Alumni News: Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2017


Sarah Cliff – Corda’s Carousel (2017) Aquatint, drypoint

Recently graduated MFA student, Sarah Cliff, has had three prints selected for inclusion at the 2017 Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair. The international exhibition takes place between 20th and 23rd October at Building 10, Major Draper Street,  Royal Arsenal Riverside, London, SE18 6GD. A Press View takes place on 19th October.

The Fair receives huge numbers of applicants and competition is fierce, so many congratulations to Sarah on her success. This is not the only achievement associated with Sarah’s completion of the MFA programme. At West Dean College’s Graduation Award’s Day in July, Sarah was the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize, awarded for consistently high achievement, presented in partnership with West Dean’s partner institution the University of Sussex.

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Alumni Residency at Ochre Print Studio


Sarah Cliff – Iphigenia’s Inconsequential Dreams and Lost Intentions (4)

West Dean College Alumni, Sarah Cliff (MFA) has recently been appointed Artist-in-Residence 2018 at Ochre Print Studio in Guildford. The residency will provide her with access to a fully equipped print studio, workshops and studio space, three-monthly critiques, two exhibitions, a blog and talk, in return for help in coordinating exhibitions and technician responsibilities.

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Is suicide a voluntary act?

IMG_2818I recently presented this work to a group of artists and asked for responses. Broadly speaking, half responded that mental illness was the cause of suicide; that an individual driven by mental torment is unable to control their suicidal actions; and therefore suicide is not a voluntary act. Other participants were angered that such an insensitive question should be asked about a taboo subject. One person declared the work to be “shit” and that they would walk out of a gallery that displayed such a work.  Nobody seemed to think that suicide might result from societal malaise.

The question was first put to me in an essay title, Is suicide a voluntary act?,  set in 1977 when I was studying Cultural Studies at Portsmouth Polytechnic in the days before Thatcherism obliterated such hotbeds of left wing radicalism from university education. I remember an acceptable answer needed to include references to the sociologist, Emile Durkheim, who proposed that the decline of religion and community due to industrialisation resulted in alienation of the individual and increased the rate of suicides. Is this still relevant today?

The late contemporary art theorist, Mark Fisher, committed suicide in 2016 after a long battle with depression exacerbated by institutional, work-related stress. “We cower in our offices, experiencing our inability to cope with the impossible workload, as our personal failure and shame, telling each other that there is no time to talk.” (2015, Goldsmiths’ People’s Tribune)  As educationalists fixate on data and measurement, jumping through hoops to meet regulatory standards, education takes a back seat. He argued that mental stress is not a private issue but a direct consequence of the social dysfunction of capitalism which not only causes the illness, but then charges you for the means to keep well, by going to the gym, eating better, or paying for therapy. Is this capitalism’s inadequate, half-hearted attempt to make amends or a more cynical and simplistic exercise in maintaining the flow of labour?

The description by the media of an  “epidemic” of suicides in U.K. prisons; the daily disruption of trains by “a person on the line”; the rapid increase of suicides, particularly in young males; implies some more underlying root cause other than mental illness. A strategy of merely treating the symptoms of stress is high risk and irrational. If individuals with no previous history of mental illness are committing suicide, it makes better sense to identify the causes of distress and remove them. For those that feel helpless and hopeless but do not have access to therapy or the means to get well, then suicide will continue to present a compelling option.

a letter to mitchell browne, ‘why should artists at work fund idlers at art?’

School For Birds

I’m so happy to bring you this letter. One of my favourite artistic collaborators, Dave Lamb, has written this beautiful, eloquent, generous and immensely clever response to Mitchell Browne’s Syndey Morning Herald article ‘WHY SHOULD ARTISTS AT WORK FUND IDLERS AT ART?’ Enjoy and, if you happen to know Mitchell, please pass this on. Dave wants to hang out. 


Hi Mitchell

My name is Dave, and I’m an artist. We’ve never met, although you assume an awful lot about my lifestyle.

Last week I read your opinion piece on the Sydney Morning Herald website, along with the comments it generated. I must admit, I originally felt a lot of the ire that was expressed there, but I realise it’s not fair or productive to respond with scorn or sarcasm – that would only serve to distance our positions further, and one of the chief goals of the arts is, in my…

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Petersfield Arts and Crafts Society Exhibition this weekend: My Exhibits