Cass Art Painting Prizewinners 2020: Slade School of Art

by Cass Art

At Cass Art we are proud to support the next generation of artists and we do this in a number of ways! One key avenue of support is through prize giving, and we give a variety of prizes to art students at different stages of their education. 

Summers in Art Schools are a time for anticipation and celebration, setting up for degree shows, exhibition openings and performances. This summer might look slightly different for art schools as studios remain closed and exhibitions moved online – but there is still a lot of creative talent to celebrate. Art students, whatever their stage of education, are the future of our creative industries – and their dedication and tenacity at this time is an inspiration.

Discover the Slade School of Fine Art Degree Showcase 2020 - online until July 14th

We caught up with the winners of the Cass Art Painting prize for Slade School of Art. They each give us a small insight into their work, their plans after graduating and some tips for the art students of the future:

Lulua Alyahya


Hi Lulu, congratulations on winning the Cass Art prize! Could you introduce yourself and your practice?

Thanks! My name is Lulu, I’m a painter and I just completed my BFA at the Slade. I’ve previously dabbled in film-making and music but more recently I’ve kind of just devoted myself to painting. I derive inspiration from a wide range of sources and in a way I make my images out of a desire to see these things exist on the same plane. In (super brief) summary, I’m interested in cartoons/cartoon imagery, post-punk music, existentialist literature, and the Arab identity. I enjoy exploring the ways in which these things intersect on both an objective and personal level. My paintings interweave imagery and references from completely different worlds and the outcome will sometimes feel to me like a resolved inquiry and other times like a catalyst for tension/confusion. 

And what do you have planned for the prize?

I’m just really excited to snoop around the shop for new materials to mess around with. I’ve been thinking of experimenting with different glazes and varnishes for a while, so this will be a great opportunity to test some stuff out. 

It’s been an extraordinary time for the arts and art education. Away from our galleries, our studios, tutors and peers, art lovers and artists have had to find new avenues to share our practices and ideas with the world. How have you found this period of art making?

I’ve been really suddenly uprooted from my life in London due to the pandemic. I’m currently back home in Bahrain and feel really lucky that my mom is an artist. We’ve been sharing a studio space in our home and inspiring each other to keep a good momentum going. But for a good two months, it actually felt impossible to work on anything aside from my Animal Crossing village. I really miss my tutors and peers and the energy in the Slade studios. This time has really made me appreciate the importance of community as an artist. I’m grateful to still be able to connect with everyone, but it’s just not the same as being together in the physical realm. 

There is a great melancholic feel to your works, in tone and in title. How important Is this mood to your practice? 

There is always an undertone of melancholia and melodrama in most of what I consume, so I guess that just bleeds into what I produce. I'm really obsessed with composers of the Romantic era, particularly Chopin. I also love Jonathan Richman’s mawkish, over-sentimental narration in the Modern Lovers’ records. I guess I am just interested in the feeling of being stupefied by love and life. I’m interested in idleness and the way that idle moments sort of harbour melancholia. This question is a little hard to answer.  

You also have a very distinct tonal quality in your work, how do you approach your colour selection and mixing?

I try not to shy away from using crazy colours on impulse, but I mix almost everything with a little bit of brown and I tend not to change or clean my brush too often while painting. This way of working creates a muddy, muted rainbow feel which I’ve been really into. 

What are your go to materials, are there any brands that you turn to?

I stick to oils for the most part. When it comes to drawing, I love whatever ballpoint pen feels good, and a nice set of pencils is of course essential. I’ve been quite loyal to Winsor & Newton but I’m honestly not too picky. I’ll happily use whatever does the job.

And finally – when the world begins to return to normal, what’s next on the horizon?

I’m taking things day by day, so I’m not really sure yet. I know I’ll be living in the Middle East again and I’m excited to see how the move will impact my practice.

See more of Lulu's work in the Slade Degree Showcase

Nooka Sheperd


Hi Nooka, congratulations on winning the Cass Art prize! Could you introduce yourself and your practice?

I'm Nooka Shepherd and I recently graduated from the Slade's BFA Painting undergraduate course. I'm primarily a painter but have recently been working with ceramics and plan to move into working with fabrics and costumes too. 

And what do you have planned for the prize?

I am very keen to get my hands on some new pens and a really nice watercolour brush as well as some larger stretchers than I'd usually be able to afford. 

It’s been an extraordinary time for the arts and art education. Away from our galleries, our studios, tutors and peers, art lovers and artists have had to find new avenues to share our practices and ideas with the world. How have you found this period of art making?

