Royal College of Art Degree Show 2015 Intriguing Practices And Processes

Royal College of Art

The predominant presence of video in the Royal College of Art Graduate Exhibition characterizes many of the practices as interdisciplinary.  Video appears in the works of painters, sculptors, printmakers and performers.  Video monitors appear in the form of old technology from the era of Nam June Paik as sculptural objects in the work of Minsun Lee.  Digital faces and floating forms appear on screens to tell stories like Ed Atkins’ animated talking heads in the works of Demelza Watts and Fleur Melbourn.  Videos appear as documentation of sculptural processes and passed performances, and is even programed to aid in the virtual appreciation of sculpture in the work of Oskar Jakobsen’s.  Digital aesthetics informed by Video and New Media are also influential.  Bisecting planes of jumbled two-dimensional surfaces like the installations of Parker Ito appear in the works of Byzantia Harlow and Yu Ting Ong.  History’s influence on RCA students is not limited to the digital.  The dirty realism of Magali Reus, the raw, heavy power of Richard Serra, the bawdy, kitsch sexuality of Paul McCarthy, and even the frescoes of Giotto and panels of Hieronymus Bosch are re-examined. The practices of Verity Birt, Julia Varela, William Darrell, Eden Barrena, David Cyrus Smith, and Melissa Kime integrate multiple disciplines (three including video) not only as documentation or adornment, but to enhance the experience of their chosen medium of study. 

Verity Birt: MA Moving Image (see top photo)

Verity Birt’s installation Common Era juxtaposes four solid Granite and Jesemite sculptures with two small, collaged videos recording ISIS acts of geological destruction.  The rocks formed through the compression and shifting of the Earth’s organic layers, map the inconceivable ‘deep time’ of our planet, while the images set in the stones display the aggressiveness with which the Earth is relatively quickly excavated.  Just as the rings of a tree count for the quality of each of its years, Strata, a ‘silk’ granite slab is wrinkled with evidence of the Earth’s history including a cultural history of gold mining and its ancient symbolism.  The linear evidence of time and the history of ancient cultures encrusted in the natural material are disrupted by Birt through a cavernous crack representing her contemporary moment.  Her sculpture Kairos, a piece of small granite inlaid with video, is not only a history of the earth’s geological time, but also a documentation of the history of media from Super 8 to HD.  The present and past are identifiable, but could quite simply be seen as one: a heavy iPad, or an ancient piece of technology.  Birt’s works are a testament not only to the complimentary potential of ancient and contemporary materials, but also to her interdisciplinary studies of History, Archaeology, Politics and Philosophy to help conceptualize ‘duration’. 

Julia Varela: MA Sculpture

A series of eleven plasma screen TVs scatter the ground, bent out of shape and crumpled against the walls in Julia Varela’s sculptural installation Hijacked.  The TVs are no longer windows into the world of entertainment.  The medium of delivery that is the TV shell accepts the physical abuse that embodies our criticism and frustration with media.  Her sculptures rest like tombstones in memory of an aggressive battle for attention between channels spurred by the remote control hog.  Or else, with their shiny black surfaces, simple rectangular shape and mass production, they resemble minimal autonomous works.  The plasma under the TV’s reflective screen as opposed to LED lights causes a painterly effect on their surfaces like blurred brushstrokes as opposed to photographic reflections. Commandeered by Varela, perhaps saved from their technological scrapyard fate, the TVs are appropriated found objects.  To use Varela’s word, they are hijacked, they are objects taken over and used for another purpose.  Video features in her work not as moving image, but instead as a sculptural object. 

William Darrell: MA Sculpture

William Darrell is more than a sculptor he is an inventor.  In his installation Aurora Flower in the Turbodrome, he becomes a wind turbine and miraculously manages to generate brilliant sparks of purple lightning.  Using video in his practice, Darrell not only documents his transformations and inventions, he also uses it to produce an immersive experience in his sculptural installation for his final project. Guided by the gentle breeze and whirring sounds of table fans, a roughly constructed ‘turbodrome’ houses his windy video in which atop a mountain, Darrell showcases his makeshift weather machines.  The viewer feels the majesty of his godly moment with the wind on their faces, and prepared for the storm that would never come.  While the breeze is a sensorial escape into his experiment, it also reminds the viewer that through video they are safely separated from his storm.  The makeshift ‘drome’ structure reflects the quality with which his inventions are made, holding together just long enough to perform miracles.  Many of Darrell’s other experiments can be found on Vimeo. 

Eden Barrena: MA Printmaking

The myth of primitivism is challenged in Eden Barrena’s collection of bronze sculptures and colourful prints, La Catastrofe/About Fiction.  Primitivism is characterized through difference.  The differences that produce ‘otherness’ propagated often through personal relationships are also global and historical phenomena including orientalism, racism, migration, sexuality and identity politics.  Barrena travels to experience personal dislocation as a foreigner and then transmits those experiences though printmaking, sculpture, drawing and bookmaking.  Cinematic Drawings, a series of colourful drawings over digital prints record her memories of the month she spent in Shanghai.  In a more virtual travel experience, Barrena produced over one hundred monoprints in lithography on pages of a found atlas.  In her work The New State of the World Atlas, geography’s natural and political borders are over shadowed with abstracted faces. Her portraits are only recognisable as such through that structure that defines all faces: two eyes, one nose, one mouth and ears.  In book format, presented like a diptych, it is difficult not to observe the differences between subjects.  But each portrait is rendered with much individuality and care so that difference is not made a problem, instead it reveals their beauty. In the bronze the portraits are even further abstracted nearing the appearance of small rocks.  Barrena’s practice of exploring difference in identity, also presents the opportunity to explore the differences in materiality between paper and bronze.

