School of Fine Art Work in Progress: Collisions and Exchanges of Energy
In the Fine Art Work in Progress 2017 there is a strong sense of collision – of ideas, nationalities, social and cultural understandings – that provides fertile ground for creative explorations in thinking and making.
In Photography, colour, surface and technical process are consistent preoccupations, articulated through content that ranges from the natural landscape to the figure, from the found to the digitally created, navigating boundaries of the personal and public.
In Eduardo Torres’ portrait of an elderly man eating, the nature of individuality, relationship and place is deliberately disrupted as the private scene of domestic intimacy is framed by a makeshift, improvised studio imposed within the man’s home. Jeongkeun Lee’s work introduces water-filled gloves, used to ward off insects in Korean fish markets, into a photograph of his own bedroom, alongside wrapped wayfinding cairns, bringing natural landscape artefacts and the language of contamination into the privacy of interior life.
Students are exploring what constitutes both photography and audience. Yushi Li (whose first degree is in environmental engineering) shows men in vulnerable states in kitchen scenes – humorous and sinister. The narrative tension between subject and artist asserts a complicit intimacy between photographer and subject that the viewer intrudes uncomfortably upon. Michael Hering has collaborated with a Fashion student, moving his practice from documentary photography to wearable garments. Teresa Cervenova’s collection of perfectly conceived and printed small, colour images of figures and landscape use the language of subjective documentary to explore the body while inviting the audience to curate their own experience.
In Print, the sense of cultures contributing to a developing and shared migrant narrative through storytelling is tangible, alongside explorations of how the handmade and digital inform each other – the ways images are constructed through layering of ink in handmade processes and how the digital mediates that experience.
Camila Mora Schelhing is a Chilean working with the absence of archives, having fled her home country in the 1970s with nothing. Her work examines personal history and loss, using images of planes en route to bomb parliament taken by her documentary filmmaker father alongside found news footage of the bombing. Amale Freia Khlat explores how we mediate atrocity from a Middle Eastern perspective, mixing images of popular Syrian song with images of herself playing digital war games. Amalia Laurent’s work has a similarly exploratory quality, with an interest in the physicality of natural resources, metals and minerals explored through digital prints on plastic, coupled with navigating the distance of home through digital media.
Body and cultural politics are expressed through various channels. In Radek Husak’s work, sexuality, the printed surface and image identity are embodied as articulated puppets. Shinyoung Park conflates the destructive corruption in global economies with individual images of elderly people in end-of-life scenarios as monoprints collated into a printed publication.
Many students come to the programme with exceptional craft-based skills and a desire to embrace an understanding of the digital, to complicate their own creative pathways. Yuting Cai uses ubiquitous digital interface language in printed images, and Andrew Chisholm is moving away from working with photographs towards programming colour, making changing interactive pieces with coded electronics.
Cultural identities are explored in detail. Evelyn Arup’s primary-coloured organic forms morph into abstraction with undercurrents of deliberate, cultural self-conciousness through pattern and colour. Iris Sautier explores the politics of our relationship with landscape through a recognisably Swiss idiom. Saaed Almadani interrogates what it means to be identified as an Arabic artist, viewed through the twin lenses of himself looking at environment and how he is perceived.
In Contemporary Art Practice students are notably working with some form of art and politics, exploring issues from the function of art, to institutional critique, and highly topical issues such as the differences between democracy and populism, through the analogy of art practice as a participant maker.
In Public Sphere, Janis Lejins’ automatic drawing machine translates tabloid media into original prints, using an algorithm that tracks to the financial markets. Gabriel Kenny-Ryder’s shadowy photographic works represent the development of a new technique in portraiture.
Students recognise the currency of politics in art, and in relation to the individual, who is both implicated and driven to consider their own place in the world, particularly in relation to making art. Mati Jhurry uses her deep knowledge of culture in Mauritius to create a critique of tourism and hospitality. Her performative, interventionary works question the shaping of social conventions, expressed through video of herself taping fruit to her own feet interlaced with online shopping.
Critical Practice is the most transdisciplinary path, with students engaging with object making and text. There are shared interests in mediated experiences, such as translation, and explorations of archive. Declan Colquitt’s installation is an examination of popular music in image and text, unpacking the experience of mediating lived experience through your own soundtrack. Wencun Chen’s recreation of a traditional archival workspace, titled ‘Reading Room’ questions notions of intellectual transaction and what constitutes original thought.
