RCA Research Student Awarded Fellowship at Yale Center for British Art

Current RCA PhD student Rosie Ram has received an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) International Placement Scheme award in support of a three-month fellowship at the Yale Centre for British Art (YCBA) at Yale University, Connecticut USA. The research will contribute towards a chapter of her PhD at the RCA and will also inform a Spotlight display she is co-curating at Tate Britain next year.

Rosie is visiting the YCBA in order to study the recently acquired archive of artist John McHale, which includes his scrapbooks, collage works and magazine tear sheets from the post-war period. Rosie’s fellowship will provide unique insights into collage making and collaboration in post-war Britain, which are both central areas of her doctoral research.

‘Rosie’s success in securing an AHRC International Placement award presents an immensely valuable opportunity for her to undertake important research that will not only inform her doctoral thesis but will also benefit the field of post-war British art history,’ commented Professor Victoria Walsh, Head of Curating Contemporary Art at the RCA. 

‘John McHale was integral to the rethinking and reworking of British visual culture in the 1950s at a moment of significant technological change not dissimilar to the impact of digital photography today. Understanding the motivations and processes of McHale’s collage work will undoubtedly also contribute to Rosie’s future research display at Tate Britain.’

At the RCA, with the support of an AHRC scholarship, Rosie is researching collaborative art practices in post-war Britain, from 1945 to 1965. She is concentrating on the materiality of collaboration and its technological mediation. The Independent Group, which McHale was a member of along with Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, and Alison and Peter Smithson, is a key focus of her research.

‘McHale was a skilled collagist and collaborator, yet the complex interplay of these elements of his creative practice remains unexamined,’ Rosie explained. ‘By spending three-months at YCBA investigating McHale's archive, I hope to show how these aspects of McHale's practice intersected, and how he used collage and collaboration as dual strategies to problematise notions of ownership, authorship and artistic status.’

Building on her analysis of the scrapbooks of Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi, Rosie will explore McHale’s scrapbooks and more broadly investigate the role of the scrapbook in post-war art practice. She will also consider how the scrapbook relates to the studio and how both can potentially be sites in which artistic authorship and labour are conceived and reconfigured.

‘Collage draws together found fragments, and I will ask how these fragments might upset traditional notions of artistic authorship and ownership by creating alternative economies within networks of creative practitioners,’ Rosie explained. ‘Collage is a materially complex form of creative production and seeing images and works first-hand to understand the selection, handling (cutting and shaping) and fixture is crucial to my analysis of the processes of collage-making and collaboration.’

In 2019 Rosie is co-curating a Spotlight display at Tate Britain with Mark Hallett, Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre, and Elena Crippa, Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate, which will examine Nigel Henderson’s collage practice. McHale was one of Henderson’s peers and studying his collage work first-hand Rosie will be able to contribute a more in-depth understanding of how different approaches to collage making developed and intersected during the period. Her research at the YCBA will enhance her understanding of collage practices in post-war Britain and bring the McHale archive into dialogue with collections and audiences in the UK.

The AHRC International Placement Scheme is an annual fund that supports AHRC-funded doctoral students, early-career researchers and doctoral-level research assistants to access internationally renowned collections, programmes and expertise held at one of seven world-leading institutions – the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin, USA; The Huntington Library, California, USA; The Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA; National Institutes for the Humanities, Japan; Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai, China; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA; and The Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, USA.

Find out more about Research degrees at the RCA and how to apply.