating rural spaces and the conceptual minutiae of British landscape traditions. Why had I spent so long developing a practice that was on the fringes of my own personal experiences and a subject area that was alien to my own sense of identity? This crisis sowed the seeds of my PhD project: Write what you know, that oft-quoted adage was the starting point; and what I knew was the British sitcom.

This exhibition highlights masculine gender stereotypes in post-war British Sitcoms – what motivated you to focus on this area?

I was able to combine my knowledge of sitcoms with methodologies associated to writing and performing but crucially the question that developed related to why I felt drawn to these figures – soon the idea that these characters were trapped in a cycle of failure developed and what that meant in terms of how British masculinity was laid bare in these comedies started to inform the work. I started to see comedy like a skin with a familiar surface (humour) and a more challenging bloody, visceral underside, (the cycle of failure) I like the idea that the performance films I make attempt to reveal both sides simultaneously.

I was lucky enough to spend time talking to Susannah Corbett (Harry H. Corbett’s daughter) about Steptoe and Son and her father’s working methods. Remarkably I was then offered the opportunity to spend a day with Galton and Simpson talking about their work and my work – the practice definitely went up a level at that point. I was able to combine my knowledge of sitcoms with methodologies associated to writing and performing but crucially the question that developed related to why I felt drawn to these figures – soon the idea that these characters were trapped in a cycle of failure developed and what that meant in terms of how British masculinity was laid bare in these comedies started to inform the work. I started to see comedy like a skin with a familiar surface (humour) and a more challenging bloody, visceral underside, (the cycle of failure) I like the idea that the performance films I make attempt to reveal both sides simultaneously.

Why did you choose UAL Central Saint Martins to do your PhD research?

Central St Martins has provided me with the most incredible experience. The working environment is vibrant and exciting and the level of support from the amazing staff and fellow PhD students settled me in and gave me the confidence to take risks with my work and really drive ideas on. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team and I count myself very lucky to have found them and to have had this experience at Central St Martins. The pride I have in being able to say that I have studied at CSM is immeasurable but most importantly my practice is stronger and my ideas are sharper as a result of studying here.

When I applied to study here I genuinely didn’t expect to be offered a place to study my PhD, in truth I was excited to be given an interview because I thought it would be great to have a walk around and see what the inside of St Martins was like! I grew up in a part of Birmingham where art was not really considered as a serious option for a career, I persevered and studied at a regional college and university but the thought of Central St Martins was always so far away from where I was and who I was – it definitely felt like it was something that happened to other people. When I got here I was welcomed so positively and my work respected and taken seriously and that helped me shed that baggage.

What advice would you give to budding art students and anyone thinking of doing a PhD?

I can only talk from my own experiences and I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before and I tried to be the best I could be. I trusted my supervisors and they repaid that trust with a commitment to support my practice and guide my progress. PhDs test you in ways that you may not have expected and there are times when you will question whether you can keep going – be the best you can be and keep on keepin’ on!


Carl Fischer in London

Carl Fischer graduated from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, and then came to London in the early 1950s to study at Central Saint Martins as a Fulbright Fellow. After graduating, Carl went on to produce some of the most iconic photographs of the 20th Century for Esquire Magazine, as well as other New York based advertising agencies.  He has won numerous awards, including the Mark Twain Journalism Award, the Cleo Award and the Augustus St. Gaudens Medal, and his work features in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Corcoran Gallery of Art and The Victoria and Albert Museum among others.

We recently had the pleasure of meeting Carl in his New York studio, where he recounted his memories of studying in post-war London…

Carl Fischer

Carl Fischer

I took the opportunity of a Fulbright Fellowship to study in London at Central Saint Martins College of Arts. I chose England – a five day journey by ship with Marilyn (my partner) and our massive steamer trunk – because there was a language requirement for a Fulbright grant, and I could be understood in English since childhood.

It was the winter of 1951, six years after the end of the war, and London was still devastated by the bombing. Almost every block had a huge crater protected by a low brick wall, and shrapnel-pocked buildings were shored up with massive wooden buttresses. It was a grim victory. The air had the pleasant odour of burning charcoal and, though the winter wasn’t as cold as home, it was damp and dismal. (The BBC Home Service, with exquisite precision, once forecast the weather as “occasional rain, followed by intermittent showers.”)  Food was scarce and rationed. We were able to buy one duck egg a week, sometimes a sliver of meat, and restaurants served beans or spaghetti on toast. A thoughtful aunt sent us a dozen eggs from the Netherlands and, lacking a refrigerator, we had an egg orgy. Yet that victorious but ravaged country generously provided we visitors with free healthcare including both medical and dental service. Astonishing.

Carl and Marilyn's Christmas card in London

Carl and Marilyn’s Christmas card in London

We rented rooms in Swiss Cottage, near Hampstead Heath, heated by a gas burner that, with the insertion of a shilling, warmed us for a short while, one side at a time. Our Christmas card that year was a picture of the two of us, bundled against the chill, sipping hot tea, socks hanging forlornly over the gas fireplace. We wore raincoats every day, drank great quantities of tea and slept with hot water bottles.

