Art on the streets: students create designs for the hoardings of the RA

Published 24 May 2016

Students have created a giant collage to greet passers-by while restoration work takes place at the RA’s Burlington Gardens building. Harriet Baker finds out how they made it.

  • From the Summer 2016 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    It’s a Wednesday afternoon at the Royal Academy and the Learning Studio is alive with activity. Around 20 young people are enjoying a workshop led by artist Diana Taylor. The aim is to create a site-specific artwork to cover the hoardings of Burlington Gardens while the building undergoes restoration work as part of its major redevelopment in time for the Academy’s 250th anniversary in 2018. The hoardings project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is introducing pupils and students to the Academy and its heritage, while equipping them with new skills and offering professional guidance. Some 55 people have taken part, drawn from a primary school and three further education colleges.

    In the Academy’s studio, groups of students are silkscreen printing, stencilling and making collages under Taylor’s guidance. She has encouraged them to explore the architecture of the Academy, and many are sketching from their own photographs of the building. Another group has been searching the RA Collections for inspiration, selecting images of portraiture, marble busts and architectural plans.

    Each student is exploring various techniques to create images that Taylor will collage together, before they are printed onto the vinyl that will cover the hoardings’ surfaces. “I’m looking for clear prints and a range of colours and themes,” she explains. “I will experiment with layering the works on Photoshop, playing around with composition, translucency, scale and colour.”

  • Hoarding designs outside Burlington Gardens

    Hoarding designs outside Burlington Gardens

    Work created by local students which features inside the pedestrian tunnel section of the scaffolding, located outside the RA on Burlington Gardens

  • Taylor explores the relationship between analogue and digital processes in her own work. “I’m interested in traditional materials and processes, and integrating them with digital methods. I wanted the students to work in different visual languages, to engage them and encourage them to produce work they could be proud of.”

    “I’ve never done silkscreen printing at school, so I now have a new skill to take away,” says Ronaldo, 17, who is studying for a BTEC in Art and Design at City & Islington College. “It has been useful getting some professional advice, and it doesn’t feel like school.” His classmate Ben is cutting and splicing images sourced from the RA Collections: “I like collage because, as you layer one thing over another, it creates ideas.” Amelia, who has been making monoprints, says she is “excited to see how Diana is going to work with all of our pieces to create something new.”

    For sculptor Richard Wilson RA – who gave a lecture to the students – the project is about revealing the Academy’s creativity to a new audience. “I wanted to open the students’ eyes to the idea of creating artwork for the public domain,” he says. “There’s a different set of rules when it comes to public art; you’re trying to capture the attention of the casual passer-by. We could have put a notice on the hoardings of Burlington Gardens, but the RA is about?the communication of the visual arts, and using the hoarding as a canvas is a very inventive thing to do.”

    The education partners who took part in the RA’s hoardings project are City of Westminster College, City & Islington College, Kensington & Chelsea College and Gateway Academy Primary in Westminster.

    Harriet Baker is Assistant Digital Producer at the RA.

    • RA Magazine

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