Royal College of Art

The 2011 RCA Show has all the trade marks of an old hand at play, featuring the Sculpture, Print Making, Painting and Photography departments showing for the first time together in Battersea. It didn’t suffer the sometimes disparate display’s there is in other universities with this amount of work.

It’s hard to get your head around that this was only a graduating show. The works’ were well curated, Testbed1 and the Sculpture department had the highest ceiling and day light which is hard to find even in some established galleries. I was walking around feeling more like I was in a Biennial than a graduating show. The curatorial decision to mix up the disciples for the first time helped to achieve that Biennial / festival buzz.

Walking past Jonny Biggs’s photography, one would have thought it was an exhibition within an exhibition. Well hung works with a sense of passage, I liked the tapestry varying between levitated granny and man with a mask, not any mask but a overall walnut enclosure. Deification or painstaking practicle joke? It provided a well needed sense of mystery in the photography department. The artwork ‘In the studio, Out of forest’ made up of a long narrow strip of image mounted at the end of the passage, consisted of a cropped image of the artist’s father’s nose, another proportional game in the show. Biggs’s work concerned with recreation of an alter childhood, a sublime approach, made his work stand out from the rest. I couldn’t help but wonder, curiously, was his childhood so much more fun than mine?

Having seen her work in 2009 New Contemporaries, at Corner House in Manchester, I remembered the excitement I had when I first laid eye on the paintings of Freye Wright. Those miniature paintings depicted early Technicolour film, a moment of tension in movie with the ambiguity at work. Though delighted to see her works again in the RCA show, I was slightly bemused by her decision to ‘go large’. Her strength, in my opinion, was holding the court when everyone else is bold and loud, insisting consistently being delicate and refined. In a larger work this fine delicacy seemed to be missing, I couldn’t deny those were beautiful paintings, but I felt that there was something amiss there.

One of the wow moments when I walked into the painting department was the 5 Channel HD video installation by George Eksts, the work Roman Holiday, erected like Stonehenge for ceremony, they stood side by side in this dark semi-circle playing five of life’s loops. It was heart-achingly beautiful for its simplicity and virtue. For a long while afterward, I kept walking back to this room, catching a piece of life’s quiet.

After last year’s slide and broken wall, it would be wrong to expect anything less in this year’s RCA sculpture department. Mark Davay was this year’s Sculpture adventurer, large complicated pieces of his work centre-courted. Either pouring blood-ish paint into a mechanical fountain in ‘Fresh and Bright’ or mechanically banging a fragile strip-light against either side of the metal structure that it was contained in, in ‘Machine to Catch a Strip Light’. The gesture was grand and sensationally three dimensional, I looked at the Kapoor-ish, Wyn Evans type mirror with wonder. Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?

I tried to find out what was with the laser scanning sticky beside each piece of works with no avail, there was no Iphone App as I suspected to work with the tag, it was a little enigma for me. The website was down when I tried to find more information about the artists, however, the catalogues were most handsomely printed, practically like the Printmaking one with a different cover on each cover, printed within the department itself. I enjoyed my day out very much.

This article has been published in co-operation with Q-Art London