The Underground, which used paper tickets, took me down to school at Southampton Row, Holborn, right by the British Museum, that magnificent façade blackened by years of soot.  Everywhere were signs indicating where Charles Dickens or the Duke of Wellington or someone notable once lived. England was a curious blend of sadness and renewal, and we gorged on London’s inexpensive – and stirring – theatre. In the morning, Marilyn wound rent an accommodating stool for tuppence that would silently stand in a queue, in place of us, until evening, for the purchase of cheap seats. We saw the venerable Ralph Richardson, the promising new playwright Peter Ustinov, and discovered a budding young Welsh actor with a sonorous voice, Richard Burton. And it was the opening of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which, sixty years later, is still running.

I had planned to study book design, and did for a while, and Marilyn took a course in costume design. Then, by chance, I came across an unused photography darkroom in the basement of the School, and Mr Johnstone, the amenable Scottish principle, allowed me to drop my courses and study photography on my own, as they had no instructor. I had bought a Rolleicord camera before leaving home and, with instruction books from the local library, learned to develop and print black and white film. When the school was closed on weekends, Marilyn created a darkroom of blankets covering me. ‘Self-taught means making all the mistakes it is possible to make, but remembering them vividly. Mark Twain maintained, “If you hold the cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.”

Some of Carl Fischer's most famous images

Some of Carl Fischer’s most famous images

The Rolleicord produced twelve two-and-a-quarter-inch-square negatives, and after developing my first roll I prepared to make twelve small contact prints. All twelve negatives, as chance would have it, were the same size as a sheet of eight-by-ten-inch paper, so I assembled the negatives and cleverly made one contact sheet of the whole roll, a much more manageable way to file pictures. I did that for the rest of the year. Back home, wouldn’t you know, professional photographers had been making contact sheets that way, but better; they cut the negatives into three convenient strips instead of the clumsy twelve little pieces. Just as (on a more noteworthy level) unbeknownst to each other, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz had each simultaneously discovered calculus. And Darwin and Wallace, evolution by natural selection.

Dr Unger, a German refugee who had translated a Peter Ustinov play for publication in Germany, asked me to do a portrait of him with Ustinov for his book, and that became my first, unpaid, assignment. At the time, Ustinov was at the top of his fame in London, acting in the elegant, antique Wyndham’s Theatre on Charing Cross Road and gave me only a few minutes in his crowded dressing room. The light was poor and I clumsily set up a couple of photofloods while Ustinov smoked impatiently. I got off only one roll of film. The pictures were poor, and although Dr Unger was satisfied, it was clear this could be a stressful line of work. Marilyn said I sweated profusely. Years later, at a shooting at my studio in New York, Ustinov didn’t remember our important first encounter. Imagine that.

At Christmas, that bleak London winter, Marilyn came across a notice on the school bulletin board inviting foreign students to visit an English family for the holidays. Hope and Kenneth Lee, Quakers, invited young people from a dozen countries to stay at their large sprawling house in Ashford, Kent. We spent the holidays playing parlour games, washing dishes and arguing politics. We ate goose and sang carols outside neighbours’ houses in a most Dickensian Christmas. Kenneth worked in an office, but his real vocation was lobbying for disarmament, human rights, and world peace – a daunting agenda for this soft-spoken, slight and gentle man. He and Hope had been missionaries in China when the war broke out and spent five arduous years in a Japanese internment camp. Rumpled and unassuming, with frayed sleeves, he was the quintessence of a trustful man battling a ruthless world. He and Hope were pacifists, and we argued about that, also.

One wants to believe in pacifism, it is such a civilized idea, but conflict seems to be our nature. Darwin identified our fight for survival in a hostile world. Our economic system, our legal systems – even our games – are adversarial. And women’s suffrage didn’t pacify things as some thought it would. There’s a lot of evolution still to come.

Carl Fischer images

In the years that followed, Kenneth would stay with us in New York on his frequent trips to repair the United Nations, where he was involved in negotiations for the rights of the Kurdish people before we had heard of the Kurdish people. He seemed to know everyone. He was the chairman of innumerable conferences on arms control and refugees and human rights and destitute children. Self-deprecating as ever, he once wrote me that his resume “strained the bounds of modesty.” We saw him often in London and watched him age over the years. Hope, her hair and disposition still fiery red, was eventually felled by a stroke and confined to a wheelchair. On one of our visits, we went to lunch and she fell asleep in the restaurant. Opening her eyes, and seeing the Americans, she said, “We don’t want your nukes,” and then dozed off again.

After her death, Kenneth moved to a small cottage and took up driving about the countryside in a red sports car. When he died, his memorial service at the Society of Friends meeting house at Kings Cross in London, people sat in a circle and, when moved to do so, stood and said a few words of remembrance – an effective catharsis, not unlike the talking cure. No ministers. No ceremony. Our younger son is named Kenneth Lee Fischer.

