Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal Work-in-Progress Show 2016: Stripped Back, Raw and Intimate
This year, Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal's Work-in-progress Show takes place as part of an Open Studios weekend at RCA Battersea. Both shows are noticeably stripped back, raw and intimate, and share an emphasis on process and context rather than finished objects.
Jewellery & Metal's Work-in-progress Show takes place in their studio, on the top floor of the newly-completed Woo Building. Hans Stofer, Head of Programme, explains: 'This is the first year that we've occupied this new space, and we really wanted to make the most of it.'
For this candid show each student was given the freedom to set up their work space as they saw fit. 'We wanted the impression to be a bit like walking into someone's bedroom,' says Stofer, 'where you very quickly get a sense of the person who formed the space.'
In this exhibition, materials such as gold, silver or agate sit alongside those that are notably more prosaic. Second-year student Katharina Dettar exhibits a tray of silk moths as part of her investigation into the ecological footprint of precious materials, while neighbouring desks feature cress, pressed flowers and teeth.
The themes explored by the students are as varied as their materials. While Cara George interrogates twenty-first century performed masculinity and boyhood with her 'modified apparel', Sari Rathel explores the ways in which we adapt or distort our bodies according to our gender. In one of the photographs displayed on Sari's desk, jewels spill across the top of a model's thigh, both concealing and drawing attention to the hair beneath. In another, a small gold shield obscures a model's exposed armpit.
A sense of continuity is provided by what Hans refers to as an 'exhibition within an exhibition'. Each student has made their benchpeg – a practical element unique to jeweller's desks – the focus of their display. While some students have used it as a plinth, others have cut it in half, built on top of it, painted or embellished it. None of the workspaces contain polished or finished pieces. 'We wanted this exhibition to give people an understanding of the work that goes into the objects that you will see at our final show in June,' Hans explains. 'For us, process is crucial.'
Ceramics & Glass have also seized the opportunity to exhibit in their new surroundings. Throwing open the doors of their new state-of-the-art studios, they have located their Work-in-progress Show among the sinks, kilns and workbenches of the Woo Building's ground floor. Acting Head of Programme Felicity Aylieff explains: 'We like to do something different every year. This year, the exhibition has an element of hide-and-seek about it – the visitor is invited to go in search of the work.'
As you walk around the studio's ground floor, you encounter students' work on worktops or, in one case, nestled within a set of scales. Machines employed to make the work have also been repurposed as plinths. As Felicity comments, 'It adds a new layer of meaning for the work to be exhibited near the equipment that was used to create it – it allows you to get a much better sense of how it was produced.'
Many of the students within Ceramics & Glass are exploring new ways of working with or exhibiting their material. Second-year student Katie Spragg makes use of animation and moving image in her work, projecting directly onto delicate porcelain sculptures. At the opposite end of the studio Elinor Portnoy presents a series of objects that challenge the distinction between design and fine art. Her elaborate glass-topped vessels demand not just to be used, but to be viewed and admired.
Visible on each of the desks in Ceramics & Glass's second-floor studio are further examples of objects and experiments that are – like the pieces exhibited on the workshop floor – 'the seeds of each student's final show.'
The Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal Work-in-progress Show is open 12 midday to 5pm daily, Saturday 23 January to Monday 25 January, at the RCA's Battersea Campus, Hester Road, London SW11