I've been really lucky over lockdown, I moved back to the countryside to be with my family and there had enough space to carry on making, but it did mean having to be much more resourceful and using what was immediately available to me.

 

I love the way that you build up the layers of colour in your work, with subtle washes of colour and fine details line. Could you talk us through how to approach your work?

Thank you! I usually begin with a wash and then sketch the foundational elements of the painting (which are usually figures) in by wiping with rags. I then use a lot of wet on wet to create a world or set for these figures who I usually approach with the intention for them to seem drawn as much as painted in order to maintain a line. I like the balance you find with oil between control and chaos, you paint the painting only as much as it paints itself.

You work in point a flat a sculptural plane. How do you find both of these modes of practice feed into one another?

I love the ways in which the physical and the ephemeral coexist and it has always been a core concern within the work I make, like an interplay of worlds. It feels fitting to me then that my work should be a mixture of paintings - flat images depicting places and people both real and not real, and ceramics - tactile and physical objects that can inhabit our immediate reality. I suppose in this way their existence is symbiotic, just like the intertwining of things that are physical and things that are intangible, the two sustain one another.

What are your go to materials, are there any brands that you turn to?

I realise that brands for materials are important but I really couldn't say which I go to, so far most of the materials I use are second hand or whatever was immediately affordable. It'll be lovely to be able to properly pay attention to which companies make beautiful art materials.

And finally – when the world begins to return to normal, what’s next on the horizon?

That's a very good question, I'm still wavering a little in terms of a solid plan. I've been asked to illustrate a graphic novel and have been turning a lot of energy into that work which is very exciting. I'd love to do as many residencies as I can and go on to an MA sometime in the future, where however remains a mystery! Something I certainly know is that I am dedicated to continuing making work until I turn my toes up.

See more of Nooka's work in the Slade Degree Showcase

Shailee Mehta


Hi Shailee, congratulations on winning the Cass Art prize! Could you introduce yourself and your practice?

My practice explores figuration of femininity, womanhood, care and agency through mediums such as painting, drawing and printmaking. Using mundane acts of either activity or passivity, I enjoy depicting narratives that respond to history, mythology and our affective relationship with nature, particularly pertaining to India, where I was born and raised.  

And what do you have planned for the prize?
I have always found drawing to be a parallel practice to painting, instead of a “preliminary” investigation. The funds will go towards buying paper, watercolours, pencils and other materials suitable for some large scale drawings I want to work on.

 
It’s been an extraordinary time for the arts and art education. Away from our galleries, our studios, tutors and peers, art lovers and artists have had to find new avenues to share our practices and ideas with the world. How have you found this period of art making?
I do believe that as artists we have a certain adaptive quality that enables us to make/create in response to the environments we are put into. With less space and more time, I found myself going back to a slower process of making, something which has helped me develop an entirely new vocabulary in my recent works.

The figures in your work are simply haunting. Can you expand on your use of characterisation in your work?
It’s always fun to hear the kind of resonance viewers find in my figures, such as mother-daughter relationships, emotions of care and anxiety and haunting has certainly been one of them. I like my figures to occupy a liminal space between the mythological and the everyday, which I achieve through their awkward form and other-worldly colour. Even though some of the figures I paint seem to have a deep resemblance to myself, I see this resemblance as that of an emotionality rather than a physicality. My repetition of slightly different versions of the same face enables them to lose their meaning as “self-portraiture” and take on the form of a motif.



Your use of brushwork and mark making has such dynamism. The combined use of many marks and an almost dry brush point brings a wonderful texture to the surface. How do you approach your mark making?
Thank you. The role of line has been an essential part of my work for the past couple of years, which extends itself into various forms of marks I like to explore on the surface I am dealing with. This enables me to describe the skin of a figure, or the edge of a toe or even a gaze, that can potentially anchor the entire image.
 
What are your go to materials, are there any brands that you turn to?
Winsor & Newton Gouache and watercolours, Arches and Fabriano hot press papers and Derwent drawing pencils are definitely materials I keep going back to.
 
And finally – when the world begins to return to normal, what’s next on the horizon?
I am weary of expecting the world to “return” to any kind of normal, but going forward, I do have a couple of shows lined up, one of them being at The Residency Gallery in London. Other than studio work, I want to work towards an expansive practice with writing and working with spaces of viewership within the art scene in India.

See more of Shailee's work in the Slade Degree Showcase

Feeling inspired?


Explore the Slade School of Fine Art Degree Showcase 2020 - BA/BFA

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