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Jungyoon Hyen

MA Sculpture, 2015–2017

What were you doing before you started studying at the RCA?

I had recently finished an MFA in Korea – my major was painting – and I was also working as an assistant to an artist. At the time, I knew that I was thirsty for new experiences and wanted a change.

When did you first hear about the RCA and why did you decide to study here?

In 2014 I had the opportunity to stay in Paris for a brief period. Shortly after that I visited London and Glasgow and some other places that I was thinking of studying. Out of all the places that I visited, I was most attracted to the RCA. I think that was partly because of the open-plan studio spaces here – it seemed like such a good, exciting way to work. I wanted to become engaged in the kind of community that I saw here, and I could imagine working alongside these people, sharing ideas.

Is studying here different than you imagined?

It’s actually better than I could have hoped! I thought that I might be more isolated than I actually am. Normally studio spaces are separated by partitions (that's the model I was used to in Korea) but here – because of the big open-plan studio – you work alongside people all day long and you naturally become close to each other.

What are the main differences between your previous MA, and this one?  

There’s much more freedom here. The level of independence that you have on this MA might scare some people, but it really suits me. You don’t just have the freedom to work in the way you want to – in the sense of choosing your materials, for example – you also get to structure your time in the way that you want it. Everything here is a decision and an active choice. This freedom is coupled with a lot of support – there are always people to go to if you need help or advice.

What is the mixture of students like?

It’s a very big group – around 45 students. That size is a very good thing as it means that there are 45 different ways of working to get acquainted with, as well as the people! The programme is made up of people from many different backgrounds – both culturally and artistically. Since I’ve been here I’ve learnt a lot from other students, not just from the tutors and technicians.

How has your work changed or developed while you have been at the RCA?

The most significant change has been in the way that I make my work. I used to be much more methodical. When I started working on something I always knew what it was I wanted to achieve, and how I would achieve it. Process and thinking used to be two separate things, but now they’ve merged into one: they happen simultaneously. Sometimes, I feel more lost than I did before, but mostly I’m enjoying the way that my work is becoming more open, and much more intuitive.

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?

Definitely the most rewarding thing about being here has been meeting all of these different people and becoming part of a community. I also get a lot out of the quick-fire crits that we have here, which are called ‘sessions’. Each student has just 10 minutes to present. You can talk about an idea, or a single piece of work, and you get to hear what other people think – I always find them much more helpful than the longer, more considered crits.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of applying?

My advice would be to start the programme being willing to change. Most people’s work undergoes quite a dramatic transformation while they’re here. You should be able to experiment and take risks, and not be committed to particular advice. Finally, I think that it is always useful to visit the places and the departments that you’re thinking of applying to, in order to get a feel for what it is like to study here. Each department has its own strength.

"The level of independence that you have on this MA might scare some people, but it really suits me. You don’t just have the freedom to work in the way you want to – in the sense of choosing your materials, for example – you also get to structure your time in the way that you want it."
Jungyoon Hyen
Jungyoon Hyen