Before coming to the Royal College of Art, I had worked professionally in a variety of studios and very much enjoyed it. However, as with lots of junior design jobs, the added value was production rather than conceptual input. Like alchemy, you reconfigure base materials to produce gold. I started to notice a lot of unrealised ideas were building up that couldn’t be considered commercially viable and I knew I had to stop them going stale. To be able to realise this body of work I needed the right input and the right facilities. An MA at the RCA offered this.
The Visual Communication programme was an opportunity to not only refine my practice but to meet some of the people whose work had engaged and inspired me when I was growing up. Visual Communication at the RCA concentrates on art-focused thinking, and that gives a lot of the graphic work a sublime edge.
At the beginning of the first year, we started with a critical position presentation, where you root up your previous work in front of the whole year-group and speak about your objectives for your time at the RCA. This sets a kind of ground zero to build upon. I grew to think how important it is to expose yourself in this way and to be at your most susceptible to inspiration.
The programme offers an intellectual buffet and I realised quite quickly that it’s better to curate your selection of lectures and workshops to your taste and purposes, otherwise you can have trouble defragmenting everything into something useful.
The ‘atelier model’ of learning at the RCA is unlike any other art school I’ve witnessed. It helps you to see what makes people tick. I remember working on a poster and a girl who specialises in collage walked by my desk and said: ‘It needs to be more powerful.’ She subtly rearranged the composition, which strengthened the piece tenfold. I learnt about strength and the physicality of a piece of this nature, which never would have happened if I’d been working in isolation. These sorts of experiences were extremely common, but unique to this environment.
In my practice, I use design and typography as mediums to research, interrogate and communicate my take on the state of society. I focus on speculative works that deal with themes of ethics, authorship and identity. The objective of the work is to expose societies’ problems through exaggeration until a big question emerges, with the hope of provoking a big answer.
The Ethical Human Meat project was the biggest turning point for me, when I felt a shift in my work that was alive and current. The objective was to develop lab-grown burgers made from the cells of 40 human subjects. Once grown, these human burgers would then be fed back to the subjects. A common comment was that the final product tastes similar to bacon. The project was highly controversial and raised questions regarding recent developments in culinary science, but in-vitro human meat has the potential to be a future antidote to world hunger and sustainability issues
My final project was ambitious. Taking the idea of replication alongside the value of authorship in the digital age, I asked: can artwork be pirated? And, if so, what cultural value is retained? Using 3D-software my aim was to ‘digitally pirate’ a section of the Louvre’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and print it all under my name for the final Show. I spent days in the Louvre, avoiding security guards whilst 3D-scanning the sculptures. I later discovered that the files hadn’t developed fully but these flaws became a fundamental feature of the project. The imperfections were as important – if not more so – than the cleaner outcomes. I hope to further pursue this project and pirate an entire museum. My vision is to walk into a room surrounded by levitating corrupt sculptures, a beautiful tension between the sublime nature of the original artefacts and the exposed fragmentation of its replication.
Since graduation, I’ve been part of a variety exhibitions – some highlights have been the Typojanchi Korean Typography Biennale and an Arts Council opportunity in China. I am also working in collaboration with one of the tutors here at the RCA on some exciting projects involving some influential record labels.
It’s often said that you apply to the RCA at entry level and graduate at director level – in that sense, studying here has prepared me for the next steps. I have a greater understanding of how to approach the world with a critical eye and I know that this is valued in the industry. My own work has flourished thanks to my experiences here, and I have built the foundations of my individual tone of voice and style which will stay with me throughout my career.
"It’s often said that you apply to the RCA at entry level and graduate at director level – in that sense, studying here has prepared me for the next steps. I have a greater understanding of how to approach the world with a critical eye and I know that this is valued in the industry. "