Over the past few weeks London's art-goers have flocked to the end of year degree shows to spot emerging talent, none more eagerly awaited or widely attended than that of the Royal College of Art, this year presented in partnership with DazedDigital. The new Battersea campus opened its doors on Wednesday for the private view of work by 90 Fine Art MA graduating students who have mounted an impressive show across the SW11 studios as well as commandeering Testbed 1 Gallery that lies adjacent. The curation of the exhibition presents Fine Art as an interrelated whole rather than maintaining a separation determined by programme of study so that for the first time the display of work by painters, photographers, sculptors and printmakers comes together combined across all of the three sites.
For the opening night Nicholas Jeffrey's painting was charged by Stan from Hounds of Hate performing live music in reaction to his works, as Jeffrey explains 'I've always listened to music while working especially electronica, field recordings and more recently 'chill wave' and through a friend got in touch with Stan, as I felt the mood and tone really connected to what I was doing, even just the activity of making, and others like Hype Williams, Gang Gang Dance as they're pushing sound through layering whatever into a more interesting place then being just beats - there's a really sensual astro tropical vibe going on'.
Also performing live was sculpture student Simon Schäfer, playing a live set in Testbed 1 on his multiple electronically customised and often reclaimed sound devices that are all 'unique objects' as a project entitled, 'Der Warst'. Fascinated by 'technology and its social implications' (and Dr. Who), Schäfer is interested in the Arthur C. Clark mindset that 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' and regards his approach to sculpture and music/video as best compared to alchemism, 'there always needs to be at least one more dimension for me, be it time or space'.
The videos of the 2009 Zabludowicz Collection Future Map Prize winner Cindie Gottlieb Cheung were also presented from Sculpture, demonstrating the attitude across all departments at the Royal College that artists of a certain discipline are not bound to one medium as Cheung suggests, 'I work in a range of media although predominantly with video. The work often involves intense labour in terms of material and narrative, weaving together notions of fiction, clichés and anachronism which in the end resolves in a short video piece or a single photograph…I would consider the things I make, whether they are objects, paintings or dresses for example, as ephemera made to exist in a film or photograph but with a much more heightened status than a prop. So far I've never considered any object I've made a 'sculpture' although I think there is sculptural approach to the making of my work and in the way it is displayed'.
In Photography, the carefully choreographed 16mm films of Vicki Thornton also explore the relationship of discipline to medium and her work 'The Centre and the Circumference' suggests the relationship of film to photography, 'by its very nature, film is a succession of still images and so I feel that the single frame is very important to my practice. I am interested in the in and out-of-frame, the still life, the space between fiction and reality and the interrelation between subject, object and landscape... my work often invites the viewer to participate with the very structure of the film itself, creating and filling the gaps between the images presented on screen with those from their own imagination'.
Also in photography, Swedish/Japanese artist Hitomi Kai Yoda's work stood out in scale and subject matter, a large Light Jet print depicting a pair standing at a road holding a white gauze across the oncoming traffic. Strongly drawn to 'power relations, control, authority, and transactions, especially in relation to the image’, the artist shoots mostly on 5x4, 'I like how the camera slows down the process, and using film it slows down the process even more. I also think the aspect of making mistakes using film, often widens up possibilities for my projects'.
With a well presented and varied show of strong work by the next generation of artists, the RCA once again defends its reputation as a world-class institution for the study of Contemporary Art.
SHOW RCA 2011. 24 June – 3 July 2011 (closed 1 July): Show Battersea; Sculpture Building, 15-25 Howie Street, London SW11 4AS; Sackler Building, 14-22 Howie Street, London SW11 4AY; Testbed 1, 33 Parkgate Road, London SW11 4NP; Open from 11am to 8pm daily (closed 1 July).