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School of Fine Art Work-in-progress Exhibits Synergy Between Programmes

The concept 'the sum of the whole as greater than its parts' can be thought of as a coming together, a synergy. This year’s School of Fine Art Work-in-progress show encapsulates just that. Rather than exhibiting as discrete programmes, each in their own gallery space, the School of Fine Art programmes of Painting, Printmaking, Photography and Sculpture intermingle, allowing the harmonies – and conflicts – of first-year students to shine through. 

School of Fine Art first-year students embark on an autonomous, supported, two-year creative journey, rather than following a trajectory responding to project briefs. The Work-in-progress show appropriately captures the essence of these early stages of development that first-year students go through as they reveal their creativity and realise their potential. The result is a colourful, playful, critical, contemplative and occasionally eccentric body of work spanning mixed media, installation, moving image and performance.

Notably, there are many Painting and Sculpture students – more than 40 for each programme – underlining the continued popularity of the traditional fine art disciplines. In a very general sense, the concerns of Sculpture lie in ‘critical spatial analysis’, an approach which spans notions of space, place, time and environment to critical explorations of architecture and planning, even the dissemination of public objects – as seen in Greg Howie’s Post 1991 Penny

Rafaela Lopez’s Pigeons, a flock of caricatured tropical birds disguised as pigeons, reflects on the possibility of interchange between notions of the exotic in tourist memorabilia. Foreign and exotic are relative to where you are. Meanwhile, Jemma Egan’s Double Roll, a video loop depicting a pair of hotdogs, skin shining and leathery, reveals an unseeming absurdity.

Rosana Antoli explores concepts of falling and recovering in her performance, A Stone is a Stone. The piece, based on the myth of Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a boulder up and down a mountain for eternity, uses repetition of action to underscore the tensions and dynamics of human interaction.

In You Never Wash Up After Yourself, Moving Image student Stuart Layton demonstrates his technique of editing fragmented image and ideas, garnered from archive footage or text, and curating them into narratives that underline the similarities between the ‘rose-tinted’ and the miserable, or explore social and political themes.

In Painting there’s a diversity of styles, from Alexandra Berg’s Rembrandt-esque She Told Me I Could Touch It to Min Kim’s abstract Untitled. Seongjin Huh’s My First Acrylic on Paper captures the essence of nationality in her portraits of a range of international students, while the accompanying text brings a witty understanding of our generalisations of nationality. Painters often come to the RCA to revitalise their work, to deconstruct and to shift direction. This is evident in students such as Anna Lewis, whose work shows a growth and sophistication.

Printmaking students such as Amanda Wieczorek, meanwhile, play with our understanding of the physical elements and materials of traditional printmaking. Tooth-like pieces sit on a shiny copper surface, perhaps a museum exhibit, their reflection a recording of something that is now lost. Across Photography, students such as Alexander Christie, whose work addresses the changing nature of social housing, are typical of the strong subjects and in-depth research that the programme is known for.