David Cyrus Smith: MPhil Painting

Neutral Doing/Intending Objects is a visual interpretation of the philosophical relationship between Roland Barthes and Alain Robbe-Grillet.  David Cyrus Smith’s artistic practice is not interdisciplinary in medium, but through paintings he is able to visualize the philosophy of objects from Robbe-Grillet’s text Jealousy. Exploring the possibility of an affair between the narrator’s wife and their neighbor, the language used to deeply explore the surfaces and qualities of objects implies there is another affair – that the objects are not as they seem.  Descriptive language of geometry is used to give the objects a place and form so that they are not just something and somewhere. However, the forms are frustratingly not given names.  In three large paintings, Smith uses marbling, staining, rubbing as well as inks to produce abstract scenes for nameless objects. The subjects of his works are silhouettes and with whose functions we have no relationship.  Even the titles, Crescent Dart, Silver-ground Carpet, and Feathered Ear, though descriptive only add to the viewer’s confused appreciation of the nameless black objects.

Melissa Kime: MA Painting

Ghostly angelical forms appear and reappear on and off the colourful canvases of Melissa Kime’s paintings.  The fresco painter Masaccio working in the early fifteenth century, used a common cyclical narrative technique in which figures reappeared in symbolic clothing to tell a story.  The scenes in Kime’s works are placed there repeatedly not to form a narrative, but instead she intends to provide immortality to characters from her past through her memory.  Her memories are constructed through excessive repetition and intricate detail in her painting process.  Immortality is also constructed in her work through the symbolism of medieval icons and facial features including halos appearing as colourful disks floating behind the heads of the crowded figures suggesting holiness.  Her characters are identified either as disciples or as figures of sexual nature through the titles such as Disciples III, IV and V, and Knikerless Girls Shouldn’t Climb Trees!. Kime incorporates sculpture into her fantastical memories painted on MDF board and on bronze, allowing each figure to be worshiped as its own iconic memory. 

List of exhibitors:

Painting – Alexandra Berg, Anna Liber-Lewis, Araxie Kutchukian, Barbara Wesolowska, Byzantia Harlow, Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, Diego Delas, Duncan Pare, Eleanor Pratt, Elizabeth De Witt, Ezra Gray, Gabriel Gonzalez Acosta, Guy Oliver, Hyojin Kim, James Metsoja, Jin Yong Park, Justin Fitzpatrick, Kate Mackeson, Katrine Roberts, Kennis Chan, Mad B, Mariya Zherdeva, Melissa Kime, Min Kim, Motoko Ishibashi, Ragna Bley, Ruozhe Xue, Seongjin Huh, So Yoon Lee, SooJin Hong, Sophie Mackfall, Stephen Gee, Sunghun Ryu, Thomas Stephanblome, Tom Dearie, Youjeong Kwon, Yu Ting Ong, Zehra Arslan

Painting PhD – David Cyrus Smith, Lee Triming, Neal Rock, Richard Zeiss

Printmaking – Amanda Wieczorek, Amy Gear, Daniel Clark, Eden Barrena, Eva Lerche-Lerchenborg, Gloria Ceballos, Ho-Jun Choi, Hyemi Kim, J Price, Jillian Roberts, Julie Roch-Ceurrier, Kate Fahey, Katja Angeli, Kineret Lourie, Maitö Jobbé Duval, Masaharu Imamiya, Meg Ferguson, Meiyi Wang, Peter Glasgow, Rob Miles, Sarah Gillett, Scarlet Mueller, Susan Eyre, Yucheng Ji

Sculpture – Aethan Wills, Alexander Duncan, Andrea Zucchini, Martha Hviid, Cerlin Karunaratne, Demelza Watts, Fleur Melbourn, Greg Howie, Hanae Wilke, Helena Hartmann, Isabella McEvoy, Jacob Wolff, Jamie Fitzpatrick, Jemma Egan, Durbin Lewis Ltd, Jude Crilly, Julia Frank, Julia Varela, Konstantinos Pettas, Laura O’Neill, Lucia Quevedo, Marco Strappato, Minsun Lee, Mona H. Yoo, Natalie Price Hafslund, Nicole Vinokur, Nu Li, Oskar Jakobsen, Philippe Daerendinger, Rafaela Lopez, Réka Ferenczi, Saelia Aparicio, Samuel Tierney, Sophie Collier, Valentina Pini, William Darrell

Moving Image – Ellie Kyungran Heo, Genevieve Lutkin, Helen Michael, Keira Greene, Sara Hibbert, Stuart Layton, Verity Birt

Words/Photos Alice Pelot © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved


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