'Stunning' DMU exhibition of art by MA Fine Art graduates opens to public

A three-foot pig watching cartoons, a video of a character called misery, portraits which question ‘what is beauty?’ and swirling psychedelic paintings rooted in mythology and spirituality are just some of the works forming an exhibition by Fine Art students opening today at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

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The MA FIne Art graduates during a preview show of their work

‘Therefore I Am’ showcases the work of nine artists graduating with a master’s degree in Fine Art from DMU in an eclectic exhibition covering disciplines such as painting, installation, sculpture, ceramics, film and animation.

The artists say the exhibition, which can be viewed now on campus on the 7th and 8th floors of the Vijay Patel Arts Tower, is ‘inspired by our collective desire to lay bare the mystery of what it truly means to be alive’.

Speaking at a preview show held last week Dr Isabella Streffen, the programme lead for the MA in Fine Art, said: “The students have reminded us what art is – how challenging it can be in the world and its importance and value.

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A painting by Jarvis Brookfield

“They are making astonishing work. Congratulations to them all. It is such a stunning show and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with them.”

Syrian artist Marah Chaaban’s, who left her war-torn country to study at DMU, has certainly created an attention-grabbing artwork. There is a three-foot pig sat in an armchair watching animations also created by Marah, eating poppies that are also scattered around the room.


The pig sculpture watching animations by Marah

She said: “I talk about politics through my work and the psychology behind how we function and what makes us do the bad things we do.

“The pig is based on the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. The poppy is a strong symbol not just in the UK but also in the Middle East, where it is used to represent martyrdom and also has connections with the drug trade.

“The film is about how people try to run away from everything that is happening around them through using drugs but it also criticises the many governments and militias who fund war using drugs and make soldiers take drugs to feel less pain and become more violent.

“What brought me from Syria to Leicester? I saw the campus on the website and it seemed really nice and when I read about the MA it was like nothing on offer in my country. I am really happy I chose DMU.”


Yasmina's personification of misery

Yasmina Gyunai, from Bulgaria, has created a film called Misery Loves Company and also wrote the soundtrack with her partner Oliver Dillon.

It portrays a grotesque character who is the personification of the emotion misery in different scenarios, interspersed with film of Yasmina. Towards the end of the film, ‘Misery’ takes of their mask and it is revealed to be Yasmina.

She said: “I wanted to imagine what misery looked like in a physical form. The  when it turns out it was me who was Misery all along it’s almost like a Scooby-Doo moment!”


Yasmina inside the viewing room for her film

Jemisha Maadhavji, from the Belgrave area of Leicester, has painted portraits of her brothers and surrounded them with metal flowers.

Jemisha, who also studied her BA in Fine Art at DMU, said she was influenced by the Old Masters on show in the National Gallery in London as well as the silk scarves and highly coloured fabrics on sale in Bond Street in London and on the Belgrave Road in Leicester.


Jemisha with her brothers, whose portraits are in the exhibition

She said: “Often people will catch my eye and I will ask them if I can paint them. I love how people are so different to each other and I am fascinated by people’s eyes and what they tell me about them.

“I also think about social media and how it influences how we should dress in a certain way or follow a certain trend. I like people to be themselves and wear what they like. I want to show that in my work.”

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One of Jemisha's brightly coloured portraits

The exhibition runs from today, Spetember 5 until Friday September 9 and is on the 7th and 8th floors of the Vijay Patel Arts Tower. It is free to visit.

The artists are Jarvis Brookfield, Chris Perry, Jamisha Maadhavji, Yasmina Gyunai, Kirsty-Marie Williams, Alice Diamond, Marah Chaaban, Veronika Pagacova and Sonya Parra.

Posted on Monday 5th September 2022

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