What Direction? Royal College Of Art Degree Shows 2017 By Edward Lucie-Smith

RCA Graduate Degree Show 2017Royal College of Art

This year’s big graduation show of work by Fine Arts students from the Royal College of Art is both inspiriting and at the same time just a little bit depressing.

Let’s start with the good bit. The R.C.A. offers new crop of painters – many of whom are worth at least a second look. Many of the paintings on view would stand up well in, for example, the current Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – better, in fact, that much of what you actually see there, some of its work by very well-established artists with international reputations, R.A.s and Honorary R.A.s.

There’s something very British about the show – ELS

It’s telling that so much of the good stuff is painting, as opposed to three-dimensional work. There is, in fact, very little that you would actually describe as sculpture, rather than choosing that rather indeterminate category ‘installation’. An exception is a full-size version of Michelangelo’s David, by Fraser & Romero which looks like melting ice-cream. This, a note tells one, has been put together using three-dimensional imaging, based on various photographs found on the Web. There is also, nearby, a bevy of rather cute stuffed toys, made by an artist called Yuko Obe – to judge by her name, Japanese. To be honest, I much preferred her very decorative prints.

Michelangelo’s David, by Fraser & Romero
Michelangelo’s David, by Fraser & Romero

The best paintings are invariably either abstract or semi-abstract, confident and freely painted. This is true, for example, of the work of the major prize-winner in the show, Jadé Fadojutimi. Yes, if I’d been on the jury, I’d very likely have gone for her too. But it would have been a close-run thing with a number of other deserving artists: Asger Harbou, Salman Alnajem, Feline Minne, Christina Mamakov, Tal Regev, Daniel Pettitt, As their names suggest, they are probably a pretty international bunch, symbolic of the way in which London has become the very centre of the contemporary art world, more completely so than New York, Paris or Berlin, all of whom have their international contingents.

cute stuffed toys, made by an artist called Yuko Obe
Cute stuffed toys, made by Yuko Obe

What there’s very little of, in fact, to be precise, almost nothing remotely relating to, the kind of things that various Biennales and Turner Prize exhibitions have been busy stuffing down our throats in recent years. There’s not much appropriation – only the duff version of Michelangelo already mentioned – and no political grandstanding. To mix metaphors, this kind of grandstanding seems, on the other hand, to have been the bread and butter of the big international shows held in Venice and Cassel this year.

On the other hand, there’s also nothing that could be described as being in any sense radically avant-garde, the old sense of that now often misused term. There’s nothing to change, even just a little, the way in which one looks at the world.

Jade Fadojutimi
Jade Fadojutimi

In fact, there’s a curious paradox here. Though the artists seem to be mostly international, drawn to London from all over the world to work and to study, at what has been voted  ‘the best art school in the world’ there’s something very British about the show. The more one looks at these fluidly painted abstractions and semi-abstractions, the more one sees that they are apparently rooted in the romantic relationship to nature that has, certainly since the late 18th century, been one of the fundamental themes of our national school of art.

