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Online showcase earns DMU artists recognition during Covid-19


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While coronavirus is limiting opportunities in the cultural sector, one local exhibition has given De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) artists a much-needed platform.

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Self-portrait by Indre Rimselyte

Traditionally a physical exhibition, the Leicester Open Variant Exhibition (L.O.V.E. Art) runs annually to highlight creators and artists working in any medium who are located in and around the city.

Adapting to the global pandemic, the exhibition went exclusively online for 2020, giving 190 talented artists the valuable opportunity to showcase 246 pieces of work. Among them were three prize-winning graduates and students from DMU’s Fine Art degree.

Indre Rimselyte won a £200 prize, sponsored by DMU Local, for her acrylic self-portrait on canvas which is inspired by her Lithuanian heritage. She landed a studio residency at Leicester’s StudionAme shortly before graduating in 2017 and has been based there ever since.

The 25-year-old said: “I don’t know how many opportunities I’ve lost to show my work to potential buyers and people interested in furthering my career due to Covid-19. It’s been devastating.

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Laura Holmes' acrylic paintings

“Winning this prize has boosted my confidence though and feels like such a gift. I really wasn’t expecting it as there was a lot of amazing work last year and I thought maybe my artwork was too personal to be understood.

“I’m really grateful for the £200 too as my supply of art materials needs restocking and money is a big issue right now.”

Final-year student Laura Holmes was awarded a prize sponsored by the Riverside Festival for her acrylic painting on canvas and voile fabric, which links to her performance work and is about deconstructing the perception of time.

“Having something good come out of such a chaotic year was quite a nice surprise. It made the hard work worth it,” said the 20-year-old from Norwich.

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Moth-like digital collage by Nika Pagacova

When national lockdown measures restricted Laura’s time on DMU’s campus, she decided to hire a studio space at Leicester’s Two Queens gallery.

She said: “I was apprehensive about adapting the scale of my work if I continued painting in my student accommodation, so Two Queens has been a lifesaver. The artist controls the work on a smaller scale, whereas I like working on a bigger scale where the work almost controls me.”

2020 graduate Nika Pagacova won a prize for her digital collage shaped like a moth, created using photographs she took of nature.

“I grew up in the mountains so being connected to nature is hugely important to me – everything living has a soul. Nature’s patterns are everywhere around us and my work tries to capture the essence of that,” said the 36-year-old from Slovakia.

“Winning this prize uplifted me so much. Often, I feel like I’m just doing this for myself, so having other people believe in and appreciate what I’m doing is very encouraging. The £100 gift card is like a confirmation that I need to continue.”

Phil Hackett, L.O.V.E Art founder and DMU Fine Art alumnus, said: “I started the exhibition in 2014 as part of the professional career development module on my degree. Since then we’ve proudly provided opportunities for the hundreds of art students that come into the city each year.

“Previous exhibitions have seen foundation students exhibiting next to artists recognised by The Royal Society, A-level students exhibiting next to MA students, and local professional and amateur artists exhibiting in the same spaces as internationally-renowned artists.

“Entries and prize winners are selected by an independent volunteer panel of art sector peers, including a previous L.O.V.E. Art prize winner, to keep the selections contemporary and reflective of the city.”

Posted on Wednesday 27th January 2021

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