Moving Image covers a range of relationships from documentary film to TV, to fine-art based practice. Lucy Loader’s installation evokes a sexualised performance with red boots and lips on a multi-screen display that examines the experience of being a voyeur, and how encounters with screens affect our sexual encounters. Wei Shen’s scripted costume drama takes us through absurd sequences – from a conference in which everyone speaks different languages and subtitles are deliberately falsified to a rehearsal with terrible singing that turns into a romantic dinner – contexts are changing constantly, but there is an underlying sense that everything going nowhere.
Of the 17 students in Performance, 13 are performing in the studio on Friday evening, and two outside in the street, in a collaborative collection of individual works made in the same space for simultaneous performance. Some performances extend to the duration of the show, while others are fractional interventions. Themes of self-identity, of using the body, combine with a preoccupation with the psychological realities of who and where you are.
Students take the opportunity to refine their stories and establish themselves in relation to audience. Claire Kelly’s installation consists of an enticingly large button labeled PUSH that switches the subtitles to her video performance, changing the narrative. Kelly is interested in the opportunity to observe how viewers will interact, developing her ideas in relation to audience.
In Painting, Tahmina Negmat and Erin Hughes have coordinated a collective exhibition of the entire first-year Painting students. Titled WHIP, the show expresses their solidarity while allowing individual works – from Colin Allen’s gargantuan painting machine to Lindo Khandela’s tiny canvases – to speak for themselves.
Preoccupations with space and scale are evident: Jesse Wade works inside a cardboard box, producing detailed, structural paintings that could be cities or models in a restricted palette that talk about proximity, scale and the macro / micro viewpoint. Victor Seward’s model diorama uses a range of digital making processes to explore the notion of handmaking, the made and the readymade, and the place of the viewer.
Marta Troya Gracia’s work is a living project that exhibits the joyousness of making and creating, with no divide between herself as studio artist and person in the world, occupying space. Cumulatively making and finding, self-exhibiting and inviting response, her work breaks the trope of the artist as a private person who comes out to exhibit. Tae Hoon Yang’s explosive painting practice is similarly irreverent, pushing against a conservative Korean training, deconstructing and reconstructing with provocations that destroy the distinction between canvas and exhibition space.
Larry Amponsah, the first student to come to the RCA directly from Ghana, is maturing his practice through collage into painting. His comedic, semi-political characters investigate the way images are made, working through painterly possibilities that can be contained in a figure. Felix Treadwell’s huge, inflatable figure and canvases use cartoonish humour to amplify the little events of daily interactions, referencing the screen in the light touch of paint on surface.
In Sculpture, experimentation is rife: students have been positively encouraged to have an open house, not an exhibition, so to keep presentation as rough, ready and experimental as possible.
Meditations on the nature of the object abound: kinetic and still, ephemeral and concrete. Hannah Rowan’s mechanically draped blue plastic moves gently in an artificial wind over water, evoking natural environments in a gallery setting. James Fuller’s riffs on cast objects present a commentary on decoration and attraction.
Personal histories are explored: Wilma Stone has shifted her practice from ceramics to sculpture, and is addressing identity, containment and continence in her installation – a video half-hidden in a metal cabinet inscribed ‘The Not I Within’. Roger Miles’ fictive archeological dig involves excavating his mother’s collection of 500 dolls’ house pieces from a block of beeswax with forensic intensity. Robert Orr gives us a displaced, cast envelope and a technical production video as a meditation on ‘useful expenditure’ and creative practice.
Engagement with the fact of audience is a central part of the interrogation: Samuel Gough-Yates circles absurdity and impossibility, inviting his audience to dislodge breeze blocks by throwing shoes. Lucy Gregory’s articulated fingers, moving on rails in a redacted landscape of plastic grass, invite the viewer to push and pull. Cooperation is key, while the end purpose is unclear – as yet.
Through collision there is an exchange of energy, and here it is expressed as creative reimagination, repurposing and challenging established models of artistic production and practice.
The Work-in-progress Show is open Friday 20, Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 January 12–5pm.