Whitney Museum patron buys UWE student's icon

Issue date: 20 December 2007

Census Hopeful Camilla Kesterton, an MA Fine Art student from the University of the West of England, has trumped her recent success at the 'New Contemporaries' exhibition by gaining recognition from an influential patron of the Whitney Museum in New York. She sold her iconic work entitled 'Census Hopeful' to an anonymous patron. Camilla spoke about the work that has attracted such significant attention.

“It's interesting to me that I am getting recognition for my painting as I usually work on sculptures and objects. 'Census Hopeful' is a modern take on the traditional icon art form which has been practiced for centuries in a range of cultures. The fact that my painting has been selected for an international collection has given me a fantastic sense of confidence. It makes me feel validated as an artist and I can see that there is an audience and market for my work.

'My practice is concerned with contemporary issues of social order, control and manipulation. I take inspiration from political and religious imagery, propaganda, popular culture and consumerism and the work is often a humourous fusion of these elements.”

'Census Hopeful' is created from oil and metal leaf on MDF and wood and portrays a figure that has an Alien face perched on a human body painted in traditional iconic style.

Camilla came to study art via a rather circuitous route after ten years working as a Social Worker for the then Avon Social Services Department.

She said, “I decided to study for the MA at UWE when my two children were quite young and I chose the university because I live in Bristol and I needed to be close to home. I've had a number of exhibitions in small galleries and cafés in Bristol over the past three years, but the selection to exhibit at 'New Contempories' has signalled a significant turning point. Only 37 artists were selected nationwide from over 1,200 submissions and four of us came from UWE which says a lot for the standard of Fine Art teaching here.”

Roy Voss, Programme Leader on the MA Fine Art at UWE, said, “We are delighted at Camilla's success. She has developed her own style of working and honed her practice during her time at UWE and I can see that this has helped her gain confidence in her ability. Her idiosyncratic work has the power to communicate to a wide audience as well as to a ubiquitous 'art audience'.”

Professor Paul Gough, Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts, said, “We are proud of the MA Fine Art course which has now become firmly established as one of the leading Master's courses in the country. Camilla's well deserved recognition is great news but we must also congratulate the three other UWE students who were also selected for the highly prestigious 'New Contemporaries' exhibition.”

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