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New rules and new tools: life at the RA Schools

Published 8 February 2016

At the RA Schools, post-graduate students have three years to develop their ideas and work. Here second-year students reveal how the course is changing their art, as they prepare their first group show at the RA, Premiums: Interim Projects.

  • Sam Austen

    I have been making 16mm films, mostly in the style of 1930s abstract animations influenced by the work of Oskar Fischinger and Len Lye. I make objects, which I move and light in a particular way: the results look like animations but everything is actually filmed in real time. I came to the RA to develop the sculptural element of my work and get feedback on the making process. For ‘Premiums’, I’d like to create some kind of installation or sculptural environment in which films could be screened.

    Josephine Baker-Heaslip

    I was in the Alps in June. Something happened, surrounded by that consistent frontier of mountains. Back in the studio, I started making woodcut prints of sunsets. Previously, I had been dedicated to the possibilities of abstraction, a reasoning that rejects the reliability of symbolism in favour of a different form of the experience of knowledge – or better, ignorance. But what about that sunset, that overwhelming cliche? How can that fast moment, when the sky is full of red, correspond to a relationship between individual and collective experience, to a tenderness, or a tentative idea of commonality?

    Gabriella Boyd

    I have always made figurative paintings but, since starting at the RA, I have been working with a kind of figuration that comes through abstraction – following a line or a form and seeing how a narrative develops from that. I’ve moved away from painting existing spaces and am focusing on environments that seem like a mesh between two different kinds of spaces: for example, one recent work shows simplified green objects that could either be sunloungers or hospital beds. Usually, it is an element from one painting that leads me into the next – I try to take certain things further, or become interested by unexpected details.

  • Jack Burton

    A turning point since starting at the RA has been my decision to focus on photography. For three years I had a studio in Paris where I mostly made sculpture. When I left, I had to throw most of the works away, so I documented them photographically. Now I manipulate the images either physically or digitally. When working in Photoshop, there’s a point before you finish properly where the image looks like it is falling apart – you get a sense of its surface. I try to push my photographs towards something that reads more like painting.

    Dmitri Galitzine

    I’m working on a couple of long- term projects – one is a performance with a group of Elvis tribute artists, and I’m also writing a Western film. I’ve been doing Old West historical re-enactments for about a year, living every other weekend in a cabin in Kent without electricity or water. It’s about trying to understand escapism, and what these subcultures suggest about the problems of the ‘real’ world. Performance projects can be hard to ‘exhibit’ so I’m trying to work out how to deal with that.

    Lewis Hammond

    I paint mostly oil-on-canvas based on collages of pre-existing images, either from online sources or my own photographs. Since starting at the RA, I’ve not felt a sudden shift in my work, more a daily, subtle curve taking me in a new direction. Recently, I have begun working with large-format photographic prints of the interiors or exteriors of buildings, on which I superimpose a small painting on board. These works aim to communicate a sense of space more directly.

  • Martin Gross

    I came to the RA to find new rules and new tools. In Germany, I was making very detailed pencil drawings and people seemed to be fixated on their technical precision. I’m more interested in the idea of error and correction: at the RA I have been using woodcuts to make prints in which the image is crossed out or over-written to the extent that it can no longer be seen, and any sense of scale or orientation is lost.

    Sebastian Jefford

    Since being at the RA Schools I have been rediscovering drawing. I am interested in archaeology as a form of world-making, and how historical reconstructions are often a projection of the archaeologist’s desires and fantasies. I like the idea of history as a malleable narrative, and the materials I have been using include Plasticine – a literal take on that idea, because they can be endlessly reworked. I would like to make my recent works into wall hangings, or something structural – to have a sense of them as building materials.

    Jessy Jetpacks

    So much about my work has changed since being at the RA – and it’s been great. I’ve started making film, which I’ve never done before, and animation. I’ve been working a lot with new technologies: particularly video game software and machinima, or in-game filming. The Schools’ 3D printer produces certain structural and surface anomalies. I’m trying to figure out how to work with those imperfections. Technology can remind us of our limitations as individuals: we have the whole world at our fingertips, but it’s good to be reminded of how much fingertips can actually do.

  • Jonathan Kelly

    Last year, I was working with quasi-religious imagery, creating my own idols, or deities. The paintings are highly symbolic and carefully mapped out: I knew exactly what I would be painting from the start, and the result is works that have a very flat structure, almost like mandalas, which suggests a devotional function. A couple of years ago I was experimenting with a form of contemporary cave- painting, using my hands. Now I am trying to tread more of a line between expressionistic gestures – painting as a kind of primal urge – and mannered, geometric forms.

    Anikó Kuikka

    I think I would call my work ‘moving-image installation’. For ‘Premiums’ I am trying to use two cameras to make a stereoscopic 3D moving image, which is viewed through some kind of object – increasingly, I am interested in the experience of viewing and the bodily position of the viewer. The last work I made was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was shot in one take; there was room for mistakes and for unplanned things to happen. I feel like I can take more risks at the RA and test new things; that freedom is liberating.

    Katya Lewis

    I would call myself a painter; I make paintings but also photographs that feed the paintings. Before I came to the RA I made monochrome works that were totally imageless, about surface and materiality. Recently, I’ve felt that images are emerging, but they are very fleeting, more like traces. I’ve also been making books. I paint over photographs and then re-photograph them to produce very textured, almost sculptural, prints.

  • India Mackie

    When I came to the RA, I was working across different media and I wanted to question how the various strands of my art sit together. Recently, I made a series of works that started out as abstract paintings. They look slightly like grids, or blueprints – perhaps because I used to be an architect. But I couldn’t leave them as images. I turned them into boxes and put in speakers. The sounds were like nuclear blasts. I was thinking about destruction and how to build something from nothing – stripping elements away and then building them back up.

    Zsofia Margit

    My work is mainly about everyday objects. I make paintings, but since starting at the RA I have been trying to integrate other objects and consider the painting as just one part of a larger work, which also takes in the surroundings and other 3D elements. Last year, I had a tutorial with the sculptor Cathie Pilkington RA, who pushed me to think of my paintings as objects and made me feel free to experiment with them.

    Richie Moment

    I used to make video pieces that were a kind of pastiche of self- promotional material, which you might find online or on social media. They came out of feeling forced to have an online presence: I thought that if I was going to have to be on social media, I would do it in the most extreme way possible. It’s interesting how easy it is to make yourself seem great. I was trying to recreate something that, on one level, I have a problem with, so as to be able have more of an understanding of it. I am currently working on the best artwork in the art world.

  • Fani Parali

    For several years I was a scenic artist in the theatre, making backdrops and props. I am letting some of those processes feed into my practice, while dealing with the problems that occur when challenging the ways the audience encounters the coexistence of live and static work. For ‘Premiums’ there will be sculptures and maybe large-scale wall drawings, as well as performers who will be within or engaging with the objects. I’m interested in storytelling and how stories are constructed – for this work I’m using Greek myth relating to death and the underworld.

    Adam Shield

    Until I started here, I was making paintings based on other artists’ reference photographs: the self- portraits that Edvard Munch took while he was in an asylum, for example. But, when I moved to London, I started working with paper, particularly tracing paper, which lets you catch fleeting images, afterimages almost. I have made installations by layering the paintings, or cutting into them and reconfiguring the fragments. Being here for three years means I have time to try these things out.

    Premiums: Interim Projects is in The Sackler Wing at Burlington House from 12—21 February 2016. Admission is free.
    Amy Sherlock is Reviews Editor of frieze.

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