Show 2019 School of Arts & Humanities: Expanding Traditions, Disciplines and Media
With Programmes spanning Curating Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Practice, Print, Painting, Sculpture, Writing, Photography, Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal, it’s hard to sum up the graduate output of the School of Arts & Humanities. However, as Dean of Arts & Humanities, Professor Juan Cruz explains ‘what is characteristic about the School is a deep material and technical expertise contrasted by work that is not bound by tradition. There is innovation and cutting-edge approaches – but also a defence or claim for the importance and validity of certain methods of production.’
The MA work and research on display makes a case for taking seriously the impact of the arts and humanities. These artists, makers, researchers, writers and curators frame what they do in relationship to wider discussions and urgent contemporary questions – from addressing the post-colonial and the climate crisis, to embracing sustainability and the ethical sourcing of materials, making enquiries into healthcare, mental health and identity, and forging new understandings of subjectivity.
Ceramics & GlassWithin the Ceramics & Glass Programme there is a real focus on materials encompassing a huge breadth of results, approaches and methods. A particular thread, this year – identified by Head of Applied Arts Professor Rebecca Harvey – is the idea of the particle, seen through a focus on the small pieces that a material, object or installation is made from.
In HoJung Kim’s ceramics, this is seen in the reuse of recycled fragments of clay to create unique, terrazzo-like patterns within simple bowls and in Joshua Kerley’s glass works, which use bead like elements to create surprising and unusual effects.
Nico Conti has also used a unique production method to create 3D printed sculptures with a fine porcelain-like clay. He subjects these machine-made, almost fabric-like objects to chance interventions, either squeezed or crushed by hand, or warped during firing in the kiln.
Many ceramicists explore the tension between the surface decoration of an object or vessel, and its form. This can be seen in the transition from 2D drawings to Aphra O’Connor’s ceramics, and in the application of narrative illustrations to vessels created by Anne Lykke (Anne Nielsen-Kudsk).
All of the graduate projects demonstrate how the RCA fosters creativity across applications from the industrial, to fine art, experimental and experiential. As in Ruiqi Dai's glass object that can fill six wine glasses simultaneously, redefining a playful relationship between sculptural form and functionality.
Jewellery & Metal
This year graduating Jewellery & Metal students have created a labyrinth-like structure to showcase their work, highlighting the intimacy of the pieces by engineering close encounters with them. Many use jewellery as an expression of self, identity and culture, such as Noura Alserkal, who has worked with gold and dkhoon, a type of incense made from a recipe passed down through the women in her family, to explore ideas of beauty and the role of women in the UAE. Alserkal has also made a velvet bag with a hidden message that is revealed under UV light. In Arabic it reads 'women are not possessions', a play on words, as the word for possession in Arabic also means bag.
The interactivity of jewellery is explored by several students. Herman Sun has created a collection of adaptable objects inspired by East Asian dragon signs, including an incense burner that can be dismantled to also be worn as a broach. Yilin (Leah) Gao has created jewellery inspired by the circus, performance and games that is only completed when reinterpreted by the wearer.There are also considerations of jewellery in an expanded, material and physical space. Shiqi Li (Gloria)’s 3D printed brooches match up to wallpaper motifs, so when they are not worn they become ornaments within domestic architecture.
Ashley Khirea Wahba brings a provocative new approach to jewellery, utilising iconography of mass culture, humorous and stereotypical imagery and phrases, and engraving as a form of antagonism towards traditional and contemporary jewellery.
Contemporary Art PracticeContemporary Art Practice (CAP) students come from diverse backgrounds – spanning music and architecture, to anthropology and war studies – and work adeptly across media and methods to engage with social, political and personal topics. Bad Gyal’s talk, by Clara Verdier for example, explores the construction of minorities and majorities, challenging toxic stereotypes, institutional oppression and patriarchy in the context of European societies.
