I studied Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts but, through an elective there, I found pleasure in experimenting with moving image, and was largely self-taught. I bought the cheapest equipment, set up a studio in my bedroom, experimented on my own and followed a lot of online tutorials. To some extent, the narrative aspect of moving image enabled me to interpret my ideas much more effectively.
As I focused more on moving image, I found I struggled to draw, as they have totally different qualities. After graduating, I still had a lot of questions. I did several projects with galleries on the drawing side of my practice, but I also wanted to develop the moving image strands.
A Master’s felt like the right next step. The Royal College of Art’s Visual Communication programme’s combination of graphic design, illustration and moving image suited my interests perfectly. From the beginning, the RCA exceeded all my expectations: the tutors were really supportive, the electives were challenging, and the crits were brilliant. I worked like crazy – over two terms, I worked on 27 projects.
In the first year, I did a project called Design Within, asking fundamental questions about who you are. I projection-mapped three layers of circular screens, interpreting myself, my inner thoughts, and beyond, in reference to Carl Jung’s work. Creating this 3-D installation was a real step forward for me from a flat-screen-based practice.
Another project led to my piece The Radio, which I’ve recently exhibited in Berlin, and have shown previously at the Science Museum. It broadcasts personal information found on the internet and thereby questions online data transparency. It started as a collaboration with Jae Kyung Kim and Carrolynne Jean-Jacques Hsieh who were both on the Information Experience Design programme.
I switched to IED in the second year for a variety of reasons. The IED-led Exploded Screen elective I’d done in first-year showed me innovative ways of applying moving image within both commercial and art environments. I have wanted to use moving image as a source of material to play with, dissect and rebuild in various ways, as opposed to an experimental film or cinema-based practice. I was also attracted by the technical support that IED could offer.
When it came to the Work-in-progress Show, the subject I was working with was huge, and I got stuck in the research process. In neglecting to experiment, my execution suffered. It was a good lesson to learn.
I took some time off after that, to reflect. My tutors were very caring and supportive. They gave me time, space and guidance. I started to draw again. In April, I went to Korea to run a workshop as part of the Design Without project with two Visual Communication students Franek Wardynski and Konstantinos Trichas. Working with undergraduate students showed me a different way to approach my practice. On the long flight there and back, I started mapping out zones for my various interests and reflecting on how my practice intersects with those zones: what I had done in the past, what I am doing now and where I want to take my practice further.
When I returned from Korea, it was May; only two months before the Final Show, but I was ready. My project cast an extreme emotional exchange as a form of mathematical equation. I created a projection-mapped installation on the gallery staircase. Two characters walk towards each other and one attacks the other and consumes parts of the other’s body, and walks away. The attacked person is left to walk around with lost limbs or body parts, seeking another person to attack in the same way. It turned out to be quite visually shocking.
I wanted to almost trap my audience into the space, and collaborated with a sound artist to enhance the intensity. I started to think spatially, curating the audience’s experience, which was a crucial development for me. I developed techniques that I’d never used before, which was a risk and a challenge. I didn’t know what it would be like until I tried it, but the result was beyond my expectations. In some ways, the spur to take those risks emerged from encouraging conversations I was having within a forum I’d initiated as a place to speak critically with other IED students.
Over the two years, I’ve learned incredibly important things about my approach, for example that I tend to seek out the structure or system within any given field, and to play with that framework. That emerged from a first-year project Systematic Dialogue, where I deconstructed my creative process and re-ordered it to draw out totally different outcomes. That approach is something I will continue to employ alongside pursuing further research into my dissertation topic of how mass media shapes thinking and the way people perceive information. I will continue to draw, experiment with moving image and see where it takes me.
"From the beginning, the RCA exceeded all my expectations: the tutors were really supportive, the electives were challenging, and the crits were brilliant."