Other Notable Graduates: Abi Huxtable • Alouette Hill • Anya Charikov-Mickleburgh • Bernadette Kerrigan • Bob Eikelboom • Dana Venezia • Daniel Pettitt • Daria Gitmanovich • Deme Georghiou • Egle Jauncems • Eleanor Barreau • Elizabeth Drury • Féline Minne • Goia Mujalli • Hee Jae Kim • Lau Hiu Tung • Hsuan-Han Wu • Jake the dog • Jadé Fadojutimi • James Collins • Jinhee Park • Joe Mackay • Leila Hesabi • Machteld Solinger • Magda Skupinska • Matthew Hilvers • Matthew Pang • Mona Osman • Munish Wadhia • Nataliya Chernakova • Neena Percy • Salman Alnajem • Seeun Kim • Seungjo Jeong • Sif Nørskov • Sin Park • Sofia Caselli • Tal Regev • Tamu Nkiwane • Tom Hume • Vanessa da Silva • Victor Payares • Yi Jie Shen • Yun-Ling Chen • Adam Glibbery • Aga Beaupré • Anna Skladmann • Baptiste Gratzmuller • Aki Pao-Chen Chiu • Alexander Glass • Alex Culshaw • Alice Jacobs • Alla Malova • archie • Benji Jeffrey • Borbala Szanto • Camila Botero • Christofer Wallentin • Chung Hyon Kim • Cira Huwald • Claire Makhlouf Carter • Colin Lindsay • Dahhyun Im • David Stearn • Fritz Faust • Guendalina Cerruti • Guido Lanteri Laura • Hyun Kim • Isobel Smith • Jack Catling • Jakob Rowlinson • Jinjoon Lee • Joel Chan • Jongwon Yoon • Jungyoon Hyen • Katie McGurk • Kristina Horne • Kyungmin Sophia Son • Li Li Ren • Lindsey Mendick • Lisa Porter • Lito Kattou • Luana Duvoisin Zanchi • Macarena Rojas Osterling • Marco Miehling • Matthew J. Robertson • Milo Creese • Muneyoshi Hase • Nora Silva • Ollie Dook • Otto • Paloma Proudfoot • Paula Smolarska • Rebecca Moss • Rhine Bernardino • Ronya Yang • Rosie Reed • Rudolf Romero • Sam Carvosso • Seo Hyun Park • Tae Eun Ahn • Thomas van Linge • Victoria Kaldan • Will Thompson • Yibei Zhang • Youmee Hwang • Ben McDonnell • Clare Baybutt • David Infante • Dominic Till • Eileen Anderson • Eliška Stejskalová • Eman Ali • Emma Bäcklund • Erasmo Wong Seoane • Erola Arcalís • Iris Brember • Schinster • Jana Lohde • Jo Longhurst • Joshua Leon • Joshua Phillips • Kerimcan Goren • Lisa Carletta • Louise Long • Mark Sedge • Matt Taylor • Melissa Magnuson • Miyoung Kim • Nemo Nonnenmacher • Nikola Zelmanovic • Norma-Louise Thallon • Po Cheng Liao • Ramona Güntert • Ruth Bridget Brennan • Sarah Howe • Sara Kim • Sean Raggett • Theo Ellison • Vanessa Silvestre Paulo • Victoria Fornieles • Ahaad Alamoudi • Alexa C. Thomson • Amy Cornfield • Astrid de Broqueville • Bianca Barandun • Carol Wilhide Justin • Daisy Billowes • Eugenia Popesco • Fran Gordon • George Yarker • Heidi Maribut • Holly Drewett • James Jessiman • Ji Yue Deng • Jo Verbena • Julia Marco Campmany • Karl-Peter Penke • Kilolo Ross • Kim Robertson • Leonie Lachlan • Lewk Wilmshurst • Liz Wilson • Maite Cascón • Marine Lefebvre • Myka Baum • Natalia Skobeeva • Nicolai Freberg • Ruei-Yi Fang • Samuel Taylor • Shigetoshi Furutani • Vicky Samuel • Victoria Sin • Victoria Zanconato • Yuko Obe • Yun Cheng • Zilin Lin • Christopher Tym • Yao Cong • Duncan Lawford • Gerald Curtis • Guildor (Guido Tarricone) • Jade Blackstock • Jazbo von Magius Gross • Luca Bosani • Mark Langston • Nadja Voorham • Qian Ma • Rhea Storr • Shashank Peshawaria • Tamara Kametani • Whiskey Chow (Xiaoxuan Zhou)

Words: Edward Lucie-Smith Photos Paul Carter Robinson and Edward Lucie-Smith Top Photo: Paintings by Asger Harbou Gjerdevik

RCA Graduate Shows 24 June 2017 to 2 July 2017 | Open 12–8pm daily. Closed to the public 30 June

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