The Four Seasons in Art: An Exhibition

The RNCM Art Society is responding to The Future is Green by hosting an art exhibition on our Rooftop Garden this March. Students from across the College have come together to swap the practice room for a paintbrush. Showcasing their wide artistic endeavours, their artwork responds to how they are reflecting on the natural world and the climate emergency through the medium of fine art.

Fourth-year vocal student Sophie Iliaifar is both founder of the RNCM Art Society and curator of this event. She has project managed this entire initiative as part of her studies. Supported by a professional mentor, our Creative Project courses give students the opportunity enhance their initiative and employability, while building a portfolio of career-focused experiences. They benefit from parallel workshops on topics such as project management, curating an online presence, marketing and PR, and business skills including record-keeping and accounting.

Welcome from Sophie

Photo of Sophie Iliaifar by artworkFor years, I wanted to form an Art Society at the RNCM. I finally thought a few months back, if I don’t do it now, I never will. In August 2023, I launched the RNCM Art Society. After a few months of building it up, I had twelve frequent members, and decided that as part of my fourth year creative project, I would love to house an exhibition within College. What better place to put it than the Rooftop Garden. With the Manchester weather being a risk, I thought it was well-worth the chance of rain to feature works of RNCM students in this underused space.

I wanted to utilise a space in College that is overlooked, not used often, but has the potential to bring students and staff together in one place to appreciate creativity and artistic flare. The aims of my project being: the focus of the art need to be around this year’s RNCM theme, The Future is Green, and that this project would bring a group of students and staff together.

After months of planning (and painting!) I am beyond excited to launch The Four Seasons in Art: An Exhibition. It’s been quite the journey, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many, and therefore, would like to give a special thank you to the following people:

Hayley and Dom for the endless meetings, logistic chats and funding! Reuben, for all of your help planning the format of the exhibition, and for all your great advice; The Art Society, for your amazing work and dedication to the project; The Student Union, for all of your support and reminding me that this was a good idea; To all of my friends, for being there for me when times were tough; To Eldad and Sarah for all of your help; and finally, to my creative project tutor, Hannah McCabe, for all of your advice and support throughout this process.

Thank you all so much!

Hannah de Bordes (MMus, violin)

My name is Hannah and I am an Aberdonian violinist who loves to draw and write songs. Visual art has always been something I’ve loved but never devoted much time to. It’s been so refreshing to have this project to work on. It’s very much inspired by my Christian faith—the same being for my music as an act of worship. In this piece I’ve tried to express how God is and has been such a kind and faithful friend to me no matter what season of life I find myself in. His love is the best thing I’ve ever experienced and it’s hard to put into words. I believe very strongly that God’s love for us all is life changing. I hope you feel comforted and loved reading this and that you like the piece.

Matilda Chen (BMus (Hons), soprano)

My name is Matilda and I am a Singaporean soprano currently in my first year. In my youth, I was a violinist, and it really developed my inner ear and honed my mind and body to tackle virtuosic passages. I was studying in a non-music school back in Singapore, but like many teenagers, I loved to sing and joined the high school choir.

My piece depicts the companionship of the four seasons and mainly describes that although the scenery around us changes throughout the year, the people around us remain the same.

Eloisa Donovan (BMus (Hons), tenor horn)

My name is Eloisa and I am a second-year undergraduate tenor horn player. My pieces try to illustrate the damage done by buying out-of-season fruits. If we were as a nation to only buy and sell produce that is locally grown, we would have less choice, but the positive impact on the climate and eventually our economy would be vast. I would much rather put money in the pocket of British farmers and grocers than spend it on transporting strawberries across the ocean which is harming the environment.

Sam Yuen (BMus (Hons), tenor)

Seasons are phases of change that occur, and this artwork interprets this in two ways. Growing up in Singapore, I was constantly surrounded by an eclectic blend of cultures, most notably of Chinese and Western cultures. As a kid, I used to wait for my dad to finish work, sitting in his office. I would take photocopier paper, sketch out fantastical creatures and knights in battle while sitting next to a Chinese painting of a serene lake nestled between mountains. To me, this was one of the precious images that has impressed upon me the beauty of cultural blends.

In Chinese culture, the 四君子 (Four Gentlemen) are plants that represent the four different seasons. These are namely the 梅 (plum blossom), the 兰 (orchid), the 竹 (bamboo), and the 菊(chrysanthemum). Coming to Manchester, many things have changed. One of the key things has been freedom and the ability to express myself more openly. I was brought up going to church, and the fall of man after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit is a story that is very familiar to me. The portrayal of the fruit is symbolic of sex and the stages of excitement.

Chris Newton (MMus, violin)

This graphite drawing of a red deer stag in rutting season was a commission requested by RNCM tutor Steven Wilkie and Vicci Wardman, whose friend had recently taken the photo.

I’m a self-taught wildlife artist; you can find more of my artwork on my Instagram page (@chrisnewtonmusic), most of which I created as a young teenager (age 13-15).

Most recently, I won an art competition organised by Chris Packham during lockdown.