When our London school year ended, we drove around Europe on a not-so-grand tour before returning home. We first went to Heidleberg to buy a Leica but saw a poorly-made Russian camera called a Contax Spiegel (mirror) – a single lens reflex, and amazing new invention, and I bought that instead. We arrived in Paris debilitated by a sweltering August heat wave and stayed for a month. We rented a room in Montparnasse and for the first time in our lives we discovered food. Growing up, all I cared for was dessert. Across the airshaft, each morning, a woman would place a single peach or pear to ripen on her fire escape. We had our dinner in a tiny, inexpensive restaurant downstairs, where every evening, the same portly working man sat with a napkin tucked under his ample chin and was served one course at a time. A plate of radishes and butter.  A single vegetable. He approached each dish with reverence and respect. His dinner was a long and serious enterprise and he polished off quantities of bread and an unlabelled bottle of wine, as we learned to do. We began to eat with discovery and delight at what had once been an unexceptional daily function.

Fashion Models (small), Carl Fischer

We returned home with this new reverence for food and over the year discovered ever more pleasurable flavours. Condemned people on death row, may order anything they wish for their last meal. On the chance that the governor does not commute my sentence, I have planned my last dinner in advance: Beluga caviar with Dom Perignon to start, Dover sole with Meursault, brie with a Bosc pear and Margaux, and chocolate mousse with Chateau d’Yquem. Or maybe, and ice-cream soda. Getting all this together will take a bit of time and could delay the execution, but it will be worth the wait.


Shakespeare 400 at UAL: Costume Designs from WWII to Today

Joining activities across the UK to mark Shakespeare’s legacy on 23 April, Shakespeare 400 has been created to explore Shakespearean costume design and theatre across UAL.

The website showcases the original watercolour sketches of costume designs for some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters from the WWII era, inlcuding John Gielgud’s Hamlet in 1944. These feature alongside some of UAL’s latest student designs showing how Shakespearian costume design has evolved to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400 year legacy.

Richard III Costume by Jeanetta Cochrane, 1944, alongside costume design for Richard III in 2014

Richard III costume design, 1944, by Jeanetta Cochrane, alongside costume design for Richard III in 2014, by Laura Albeck, UAL student

All the original watercolour sketches from WWII era, held by UAL at its Central Saint Martins museum, are by costume designer, Jeanetta Cochrane. The designer, who studied at Central Saint Martins (formerly known as Central school of Art & Design), went on to teach at the college in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, and led it from the 1930s through the Second World War, up until her sudden death in 1957.

Commenting on the costume designs, Judy Willcocks, Head of Central Saint Martins Museum, said:

“Jeanetta Cochrane was a real inspiration. These beautiful Shakespeare costume designs show her desire for greater historical accuracy in theatrical costume. I’m delighted they are now curated online for everyone to see so her creativity and memory can live on.”

Jeanetta proposed a building of a professionally equipped theatre with adjoining workshops, costume cutting rooms and design studios for students. Named after her, the former Cochrane Theatre in Holborn (next to the original Central Saint Martins), was opened in 1964 although sadly Jeanetta did not live to see it. The Cochrane Theatre closed in January 2012 and Central Saint Martins, part of UAL since 1986, moved to their new site in the highly-successful art-led regeneration of the King’s Cross area, including the new Platform Theatre.

Nigel Carrington, Vice Chancellor of UAL, said:

“The creative practice-centred approach, exemplified by Jeanetta Cochrane, lives on in the philosophy of all UAL colleges today. Providing a liberating platform for creativity to thrive, UAL has produced multiple winners in the most prestigious art and design awards including the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Oscars. Over the next five years, UAL will invest more than a quarter of a billion pounds on new buildings in regeneration priority areas of London to keep innovation and creativity at the heart of the capital.”

Shakespeare Now – Latest UAL Costume Designs & ‘Shakespeare in the Park’:

For contrast, the latest Shakespearian costume designs from UAL show how Shakespearian costume design has changed over the last 70 years. The costume designs are from two UAL colleges: Central Saint Martins and Wimbledon College of Arts. These prestigious costume and theatre design courses have produced the likes of Jenny Beavan, Oscar winning costume designer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Gasholder Park, King's Cross

Gasholder Park, King’s Cross

Joining events across the UK for Shakespeare 400, is ‘Shakespeare in the Park’; UAL Central Saint Martins’ production ‘Brave New World’, performed outside in the Gasholder Park in King’s Cross, London. The play takes a radical approach looking at the role of women in four of Shakespeare’s late plays by using only the acts which contain women. The 5 act play will be performed on 22 & 23 April by students from the prestigious MA Acting course which has produced stars such as Edward Holcroft, known for his role in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Wolf Hall.

Costume designs for this production are by Laura Albeck and Sonia Birman, Performance Design and Practice Students at Central Saint Martins.

