RCA Print Graduate's Human Perception and Technology Portfolio Enters V&A Collection

The Victoria and Albert Museum Prints collection has accepted a set of 28 prints by international artists, including four Royal College of Art graduates. The portfolio explores the theme Distortion and was curated by Wuon-Gean Ho, a 2016 MA Print graduate. 

‘The V&A is delighted to accept the generous gift of the Distortion portfolio from Wuon-Gean Ho’, explained Gill Saunders, Senior Curator of Prints at the V&A. ‘It showcases innovation in contemporary printmaking and the ways in which printmakers are adopting and harnessing new technologies and new conceptual strategies in the production and presentation of printed artworks. As such it will be a useful teaching resource for the Prints & Drawings Study Room.’

Wuon-Gean wrote a brief calling for prints that explore how human perception and technology can alter the way we see the world. The resulting prints respond to the theme through diverse approaches including anamorphic distortions, religious iconography and commentary on personal identity. The collection also encompasses a wide range of traditional and cutting-edge techniques, including foil block, glow in the dark, laser burned, digital projections and electrically conductive ink.

‘I've been involved in printmaking for many years but this is the first time I’ve curated a box set of prints,’ explained Wuon-Gean. ‘Lectures at the College, particularly Critical & Historical Studies, started me thinking about the nature and process of image making, in particular trying to locate exactly where human subjectivity takes over from the machine. For example, the ubiquity of cameras has reframed human vision, resulting in an automatic editing of the world in smartphone compatible compositions. Our reading of what is an amorphous immersive world is thus distorted through expectation and knowledge.’

Wuon-Gean’s brief encouraged respondents to explore traditional devices, such as tricks of perspective in Italian Renaissance ceilings and Dutch interiors, as well as advances in technology that both distort and enhance our perceptions of reality, from heat sensitive recording devices, X-Ray and holograms, to wide-angle lenses and prisms.

‘Many of the prints demonstrate the testing of analogue and digital hybrids, mixing often conflicting traditions in a way which is characteristic of the Print programme at the RCA’, explained Head of Programme Professor Jo Stockham. ‘Wuon-Gean’s initiative in creating a collaborative publication is something we encourage through an annual multiple project and value highly, it is wonderful that the portfolio has entered such a significant public collection. Creating multiples allows work to be shared and to migrate in ways that develop relationships and conversations, as Wuon-Gean's inclusion of recent graduates and the placement of sets in the USA testifies.’

Alongside curating the collection of prints, Wuon-Gean also contributed a print. She explained her approach to the topic: ‘my print is about technology and the internal view of the body, trying to describe tactility and internal geography through a dispassionate line’.

RCA graduates included were Jillian Roberts and Meiyi Wang, who both graduated from MA Print in 2015, and Meg Rahaim who completed a PhD in 2014. Jillian’s contribution to the portfolio was a CMYK screenprint titled Public Intimacy. ‘Photography is a starting point when I create work, however when taking a photograph I struggle to capture the reality of what I encounter,’ Jillian explained. ‘Distortion was an interesting topic as it helped me to focus on the distance between the experience of taking a photograph and the photograph itself.’ Reflecting on the project, she added ‘the box set was a great opportunity to work both nationally and internationally with different artists.’

Alongside its inclusion in the V&A Collection, the Distortion box set has also been accepted into the collection of the University of Tennessee and the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, USA.