Liana Storey (BMus (Hons), piano)

My name is Liana, and I am a Japanese-British pianist in my final year of undergraduate studies, studying with Graham Scott. During my time at the RNCM, I have taken part in many projects such as Michael Torke’s Flint for two pianos, saxophone quartet, cello and bass; Leonard Bernstein’s Mass; and John Psathas’ Voices at the End for six pianos, as well as being involved in chamber music and solo performances.

I am the current Diversity Officer for the Students’ Union. Having been a keen artist my whole life, joining the RNCM Art Society was an easy decision. This piece explores the possibilities of interactive art with a different view depending on where you stand. I was eager to create artwork which engages the viewer and goes outside the box. This piece is in two parts for each pair of seasons.

Gema Lu Cai (BMus (Hons), piano)

I am a Spanish and Chinese pianist with a side business as a photographer. Based in Manchester, I created Sapheiros Photography four years ago to create people’s portraits, cover events, and explore artistic photography.

Something that defines my vision as a photographer is creativity. I have strived to create portraits that are out of the ordinary, trying to capture the person’s essence in them. You can find me on Facebook or Instagram as Sapheiros Photography.

Depicted here are my niece, my mother, my grandmother, and myself. This deeply personal work features four generations of women, all different from each other and in different seasons in life. Each photo corresponds to one of the four different seasons, starting with infancy being the spring of life. It’s a metaphor on how there is no stage in life that is permanent, but there is a beauty in each of them.

Nikki Wilson (BMus (Hons), mezzo soprano)

I am currently a fourth-year undergraduate studying in the School of Vocal Studies and Opera. In my free time, I love to bake, read and crotchet. Though crocheting has only been a recent discovery, I simply can’t put down the yarn! So far I have crocheted many animal companions for my friends, as well as bags and blankets for my family.

My piece Immortal Spring is a crotchet bouquet to encapsulate the vivid beauty of flowers. No water, no problem! This piece serves as an immortal celebration of the beautiful season of spring.

Gráinne White (Alum, BMus (Hons), violin)

Hello, my name is Gráinne White and since completing my undergraduate degree at the RNCM in 2022, I have been travelling the world and playing my violin to some very important people and in some incredible places. Currently living in Manchester, I am enjoying all it has to offer with the young and professional atmosphere and am also sharing the Alto Lay Clerk position at Manchester Cathedral with a lovely singer at the RNCM.

Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has come in various forms over the years, from taking up embroidery and selling some pieces, to then creating and designing posters for football teams and logos for businesses. When the RNCM Art Society was created, I was thrilled to be included and want to thank Sophie for all her efforts over the past months to make it all happen.

My piece is called Hanging by a Thread. The balance and beauty of life itself hangs by a thin thread. This piece of art aims to depict the intricacies and delicate nature of the world we live in through a forest scene. Using different threads, wool and other textured materials, I’ve tried to create the vision of nature seeping through the basic images of the scenery. Hailing from Northern Ireland, I have been born and raised in a country filled with all these stunning colours of nature. From the RNCM’s theme The Future is Green and our own theme of Seasons, I have chosen to create this woodland inspired work both in response to these themes and as a little nod to home for me too.

Asia Movsovic (BMus (Hons), piano)

I am a first-year undergraduate pianist from Reading, UK. I began my musical journey at the age of seven, although my passion for music and especially the piano was discovered years before.

Throughout my life, I have engaged in a wide range of musical activities as I am an avid chamber musician, having been part of a piano trio; soloist; and accompanist for choirs, orchestras, and other instrumentalists. My musical passions include Romanticism and 20th century French Impressionism, as I am enthusiastic about bringing as much creativity and individuality into my playing as possible to create evocative communication.

This corresponds with my art style, which draws on aspects of imagination, realism and the natural world. The piece (oil on canvas) depicts a temporal change in seasons caught in a single image and plays with the contrast of the cycle of life that occurs within a year. Each individual hexagon captures the essence of a different season that, when combined, forms a natural landscape over which the seasons dominate.

Sophie Iliaifar (BMus (Hons), mezzo soprano)

I am currently in my final year at the RNCM, studying in the School of Vocal Studies and Opera under Sarah Rhodes. I first started painting when I was eight years old and continued my studies of Fine Art and Design at GCSE level. Later, I started my own business painting rocks collected from my local beach. In 2021, a painting of mine was displayed in a local art exhibition, and I also have a painting on display in Altoona, Pennsylvania, as my grandmother is a sculptor and her work is very well-established across the state, and the USA.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey of this project; I have learnt so many amazing skills, and have gotten to work with such talented people. It’s been an experience that I will never forget!

My pieces are all created with acrylics. My main focuses were: fruits of the seasons and what immediately comes to mind when you think of each season? As a pumpkin-spiced enthusiast, I thought it more than appropriate to paint a pumpkin, like with the strawberry—a very summer seasonal fruit! Spring screams the Japanese cherry blossom festival to me, winter—a snowy night in the Alps, and summer—a beautiful sunset along the beach.