Meet: Heather Baker

Heather Baker wanted to better her understanding of the media industry in the UK, as well as improve her skills in writing and pitching, so she took a couple of short courses at London College of Communication (LCC).  The courses helped her to flourish in the PR industry, and now she is  Founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, an award winning PR agency…

Heather Baker

Heather Baker

What were you doing before you chose to study the short courses at LCC?

I was working in a very small PR agency in south London as an account executive. I was completely new to PR and I was learning on the job. I really needed to improve on my pitching and writing, and, as I was completely new to the UK (I had just arrived from South Africa), I wanted a better understanding of how the British media works.

And what made you chose the courses at London College of Communication?

LCC has a great reputation and a few people had recommended the feature writing and media release writing courses. Both of these covered pitching to the media as well, so they seemed quite comprehensive for what I needed.

TopLine Comms

How did the courses help you?

Both courses had a huge impact on my performance at work. When I had only learnt PR and communications on the job, I picked things up from co-workers and my own research, but I never felt fully confident in what I was doing. It was helpful that the courses were run by an ex-journalist as I learned what works and what doesn’t work with the media, how to cut through all the waffle and focus on a story that is really going to be of interest, and I also picked up some good habits that I still adhere to in my writing today. The result was that I was much more confident and effective at work – placing stories in the Guardian, Times, Financial Times and Telegraph within weeks of finishing the courses. My success at work meant that I was soon promoted and when it came to finding a new job a few years later, I had a good portfolio of writing and coverage that made me a more desirable candidate.

Tell us about what you did next, and about growing your business…

Two years later I decided to start my own PR agency, TopLine Comms. We launched in 2008, and started to win clients off the back of our great PR results. In 2011, we started to evolve to become a more integrated communications consultancy, launching video production, SEO and inbound marketing departments. All of these services require some form of copywriting, and my LCC training has stood me in good stead to build these departments. We have a host of exciting clients from start-ups to major brands, such as Financial Times and Admiral Insurance, and the company now employs 21 people across two offices – in London and Cape Town. We continue to grow at more than 20% per year and will turn over £1.5 million this year.

Social Media Communications Awards

Social Media Communications Awards

What have been the highlights and lowlights of running your own PR agency?

Trying to build the business during a recession was really tough. Those first few years were very hard.

But there have also been many highlights and really positive moments. We’ve won a few awards, and those have always felt like real validation for the hard work we’ve put in. Watching the business grow has been a real pleasure, and I still get a thrill when we close a big deal or a member of the team bangs the success gong because they have secured a great media result for a client. Then there was the day it dawned on me that I own the company, which means I can get a dog and bring it to work – which I did (and still do).

What are your plans for the future?

Over the next few years our goal is to maintain our rate of growth – we think we can be a £3 million business in a couple of years – and who knows what’s beyond that? I love running the company – it’s challenging and rewarding at the same time and I feel like we are just at the start of our journey.

Meet Keira Yung-Wen Yang

Central Saint Martins (MA Communication Design 2007)
Co-Founder of Taiwan design firm By Associates

Felix von Bomhard and Keira Yung-Wen Yang , Founders of By Associates

Felix von Bomhard and Keira Yung-Wen Yang , Founders of By Associates

After graduating from CSM, Keira worked as a Designer for Corporate Vision Strategists. She then spent over three years as a Designer at graphic design firm Thomas Manss & Company, during which time she received a 2010 Red Dot Award in Communication Design. Following a brief period working as a freelance designer, Keira returned to her native Taiwan in 2012 and co-founded By Associates with German designer Felix von Bomhard. The company specialises in visual identity, print design, editorial design, web design, signage and packaging.

What made you come to London to study and Central Saint Martins (CSM)?
The richness of the history of London and of its design. I also wanted to learn the basics of design. For example, typography and font design are not really taught in Asia, it is just too painstaking to design thousands of characters. CSM’s reputation was another reason.

What is your fondest memory of your time at CSM?
Interaction with classmates and the discussions with the tutors.

What was the most important thing CSM taught you?
Endless creation, how to present your work and visually communicate with your friends from different cultural backgrounds.

Work by By Associates

Work by By Associates

What advice would you give anyone wanting to come from Taiwan to study at UAL?
Be brave and show what you are capable of.

What happened after graduation?
Got hired at the graduation show and then kept on working at various design studios like Graphic thought facility and Thomas Manss & Company among others. Kept living and working in London for six years. That’s when I met my husband to be and moved back to Taiwan to set up my own firm.

What did you love about living and working in London?
The competitiveness.  I enjoyed working with people from everywhere.

Work for the Chimei Museum by By Associates

Work for the Chimei Museum by By Associates

You and your husband Felix have set up your own design agency in Taipei. Tell us about By Associates
Our speciality is brand and editorial design, with an emphasis on printed matter. Since arriving in Taipei we have diversified quite a bit and are doing more and more packaging or way finding design. I think we have opened our studio at just the right time. There seems to be a generational shift in a lot of Taiwanese established companies, which are preparing to hand their companies over to their sons and daughters (Taiwan has a lot of family owned companies). This offspring has often similar background to ours, they have studied abroad and are well versed in how brands work in Europe or the US and they see the need for a solid brand identity. It is a good time to be a designer in Taiwan, there are still lots of things to be done!

