For the first time, Show RCA will be exhibiting the work of all College departments in a single graduate exhibition at the Kensington Gore Site – with the exception of Fine Art which will be showing simultaneously at the campus in Battersea. Showcasing work across Applied Art, Architecture & Design, Communications, Design for Production, Fashion & Textiles, Fine Art and Humanities, Show RCA 2011 presents a wide breadth of work from the crème de la crème of postgraduate students from the College whose previous alumni include Quentin Blake, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Peter Blake, James Dyson, Alan Fletcher, David Hockney and Gavin Turk.
With 431 graduating students in Show RCA 2011, producing a show-stopping piece of work doesn’t come without its difficulties. However this year at Show Kensington it wasn’t the garish, in-your-face and provocative works that stood out, but the poetically simple, subtle and discreet. Whilst all departments provoked interest and intrigue – we particularly liked Alexander Groves’ collection of biodegrable fashion eyewear exploring the potential of human hair in Design for Production – for us it was Communications, situated in the Stevens building, that put on the best show. Yann Le Bec and Michael Redmond offered up differing but equally strong (and charming) approaches to illustration; the former questioned the rules and possibilities offered by the comic genre and the latter explored narrative. Graphic designer Hannah Montague took an experimental approach to typeface design, questioning a sense of balance and legibility, challenging the traditional conventions of typography. Joseph Pochodzaj powerfully studied public language as a mechanism for social power and control through his comparative text piece that displayed the use of language by trade union’s and financial institutions today. Rose Blake invited visitors to sit in her studio space – constructed in her signature illustrative style – and to enjoy Studio Music: an ongoing collection of playlists that reveal the music creatives listen to in their studios. Filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson’s Máthair presented a hyperreal vision of Ireland conveyed through patterns of thought, memory and bheavious that map the artists’s own construction of her homeland, after undertaking a holy pilgrimage with her mother. And, through her practice, Alice Moloney explored new ways of experiencing narratives and information systems. Aiming to design experiences that have a positive effect on the behaviour of users in predominantly outdoor and digital environments her showpiece positioned on an outside wall, when rained on revealed a painting before disappearing in sunshine.
Whilst enjoying a fruit cocktail in the modernist interiors of the exotic pop-up Café Chateau constructed by Samara Scott – also the location of IF NOT NOW a live pop-up web TV Channel broadcasting from the space during the show – Dazed Digital spoke to Moloney about her practice and what the future holds after RCA.
Dazed Digital: Describe the inspiration behind Rain-Activated Narratives and how you came to this as you final show piece?
Alice Moloney: Rain-Activated Narratives is a project that has stemmed from my dissertation, which explored the possibilities of being able to instill images with the power to say no to their audience through the use of absence as a visual technique. I started experimenting with reactive inks and the concept developed from some tests I did in the rain with water-sensitive ink as I liked the way that the weather controlled how and when the images appeared. The project evolved quite slowly and naturally during my last few months at the RCA but I never thought it'd be my final showpiece to be honest. It seemed like a huge undertaking and technically a bit daunting at first! But I thought that the show would be the perfect time to try something new and challenge myself. So I enlisted the help of a film-maker (Federico S. Pezdirc) and sculpture student (Samuel Zealey) and spent most of my time in the Printmaking department.
DD: How and why has your artistic practice progressed since first starting at RCA?
Alice Moloney: I came to the RCA as an Illustrator I guess, but after spending my first year really trying to develop my visual language through drawing I feel a bit dissatisfied. So at the end of the year I randomly decided to go to a briefing for a design competition set by the London Transport Museum, expecting it to not be my cup of tea. However, the brief was the most exciting thing I'd heard all year so decided to just do the project, which was a bit scary as I was the only 'illustrator' doing it amongst vehicle designers and graphic designers. However, I ended up with a project that completely different to anything I had ever done before and realised that I could apply my image-making skills to a wider conceptual approach. From then on I just set out to apply this way of working to every project and finally started to feel more comfortable with my practice.
DD: What do you hope viewers experience through your work?
Alice Moloney: Well most importantly I hope that viewers find it interesting! But I also hope that they feel like they are having a one-on-one conversation with me as I think it's important that my projects communicate to viewers in a sensitive and personal way. I also hope it makes them think about how they experience visual information and what they want from images today.
DD: What challenges did you face in the making of Rain-Activated Narratives?
Alice Moloney: The main challenge was that I was working in completely new territory in terms of both the technical side of the project and the way that it needed to be communicated. It is a big project for one person! So I did get a little lost in all the research but it was impossible not to, there are so many amazing archives in London! I see the project as it stands as a proposal for the real thing and all the challenges that I faced will hopefully make it easier to do when 'Rain-Activated Narratives' is fully implemented, which I'm crossing my fingers it will be.
DD: If you were to carry your practice and exploration through to a larger scale with a bigger budget – what would your dream creation or brand to work with be?
Alice Moloney: Well I'm hoping to pitch 'Rain-Activated Narratives' to the Wellcome Trust as they are a great organisation for bringing art, design, science and history together. So that would my dream creation - to fully realise the project.
DD: Do you think art should have more of social and environmental conscience?
Alice Moloney: Definitely. I personally feel that there is room for more highly personal works of art to explore themes of a more social/environmental conscience. I think illustrators in particular can bring something interesting to these themes without necessarily using their drawing skills to do so. The sensitive way that image-makers often think really suits these subjects.
DD: After graduating what do you hope to do?
Alice Moloney: Apart from catch up on some sleep my plan is to continue developing my practice as a visual communicator, whether it's through freelance work or within a company.
DD: What do you think your two years at RCA have taught you?
Alice Moloney: It's almost impossible to define exactly what the RCA has taught me. All I know is that it has been the best two years of my life and I have come out of it doing work that I don't think I would have ever done if I hadn't been there.
Kensington show: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU; Open from 24 June – 3 July (closed 1 July; Show Kensington closes 4pm, 28 June). Free admission.