James Rushton ‘Milky’ has collaborated with an Innovation Design Engineering student to create a device that records infrasound (inaudible low-frequency waves greater than 20hz) levels in Kensington and Chelsea to represent how buildings and architecture affect soundscapes and might relate to systemic societal control.
With a background as a musician, Timothy Cape’s video works, reflect on contemporary ideas and conditions of labour, from a noisy admin machine to people performing their CV before consuming them.
Having previously studied Philosophy of Science, Dasha Loyko's work explores the interplay between the real and the speculative, taking the form of a mirrored neon installation that acts – physically and figuratively – as a wormhole, reflecting infinite swirls that appear to burrow down in the floor.
There are many performances happening across the Programme: Name Surname will be present in the Show to discuss the experience of changing their name to Mx Name Surname, a work that exists both in this act and in the conversations about bureaucracy and social control that emerge when discussing it; Demelza Woodbridge has created a sculptural acoustic installation that will be activated by spectators following scores constructed by the artist; and Luca George will hover omnipresent constructing an interactive narrative over a model of London.
This year’s Photography graduates focus on how the photographic image can be expanded in experimental and playful ways. Head of Programme Professor Olivier Richon explained: ‘There is a real pleasure in the still image, its ability to arrest and fascinate. The image is stopping and stops us, and the students show a real confidence to push this further.’ This can be seen in Mojmir Bures’ photograms, which reference ideas of Bauhaus modernism, but are also beguiling manipulations of flatness, depth and scale.
While there is a predominance of the still image, the variety of material forms in which it manifests is vast – Georgia Clemson’s sculptural presentations of the photographic image depart completely from the square or rectangular frame; Emma Angold’s black and white photographs inhabit the space directly pasted to the walls; and Kendra Moné McNichols prints on copper, highlight the materiality of the image in an installation that explores black identity.
The creation and consumption of gendered identity through the photographic image is explored by several students. Dawoon Kim photographed female dancers performing in front of the mirror and created a dance track and instructional video, complete with lyrics that critique the presentation of young women in popular culture and dance music. A slideshow by Loreal Prystaj combines photographs taken from the 1980s cookery book Cooking for Pleasure with photographs of male and female genitalia artfully arranged with food, as part of an installation that challenges gender roles in the home and in society. David Barreiro’s photographs also take a playful and performative approach, to reconsider stereotypes of masculinity and reimagine the idea of the male and builder.
There is a ‘fierce materiality’ to this year’s Painting show, explained head of programme John Strutton. From large scale works – like Maia Regis’s three-metre high paintings – to those that expand painting into the sculptural – such as Insha Manzoor’s participatory installation – there is an engagement with how painting functions materially within our increasingly digital image culture.
RCA painters dismantle a unified idea of what painting is, open it up, repurpose it and imagine whole new worlds and environments. There is a huge diversity of materials used to achieve this, from model making to digital print, or in the case of Liang Zou VR is used to immerse viewers in an excessive, physically affecting experience.
Although students propose new and experimental approaches, their work is founded on a deep knowledge of painting developed through observation and studying histories of the medium from diverse cultures and traditions. Luke Tomlinson’s provocative paintings are like palimpsests, with histories of buried information laid down at their beginning – reflecting on painting as an additive process. The act of covering up or obscuring with paint takes a new significance in Jhonathan Pulido’s painting which reference his upbringing in rural Colombia where paint was used to cover messages graffitied on houses by the paramilitaries or guerrillas.Almost reversing the process of adding layers, Jerome Ince-Mitchell’s abstract paintings – that nod towards the macho white male culture of abstract expressionism – are made from black paint peeled from a wooden floor. The rest of the black floor will disintegrate during the show, spreading around the building.
Within the Print Programme, ‘students are encouraged and supported to find and define their own position in relationship to print and printed culture,’ Head of Programme Professor Jo Stockham explained, collectively presenting print as something ‘complex and enriching’.In the Show there is a huge array of different techniques and types of making, with each student presenting a distinct aesthetic language, from the vibrant screen prints and lithography of Dieter Ashton to the subtle tones of Chen Winner’s installation that uses recycled, dyed paper in a fabric-like hangings and layered objects cut open to reveal strata, like geological rock specimens.