You’ve worked on some really varied projects for a variety of different companies including ice-cream makers, chocolatiers, museums, restaurants and property companies  (to name but a few!). What have been your top three projects?
Yu Chocolatier, Chimei Museum and the Foster Monographs which I designed when still at Thomas Manss & Co.

Packaging design for Yu Chocolatier by By Associates

Packaging design for Yu Chocolatier by By Associates

What are your top tips for anyone wanting to set up their own design business?
Learn and practice how to communicate with clients and vendors.

What has been your proudest moment?
When I met someone for the first time and they said they had already heard about our office.

What are your favourite things to do in Taipei?
Wander around one of the city’s countless markets or head to the surrounding mountains for a hike.

What’s next for you and Felix?
Becoming parents and to find a way to integrate the newcomer into our studio life.

Work by By Associates

Work by By Associates

Find out more about UAL’s Taiwan Alumni Association 

What it means to be ‘female’ in…

….Peru, Italy, Pakistan, China and Iran. They might come from very different places – but each face a similar battle. Here, these UAL women share the very personal stories behind their art.

ANDREA: “I shared my most private thoughts.”


Andrea Vargas, London College of Communication, UAL Image ©Lewis Bush

“I love this person and yet she is such a mess.”
“I can’t be nice all the time.”
“When I was five years old I wanted to be a boy.”
“Be smart but never show it”
“Outsmart the patriarchy”
“Today I’ve decided not to pull out that white hair.”
“Question at all times that biology is destiny and that “genius” is only male.”
“I find it so weird to bleed once a month and not die.”
“I must call my mother”
“I’m going to be 30”

For most girls, the idea of publicly revealing their weight or the number of stray grey hairs is enough to render them speechless. But photographer, Andrea Vargas chose to turn this fear into a (very) public visual diary – layering secret thoughts over ‘honest portraits’. Here she shows what she, and perhaps most women of her generation might be going through.

“Girls are always coming up to me and saying: ‘You’re in my head!’ It shows how similar we all actually are – how we are driven by the same fears and vulnerabilities about our body and our choices. By revealing each thought – I shed a layer of anxiety and fear.

I deliberately took 31 photographs of myself. This was to challenge the idea that women need to fit into a 28-day cycle as dictated by things like the Pill. Again, women are forced into this tiny box. Instead, I wanted to dismantle that notion and show how we should define ourselves and also to show how my turning 30 and getting older is something to be celebrated.

I’m from Peru and at my age, my mother was already married and had children. And here I am, on the cusp of turning 30, and I’m childless and unmarried. My mother already knows I’m not following a conventional path (or whatever she might think conventional is).

Perú, itself, is far away from equality in any sense, let alone gender equality. There is a lot of pressure for women to be this perfect human being. She must know what she wants, have a Master’s degree, make money, stand up for herself, get married, have children, raises them right, be a good wife, and with whatever strength she has left, tackle all her own personal issues. It’s exhausting.

I want my work to show that girls can and define themselves in whichever way they wish. You can choose for yourself and be whoever you want to be.” In La Luna, Vargas combines photography and text, exploring ideas of societal pressure on women in Latin American society. Using her body as the main subject, she has made a series of what she calls ‘honest portraits’, investigating issues of self-acceptance and perception of her own body. Creating a visual diary, in which she includes these self-portraits and her own thoughts poured on the wall, she tries to help the viewer understand what she, and perhaps most women of her generation, might be going through in some determined part of her life.”

LICHENA: “It took my parents 15 years to accept our relationship.”


Lichena Bertinato, London College of Communication; UAL, Image © Lewis Bush

In ‘The invention of the family’, Lichena Bertinato traces the evolution of her family through old family portraits, raising questions about LGBT rights in Italy, where there is not yet any legal recognition of same-sex families.

“This series shows three generations of what ‘family’ looks like in Italy. From my grandparents, to my parents, to me and my pregnant girlfriend, Elisabetta. Three relationships, equal in measures of love, but each recognised so differently.

It took my parents 15 years to accept our relationship. It took Elisabetta’s family 10 years. It hasn’t been easy, but placing my relationship next to my family’s history was a cathartic experience. It was a mix of fear and the need to feel brave for when Elisabetta and I become parents ourselves.

I will teach my child that there is not just one family model but all kinds that share the same values, regardless if there is a single parent, or if parents are two men or two women.

The Church and society expect women in Italy to raise children, take care of the house and keep her husband happy. Society doesn’t help us to fulfil our potential, except from gaining a realization as mothers. I think that mothers in Italy forgot that they are also women. And when women speak up, they are labelled as feminists or subservient.

Here in the UK, we will both be legally recognised as parents of our child. Both of our names will appear on the birth certificate. But once back in Italy, we do not exist: I won’t exist as a partner and even worse, as a parent.

