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Going online: artists, architects & designers adjust their practice for RCA2020

Like artists, creators, designers and curators around the world, the 2020 graduates of the Royal College of Art have adapted, innovated and reimagined during these most unprecedented of times. 

For the first time in our history, the RCA's renowned graduate show is taking place online in the form of RCA2020. Below we explore how a snapshot of our graduates have adapted to present their work online for RCA2020.

Chloe Monks, MA Ceramics & Glass

Epoch of Simultaneity IV — Porcelain, Gas Glaze, Digital Render
Epoch of Simultaneity IV — Porcelain, Gas Glaze, Digital Render, Chloe Monks 2020
'At the point of the UK going into lockdown, and the RCA closing its doors to students, I had just begun working out how I could apply my newly developed range of gas glazes onto my assembled structures. I envisaged them as being a series of free-standing objects and several wall pieces.

'Not wanting to lose this forward momentum, I decided to digitally capture the colours and textures of the new gas glazes and experimented with the visualisation and creation of these works in a digital format. With the assistance of Peter

Epsom — Edition of 5, Print on Aluminium, 75 x 50 cm Contact for further details
Epsom — Edition of 5, Print on Aluminium, 75 x 50 cm
Musson, we worked together to replicate one of my 3D structures. Using the digitally captured glazes wrapped around a 3D form, I was able to visualise what this work may have been like, if the opportunity to continue producing it had been available, and also create something to work towards in the future as normality slowly returns.

'A way to further the need for materiality was through experimentation and creation of crystalline forms. In a similar way to how I digitally captured the gas glaze surfaces I began using digital photography to record my crystal forms. This has led on to a series of photographic prints on aluminium sheet.'

Alex Boyce, MA Architecture

Atlanterhavsveien (The Atlantic Ocean Road), Alex Boyce, 2020
Atlanterhavsveien (The Atlantic Ocean Road), Alex Boyce 2020

‘My research this year examined infrastructure along Norway’s western coast, its impact on landscape and alternative ways it could be developed. My early work utilised handmade paper models and digitally manufactured landscapes to create small dioramas. These dioramas were photographed and digitally animated by the addition of atmospheric effects, subtle movement and weather. 

'Initially, my intention was to take this method and apply it at a larger scale for my final animated film. However, without the space, equipment or resources that I required for a project of this size, it necessitated that I transfer to a digital workflow.

'Retaining the focus of my research, I moved to real-time rendering to translate my original methodology to a fully digital platform. Using lidar scans, photogrammetry and conventional digital modelling each scene was created digitally and augmented with real-world footage. This allowed for the implementation of lighting, sound, atmospherics and colour correction digitally within each scene, requiring no post-production.

'While the focus of my project didn’t change the way it was produced did, this put me in a position where it was imperative to learn these new skills quickly and has now allowed me to look at my own work within a wider practice than traditionally occupied by architecture.’ 

Michael ForbesMA Sculpture

‘Contemporary racial politics, migration, blackness and whiteness are central to the work I make; in relation to universal debates on wealth, history and religion.

'During lockdown, I managed to take advantage of having a diverse practice – including photography, sculpture, installations, animation and film – so I edited a lot of work I’ve been developing for the last two years. The editing work included the images of my sculptural work in the studio at RCA, made over the last year. I took on board the advice given to me and other RCA students during an artist presentation by Mark Bradford at the American Embassy; he said “make sure you document your work as you go along and during any installations of exhibitions.” This advice served me well in the studio as it helped me to see the work as an installation, thereby making it more cohesive. I could envision my work in a wider context of an exhibition space, should the opportunity arise. 

Michael Forbes, virtual show by V21 Artspace
Virtual show, Michael Forbes
© V21 Artspace

'When we were told that due to Covid-19, the physical show at the RCA would not take place this year I took the opportunity to share my ideas with my colleague who runs the V21 Artspace – an organisation that specialises in the creation of fully immersive 3D virtual environments for the Arts & Culture sector. For RCA2020 I have been developing a project with them to house my work virtually.'

Megan Willis, MA Textiles

Megan Willis, close up
Close up, Megan Willis
'Prior to Covid-19 I was planning to complete work for the graduate show using the RCA’s textile workshop – specifically the screen-printing facilities. Working from my family’s home during lockdown, I realised I had a choice – come up with my own techniques for hand printing textiles or do nothing. Being forced to think outside the box led me to explore and experiment in different ways. The result is more interesting than what I’d expected to produce using studio equipment. 

'One technique I used was using ‘freezer paper’, which is a type of kitchen paper that sticks when ironed onto fabric creating a stencil. I drew on the repeated patterns with pencil and then cut them out with a scalpel to recreate the aesthetic of screen printing. I also used woodworking tools to carve patterns into blocks of lino, and then stuck the fabric on top and applied pigment with a roller. This technique produced really interesting ghostly patterns that I might not otherwise have discovered. 

'Knowing the textiles were going to be viewed online, I deliberately ensured the pattern was large and that the fabric was filmed in good light – making a makeshift photography studio in the backyard with a white bed sheet and filming it in the full sunlight.' 

Ping Mu, MA Visual Communication 

'My life and most of my work have not been affected by the pandemic, because I am a kind of internet resident rather than an outside person, and the medium I am used to using is the digital screen. During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time learning Cinema 4D, 3D scanning and animation. My work is based on this global pandemic, focusing on the mismatch between atomised society and tribal social instinct, as well as the inner psychological space of modern society. 

'When people are unconsciously surrounded by endless white information flow, LED lights and electromagnetic noise, modern apartments have already replaced nature and become second nature. We've been in this modern, artificial, automated second nature for so long that we forget we're part of nature. So I 3D scanned my apartment and rebuilt a virtual version of my habitat. Then I used motion capture to project my behaviour on an ape. She wanders in a mixed space of reality, dream and cyberspace, like a trapped animal under house arrest in a modern prison.'

Wherever you are, join us online to navigate, explore and immerse yourself in the work – and thinking – of the world's most talented emerging artists and designers. Head to RCA2020 to explore the work of our graduates.