One of the top universities in the world, with a history going back 800 years, one image is of the soaring Gothic architecture of King’s College chapel, its choir and the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas. The other is of students having a good time, partying, playing rugby, drinking champagne and punting on the River Cam.
The reality is different. Cambridge hosts many of the top international research institutions and departments in the world and, gradually, the scientific laboratories have been moving out from old buildings in the city centre to new locations on the outskirts of the city.
For the students, the image remains that it is a hard life, deciding when to go punting, which claret to have when you are studying and (in a previous era) which buildings to climb up to run over the roofs.
Strangely, it is a Detroit-based artist who has decided to show this other side of student life in “Student Living” at the Victoria Miro Gallery in Mayfair. Hernan Das used his period in residence at Jesus College Cambridge as the background to his latest series of paintings showing student life including ‘Night Climbers of Cambridge’ based on the activities of a group of students in the early 20th century who achieved cult-fame in an era before Batman and Superman for climbing up and exploring the roofs of Cambridge colleges, which Das imagines taking place in 2016.
Of course, the students do study as well, but that isn’t as much fun. They work hard and play hard.