Last summer The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy was violating human rights in not recognising any form of civil union or same sex marriage. So while I wait for the law to catch up on my family status, I am inventing one, for which I claim my own rights, The invention of the family.

SAMIYA: “I felt inferior to my brothers because I was born a girl.”


Samiya Younis, Wimbledon College of the Arts, UAL

She had endured too much to remain silent. For Samiya Younis, the answer was to pour her frustrations, fears, and ultimately her self-acceptance into her art. Here she opens up about overcoming her past.

“I am one of nine children, born in the UK to Pakistani parents. Growing up, I always felt inferior to my brothers because I was born a girl. It’s different for the girls in the family. My mother was married at 13 and had her first child at 15. Many of my sisters have been forced into marriage.

When we turned 15, my twin sister and I were promised to our first cousins and we were engaged. By 17, we would be their wives. My sister and I were forced to leave home and we’ve been estranged from our family ever since.

Being raised as a Muslim has impacted me severely. All my life I have felt alone, scared and unloved. I have been repressed, controlled and suffered mental, emotional and physical abuse from my parents and elder siblings.

My parents threatened us into believing if we didn’t follow Islam we would go to hell. I was told to befriend only other Muslim females. I had to attend Saturday school and read the Quran every day. If I got any of the words wrong, I would be beaten.

I was made to believe women were second class citizens, only good for obeying, bearing children and being confined to the home. Women are made to wear traditional Pakistani clothes with head-scarfs and when occasionally they are allowed out, they must be chaperoned. Education is not encouraged.

I have struggled with my identity and confidence as long as I can remember. Not knowing where I fit in this has affected me in adult life. I struggle to trust and build relationships. But my work helps me create awareness of these practicing on women’s repression, and how they can affect an individual.

I want my work to highlight the secret repression that is still happening and remains hidden – for all girls everywhere.”

WENDY: “We are expected to get married and bear children. This is ingrained into us from when we are kids.”


Wendy Lee-Warne, London College of Communication, UAL

In ‘A Woman’s Fate’ Wendy  Lee-Warne explores gender identity in a traditional Chinese family in Singapore. She records some of the future pathways that were open to her as a child.

“Once a baby is identified as female in Chinese culture, she is expected to fulfil a specific role – to get married, bear children and serve her family. This is ingrained into us from when we are kids. We must act our part.

Instead I took a different path and trained as an architect. But even then, I didn’t belong. It’s unusual for women to be on a construction site – they are out of place.

My mother, who comes from a long line of traditional Chinese families, just wants me to find a good man, get married and have a family. Instead, I quit my stable job to pursue photography. My parents are not happy with me. They see my choice to pursue a ‘physical’ job as a waste of their investment in me.

But I am so much more fulfilled right now. My work is about women to pursue the life they want. Women are capable of being who they want to be. Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex said it for me. ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

We should not conform to conventions just because of expectations but in fact, allow ourselves to grow and become comfortable in our own skin, deciding for ourselves what we want to be, how we want to act and who we want to love.”

SHADI: “By dressing up as and acting out their lives – I became these women.”


Shadi Mahsa

Meet the woman with a thousand faces. From chance meetings with strangers , Shadi Mahsa channelled their beings and immortalised them into her art. Here, she unmasks her inspiration.

“I am an Iranian woman and have lived in exile since 1991. In my journey, I’ve encountered characters that are forever seared into my memory. Real women, from all classes of Iranian society, whose personalities show a fine balance between an imposed subservience and the natural strength of their gender. From time to time, I still think of them and wonder how they are coping with their lives.

By dressing up and acting out their lives – I became them. Whether it’s Farzaneh, or ‘Ferri’, the woman dressed as man, living a homosexual life, to a veiled woman driving a car in the public eye. These are challenging characters, but all their stories deserve to be told.

There are so many burdens placed on women in Iran, from style of dress to their legal rights, spanning divorce, travel and inheritance.

Women in Iran must obey the husband. The man is the leader of the family – it is he who decides. A man can marry up to four wives, and have unlimited short marriages, ‘sigheh’. These rules do not apply to women.

My work is about sharing the truth. To highlight a universal issue regarding women. It is not an issue just in Iran, it is global. In some countries more and some less. The detail is different, but the injustice is everywhere.”

The Picton Art Prize 2015


The Picton Art Prize aims to give early-career UAL artists the opportunity to create a new public art work to be installed at Angel Gate in Islington.

UAL artists are invited to submit proposals for a new work to be realised and installed by December 2015. Applicants will be judged on the quality and originality of their work (existing and proposed), the appropriateness of the work to the site, and the ability of the Prize to enhance their future development as practitioners.

Artists are invited to submit proposals for a new work to be realised and installed by December 2015. Applicants will be judged on the quality and originality of their work (existing and proposed), the appropriateness of the work to the site, and the ability of the Prize to enhance their future development as practitioners.

A cash prize of £3,000 will be awarded to the winning artist, plus a budget of £10,000 for the production and installation of the work at Angel Gate.

