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Moving Time: Art in Connection to University

Out of personal or widespread upheaval, of pleasant or painful nature, come artworks that prove to move us. They give the sense that our experiences are translatable and digestible.

Phoebe Caine, Deputy Arts Editor

‘Moving times’ have been said, speculated, and are supposed to serve as great times of art production. Born out of personal or widespread upheaval, of pleasant or painful nature, are artworks that move us: artworks that seem to prove to us our experiences are translatable and digestible. Without drawing your attention too far away from the happenings of the wider and constantly moving world, here is some art that might stir in you a connection to the times of moving to or back to university.

Escape your hometown before you can’t

Courtesy of Bossfight Entertainment Online

The playfully comical meets the unnerving. A burning, overemphasised sunset backgrounds a man clawing at his shining, suited leg. His silvery self is caught in the exact unclear moment where the roots may be bolting him into the ground, or he may be in the process of untethering himself in a surge of departing urgency. In itself, it’s a cool cartoon. Symbolically, I thought of how, for many of us, the few weeks, or months, or years that we spend in our hometowns, anticipating a move away, are a struggle to cling to a sense of belonging. The question “is this where I am meant to be?” echoes in and around your head. Not everyone sees their hometown as the town that has become or always has been too small to contain them, while others believe that their university life is the one that they’ve always been waiting to live. Truthfully, not many of us can be sure where the ‘where’ is that ‘we’re meant to be’. It is, at least, an experience that is shared.

New Shoes, Bob Peak Illustration (1970s)

Courtesy of Playboy

So, we know that we are going somewhere, we are moving. The unlikeliness of outgrowing our shoes means size is the backbencher of measurements. We measure style, we focus on the comfort we would get from a satisfyingly chic pair of new shoes to help pave out our future. Companies measure interest. Brand a season as ‘new’ and suddenly and seamlessly the necessity of sending a child to school in clothing that does not cause them pain transforms, encouraging an overstretched ‘essential’ personal rebranding. The return to the academic year promotes a positive inquisitivity of getting familiar with who we are, who we want to be, and how to get there. Maybe you should invest in those kicks. However, it equally promotes the negative tendency to forget to be mindful of consuming carefully and consciously. If you can, buy with intention; give your old, still comfortable and very cool, shoes a reimagined love they deserve.

A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016

Courtesy of Stanley Donwood for Radiohead's ninth studio album 

If you’re not familiar with the album, it sounds a lot like how we experience isolation as white noise in crowded places. When we move to new environments we are surrounded by faces we can’t place and places we can’t even find to face. It’s easily overwhelming, and our emotions begin to crowd over us. The album feels as bleak as the corresponding artwork looks. ‘Glass Eyes’ is beautifully, and lingeringly, melancholic. However, like with each melody and lyric, the art offers different textures in the grey. Emerging with this visible and audible differentiation come possible colours that might replace the greyscale. While skies become darker as term advances, things will begin to have a new colour and vibrancy attached to them.

Title Unknown, 1890-1918

Courtesy of Egon Schiele

In many ways, the colour that begins to show in our lives is a result of the ways we interact with each other. Egon Schiele had always managed to capture the intrinsically imperfect gorgeousness of the human body and what it can do - of how it can appear to ourselves and others and this ongoing exchange between seeing and touching. This piece exposes the close intimacy of being taken in, wrapped into warmth. Hands red from a passionate increase in circulation, hands burned by the cold that’s creeping into the weather at the moment. A waist where detail would be excessive, since ‘to hold’ is the message. To look out for, and reach out to, our peers is a colourfully kind thing to do.

Eternity - Gustave Courbet (c.1865-69)

Courtesy of Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

The first day I spent in Bristol I visited the Art Gallery. I stopped at this painting, and stayed a while. I am reminded of it now as a good close for this article. The greys that I have talked about fleck and weave themselves within a calm, cornflower blue sky. The sea lightly froths before a horizon beginning to redden and purple, something rich and warm. The central, abandoned rocks seem stuck fast to the sand, held by lengths of seaweed. Knowing that standing alone, staring out on certain seas, the view has remained strikingly similar across centuries reminds us of the eternity in things. When the seaweed is easily curled up in a swash and drawn away, dislodging the boulder into a new seat, and the sand wrinkles under a darker day's stormier sky, they are still what they used to be. They carry with them where they have been, just like we do. If this is your final year at Bristol, you will take with you the time you have spent here once you leave. If this is your first year, it is likely Bristol and its people will induce comparisons to places in your past, those memories there still with you. Stop by the Bristol art gallery, stumble across this painting, and let it stay with you for a while. And once you move on, let it surprise you when your brain next reminds you it exists. The things we do, in amongst all the turbulence of new beginnings, tend to lodge themselves in our memories more permanently than we realise at the time.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Phoebe Caine

What piece of art resonates most with your university experience?