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CANCELLED: How the Ruskin Art School shone through lockdown

Written by Tegan O'Hara, posted on Friday, October 16, 2020

Tegan O’Hara was a finalist at Christ Church last academic year, when she completed her undergraduate degree in Fine Art at the Ruskin School. Her interests in environmentalism, pseudoscience, absent touch and dreaming are expressed in an amalgamation of disciplines: writing, collecting, installation, sculpture and sound work.

Our final term at the Ruskin was unusual. With no access to our studios and our Degree show on the horizon, we were stuck and locked down in separate states of precarity. The Ruskin worked together to secure the best possible solutions to the challenges of the term, and students and staff took more control than ever over how the art school functions. We came together via Zoom to plan a term that worked for everyone, with our fantastic Tutors building a digital ProjectSpace for our experimental work and sharing tips on unlocking our domestic spaces as fuel for creative work.

Insightful one-on-one tutorials and artist talks continued, and finalists were given seminars on imaginative responses to the demand for digital portfolios. Lee Triming offered beautiful late-night readings of thought-provoking texts; Sarah Simblet continued to teach versions of anatomy through stunning botany videos and enlisted a contemporary choreographer to teach mindful engagement with the body’s anatomy through dance.

Ena Naito (a fellow Ruskin School finalist) and I also had a successful term, both getting onto our chosen MAs and completing our degrees under difficult circumstances. I won the 2020 Egerton Coghill Landscape Prize and Ena expanded her practice with a stunning music video for fellow ChCh student, Carolina Rimoldi.

With the news that our Degree Show was postponed, we worked hard to find another way to celebrate our work and connect it to friends, family, arts professionals and member of the public. We strayed from the trend of creating a virtual degree show and aimed instead to celebrate a different term whilst committing to a ‘normal ’show in the future. On this mission to commemorate and connect, we made CANCELLED.

To quote our publication team: ‘CANCELLED is a publication of 60 postcards made in lockdown by graduating students and Visiting Tutors at The Ruskin School of Art whose Degree Show plans were halted by the impact of COVID-19. Finding themselves in a state of heightened anxiety, expanded precarity, and suddenly limited resources, this collection of postcards looks to circumvent these restraints and to connect a community of people across their remote locations.

The postcard design encourages sharing, communication, and re-shuffling. 100% of the £7 cost price went to The Art Nest, an Oxford-based charity that offers vital support to vulnerable children and young people through creative sessions. These postcards have travelled far and wide and made a measurable difference of at least £1550 to local creative charity efforts.

Images of Tegan and Ena's work, as well as pictures of the publication CANCELLED, are featured in the gallery below - click here to listen to: 'Untitled (swan’s neck)’ (2020) by Tegan O’Hara - audio piece, voice and dreams.