All shortlisted candidates will receive £250 to cover time and expenses for the shortlisting process.

The winning work will be unveiled at a high-profile event hosted by Picton Capital at Angel Gate in December 2015.

Who can apply

The competition is open to current UAL students and recent UAL graduates (up to three years after graduation).

International students may apply if they are eligible to remain in the UK until 31 December 2015 in order to complete the commission.

Key dates and application process

Application deadline: 5pm on Friday 17 July 2015

Interview date: Wednesday 2 September 2015


Artists are invited to submit a PDF proposal (max 10 pages) via the online application portal, addressing all elements of the competition brief.

Proposals must include:

  • Artist statement.
  • Description of proposed sculpture/ 3D art including, including size and materials.
  • Proposed budget (broken down into artists fee, materials and fabrication costs, insurance, installation and transport costs etc.).
  • Safety considerations (if applicable).
  • Installation process and maintenance/upkeep schedule (if applicable).
  • Concept sketches/ images of the proposed sculpture (max 5).
  • Images of past work (max 5).
  • CV (please remove personal contact details before submitting).


A shortlist of eight candidates will be made by an initial selection panel. All shortlisted candidates will enter into a project agreement with UAL and will receive £250 to cover time and expenses for the shortlisting process.

Shortlisted candidates will be given an opportunity to visit the proposed site on 5 August 2015 to meet with the site manager and consultants for the development.


Shortlisted candidates will be invited to deliver a presentation to the judging panel on 2 September 2015.

Winner announced

The winner will be announced by the end of September 2015.

Apply now

Read the competition brief before submitting your proposal via the online portal.

Meet Sooyoung Cho, President of the UAL Korean Alumni Association

Sooyoung Cho
Central Saint Martins, MA Design Studies, 2004

Sooyoung Cho 2

What inspired you to come and study in London?
When I was working as a PR assistant in a large corporation, there was a huge gap between ‘what the CEO is thinking’ and ‘what the tea-lady says about the company.’ Even board members were not aware that identity is a major resource for managing communication. This led me to challenge ‘how can we manage the corporate identity, ensuring all employees have the same message in their mind and that this message is delivered to external audiences more effectively?’ And I’ve found there are many design management courses in London.

What was the greatest thing you gained from your time at CSM?
1. Innovative thinking – our professor, Geoff Crook said that out-of-the-box-thinking and the “life is a journey” mind really inspired me in various ways.

2. The creative background of friends- our course, MA Design Studies (now Applied Imagination), had 50% marketing background and 50% design background. With a marketing career, I met good designer friends here and all of us had a big synergy! And I still work with my ex-classmates in a global network!

What advice would you give any students wanting to move to London from South Korea?
If you are going to be a person who creates a new way of thinking, new way of life, London is better choice than any other city, because London is in the very front line of emerging trends, branding, communications, art & design, business and journalism. The most important thing is that these things are not separate, but merged with creative ways!  As a CEO of The Bread and Butter, brand consulting agency, I come to London more than twice a year, to see the emerging trends, and whenever I come here, I get lot of business ideas, creative inspiration.

What was the best thing about living in London?
Many parks, branded supermarkets, innovative marketing activities, various art & design events and great food!

What have you been doing since graduation?
After graduation, I worked for Laura Ashley (work experience in Marketing team), and SS ROBIN, the world’s oldest steamship, as a brand PR manager. When I came back to South Korea, I worked for Harper’s BAZAAR/ Esquire magazine as a marketing manager, then for Marks & Spencer Korea. After that, I became a brand consultant in a BRAND IMAGE Desgrippes & Laga. In 2009, I established The Bread and Butter (, brand consulting agency, and we are now top class branding agency in South Korea.

Sooyoung Cho 1

What is your greatest achievement?
The Bread and Butter, our company! This July, we will celebrate our 6th anniversary!

Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
1) Food & beverage trends and its packaging design
2) FMG brand’s marketing activities and its communication messages

What do you most enjoy about living and working in Seoul?
Great food, shopping and good friends

You are President of our South Korean Alumni Association. What made you take on this exciting role?
I’ve made our UAL Korean Alumni’s concept [6 t a l e n t] : trendy+ authentic+ leading+ energetic+ notable+ true to life. We would like to show our big talent to Korean society, with 6 concepts, then we would like to share our talents with people who need our ideas.

How do you think our graduates will benefit from having access to such a strong alumni community?
1. Networking and good relationships
2. Finding many possibilities to work together
3. Gaining more confidence on what they have

 Find out more about more about our international alumni groups


Meet Angie Stimson

Angie Stimson
Central Saint Martins, BA (Hons) Fine Art and Film

What tempted you into studying Fine Art and Film at CSM?
It was always my goal to go to art school and I knew that art school had to be CSM. With it’s reputation, highest calibre of teaching, and tradition, I would have felt I’d compromised myself if I had gone anywhere else, it was CSM or nowhere.