Print’s application is often expanded beyond the page, frame or screen with the creation of environments from, or in response to, printed matter, as seen in Natalie Turner’s immersive narrative installation, that uses audio, video and a hologram to explore her brother’s suicide. Drawing on his personal experience of taking pain medication and the broader opioid crisis, Brad Hamlin has created an animatronic doll with a duck’s bill (based on the historic idea of the ‘quack’) that sings the side effects of pain relief medicine.
Geographies, displacement and personal histories are explored by works such as Joao Villas’ film installation that records his 93-year-old grandmother’s performance of Ravel’s Bolero in Portugal, when she returned for the first time after emigrating to brazil 87 years ago. Marissa Malik, an astrologer currently in residence for Gal Dem, includes prints of tarot cards as well as audio clips of radio performances, conversations, found sounds and dance music to explore the connectivity of community in shared marginalised, diasporic journeys.
The Sculpture Show brings together different approaches, aesthetics and languages of sculpture, sometimes in harmony but also in productive contrast – from performance and moving image to found and kinetic objects. The works strive towards a better understanding of the world using sculpture to actively express and determine the makers’ immediate environment andculture. For Sally Hacket, this is about exploring intimacy and the cruelty of personal relationships through naked ceramic figures that are embracing while also stabbing each other in the back.
Mateusz von Motz presents the collections of his father who was a hoarder, in a shrine like claustrophobic installation – offering an encounter with an excessive archive of objects and visual material. By contrast Hochoul Lee’s much more pared back work, explores the experience of time through a grid of bricks made from compacted sand, which will be smashed in a performance.
Personal histories and experiences are explored in works such as Dooyong Ro’s boyband video responding to his experiences as a soldier and the culture of masculinity in the Korean army. Fatima Uzdenova explores the history of forced migration, deportation and exile form the North Caucasus, through presenting textiles and traditional crafts in a museum like display that questions institutionalised structures of power and the dissemination of knowledge.
There are attempts to disentangle sculpture from the confines of its modernist legacy while, also understanding how that legacy can function as a critical tool of enquiry. Influenced by Kurt Schwitters, and a residency at the merzbahn, for Catriona Robertson, a possible answer comes with the notion of the deconstructed ruin.
The Writing Programme focuses on writing that lives in the real world. The ten final projects presented in the Show offer the opportunity to encounter writers who engage with the most radical developments in current art, architecture, and design. Some have unearthed historical subjects that speak urgently to the present, for example Flavia Fonseca Gimenes' writing on Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins. There are also writers who express new ways of thinking about being embodied, gendered, culturally defined by ourselves and others. These diverse forms of wiring, include The Gargoyle Club, a micro fiction by Hannah Nussbaum.
The students are also presenting their collaborative book project, Near, Variations – a collection of essays about the possibilities and limitations of language as a descriptive technology.
Curating Contemporary Art
In April and May 2019 Curating Contemporary Art (CCA) presented four graduate projects in partnership with leading organisations – Gasworks, The Photographers Gallery, Nottingham Contemporary and Pump House Gallery. These projects will be showcased in a short film screening as part of the Show.
Read more about the graduate projects here.
The nine students presenting work in the Show demonstrate the range of research within the School of Arts & Humanties, which employs diverse and creative research methods on projects across disciplines: from new historical and collections-based research on public and cultural policy, through to speculative arts-practice-focused enquiry. The research includes: Clair Le Couteur – proposes the idea of the fictive museum as way to think through artistic knowledge production, vis assemblages of fact, fiction and object; Helen Stokes – explores the optical perception of image within glass; and Manca Bajec – repositions the state of the monument today, more specifically thinking about societies existing in a state of unresolved conflict.