What was the best thing about your time at CSM?
The best thing about CSM was that on my Foundation year we were given the freedom and encouragement to try so many different mediums that previously I had had no access to. I had originally gone in determined to pursue Fashion for my degree. However as soon as entered the film department I’d felt like I’d come home. It would never have been a medium I would ever had considered had it not been a part of the extensive Foundation year curriculum.

What did you do straight after graduation?
Immediately after graduation I formed a small feminist production company called Siren Productions, funded by Westminster Arts Council. From there I began to teach video editing at Battersea Arts Centre.

What made you up sticks to the US?
I came out to LA with my husband, He was an animator working in the UK. When Dreamworks was formed he was asked by them to relocate out here.  I was living in North West London at the time, the view from my window was the gasworks. Came to LA, looked out the window, the view was the Hollywood sign, I was smitten, there was no going back.

What advice would you give any of our students and graduates interested in making a life for themselves on the US West Coast?
I would encourage anyone coming here to know that the opportunities here are boundless. Even here, CSM has an awesome reputation. When people know that you are an alum, you are immediately ahead of the game, that, coupled with an English accent and you can’t go wrong!

What do you love most about living in LA?
I found that the US and particularly here in LA , people have the most amazing, brilliant, positive attitude to helping you achieve anything you want to achieve. I wish I had known earlier in life that you really can do anything you set your mind to. If you have an idea for a project, people will immediately say, “what do you need, how can I help?”  It took me awhile to overcome my initial British reticence, When I finally did, the whole world opened up.  LA is lighter, brighter and with no crushing cynical attitudes to success. I’m unbearable when I visit the UK, way too jolly and annoyingly chipper!

You play a massive part in helping us bring our LA alumni community together, (for which we are eternally grateful) what made you get involved?
I came across the UAL West Coast Alumni Association completely by accident. I went to first meeting and loved it. By far the best thing was the diversity. There were members who had been at art school in the 50’s up to people who only just left a couple of years ago. We put on our first exhibition in 2013, and it was a huge success. We all worked so well as a cohesive group and now have found each other it would have been a shame not to carry on. Adopting my new LA personae of ‘you can do anything you set your mind to’, and because I’m a bossy boots, I suggested from now on we put on a yearly show during Britweek. It was by sheer serendipity that I was introduced to a fellow Brit, Valda Lake, who owns WallspaceLA gallery, and who had been wanting to participate in Britweek. We were looking for a gallery, she was looking for artists, perfect, match made in heaven. It was meant to be.

How do you think our graduates will benefit from having access to such a strong alumni community?
Any graduates who move our here will immediately have a strong support network. It can be a bit overwhelming when first moving out here. Everything is so spread out, it can be difficult to get your bearings. There is no centre to LA. But having the fellow alumni here, and because we all work in different mediums means we have a vast network of contacts you set people in the right direction.

Tell us more about the group’s plans around Brit Week.
We have an Alumni exhibition featuring 20 artists running from the 21st of April till 4th of May. We’ve renamed our group London Transplants. Hopefully we will now have yearly exhibitions.

This exhibitions theme is showing how our work has changed or progressed by our moving to a different cultural and geographical environment. How has that impacted the content of our work, if at all. It’s a continuation on the theme from the last exhibition, where we showed a current piece of work alongside a piece we had produced while at UAL. The contrast in the pieces shown in that exhibition was quite striking.

We are all incredibly excited about it, everyone is working so hard to make is as successful as the 2013 exhibit. It’s going to be brilliant!


UAL selected to host one of six debates celebrating 10 years of AHRC

University of the Arts London (UAL) has been selected as one of six universities to participate in a debate series celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Books and the Human

 The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects,  Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, 1967

The theme of the series is ‘The Way We Live Now’ and the debates will examine key aspects of the human world, the ways in which these subjects are changing and shaping our lives, and will explore the ways in which the arts and humanities can help us understand this changing world.

UAL was selected from over 40 universities to take part in this prestigious series of events, and will be hosting its debate entitled ‘Books and the Human’ in December 2015 at Central Saint Martins. The debate will pose the question: what are the primary relationships between books and knowledge, and between books and human beings? This question will be addressed through expanded debates which draw together the fields of philosophy, history, politics, sociology, literature and creative practice. Additional events held at Central Saint Martins and other UAL colleges will explore how books are conceived, crafted, experienced and shared.

The debate series will be launched with the Curating the Nation debate on 11th  June at the British Museum and will run for several months, with further details to follow over the next few months.

Programme Director and Course Leader of MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins Rebecca Wright, who was part of the team to put forward UAL’s application, said of being selected for the series: “We’re delighted that UAL has been chosen to take part in this debate series to celebrate ten years of AHRC. The Graphic Communication Design programme at Central Saint Martins has a long and rich history of association with typography and book design, dating back to 1896 as the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Hosting this AHRC national debate provides an exciting opportunity to explore the form, function and future of the book from the perspectives of making and thinking, integrating design with the wider humanities. Our interest is in how the book is intimately linked to the way we live now.”