RCA graduate show highlights

While DigiDegree shows were contested by art students all over the country, there is no way around it. COVID is still free-wheeling, so the usual format of the IRL Degree Show is a no-go. Thus, the degree shows went digital. Which sucks. With limited or non-existing studio space, restricted use of materials, and curtailed guidance it’s super impressive what art students have been able to pull off. where’s the frame is going to highlight artists you should be looking out for at Slade, RCA, and CSM. We will delve into who we’re raving about at RCA, btdubs, you can read about our Slade favs here too.

Peter Spanjer

Layering shots conveying sensuality, sexuality, softness and vulnerability, combined with jarring music and spoken word, Peter Spanjer’s, Make Me Safe is an eerie and gripping video exploring safety. His work is often framed around the idea of resistance, which according to him entails resisting the emotional stereotypes put on black men; resisting the need to perform his blackness to others and allowing room for self exploration which he extends to an audience as a piece of visual art.


“‘Make Me Safe’ is a reaction.

It is a reaction to the current racial pandemic targeting black people.

It is a reaction to knowing that safety is seldom.

It is a reaction to the realisation that whilst we swim to safety, we have to keep faith, whatever that means to you.

So it is also about light and softness and colour.

It is about protection and home, whoever or wherever that is for you.”

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/peter-spanjer


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Peter Spanjer, video stills Make Me Save, 2020


Katie Bret-Day

Katie Bret-Day is a London based artist who pushes the boundaries of photography and my mind. Viscerality in optimum form - even if you don’t know what’s going, Katie’s got me in my feelings. Fire? Fluids? A void? Wholeness? Saturation? She clarifies that her work explores the nature of being. Notions of agential realism; the connectivity, contingency, cause and effect of all being, to be specific. ‘Bringing into focus ideas of singularity, and physiological intelligence I consider how bodies exist in space and time, not in linear forms but as aggregates of perpetual reformation, mitotic assemblages of mortogenesis. From coral bleachings to slime moulds and black holes there are connections between these material bruisings, oozings and intelligences. By creating images of amorphic being I intend to address how distance brings new perspective and abstraction, empathy.’ I can’t help but wonder - how do material forms even exist? Fr, do we exist?

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/katie-bret-day


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Katie Bret-Day, Untitled — C-Type // 26x34cm // edition 1 +2 ap reproductions

Emily Moore

Exploring what she calls ‘wildness’ in contemporary painting, Emily Moore feels that her approach to the studio is similar to that of a natural untamed landscape. Her usage of raw natural materials, such as oil paint, charcoal, ink, handmade sugar cane paper, and unprimed canvas which creates different textures, forms and movements, is exhilarating. ‘Its beauty,’ she explains, ‘is seen through the complexities of the unknown. The unsystematic, rural, ruggedness of a space that is hidden in the uncertainties of what you might find. The layers of old trees and soil with the explosion of new flowers and weeds all growing alongside one another at different speeds, volumes, heights, textures and so on. Whilst all coexisting under the guise of painting.’ 

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/emily-moore


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Emily Moore, Untitled self Portraits 1, 2020 — Let my people go Series 2020. Oil paint on handmade Sugar cane paper 70cm x 50cm

Yang Xu

Expanding the field of painting, Yang Xu plays with unconventional art materials, such as painting with oil paint on linen, synthetic carpet,  or crushed velvet. ‘I believe in the power of the universe and the possibilities that open up when we let our imaginations run free. I can never get lost because I always have myself, but sometimes, I want to have some fabulousness.’ Rich pink colours, painted drapery and golden ornamentation, she often works in a dazzling Rococo style. She explains that ‘Rococo was a playful and mysterious episode in the history of painting. From the french revolution onward, the period was seen as void, lavish and corrupt. With its privileging of power and gender stereotypes, Rococo is buried under the weight of 20th-century moral disciplines. I want to resuscitate it to speak to our contemporary moment. How we engage with celebrities or reality TVs and how we turned life into stage play through Instagram.’ Although historically speaking, Rococo is infamous for being a maligned art form, she perceives it as being ‘underpinned by idealisations, hopes and dreams we should have access to.’ And we’ll need a bit of that amirite?

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/yang-xu


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Yang Xu, Missing you is like Fire 10102019, Oil, Synthetic Carpet, 162x230 cm

Veronica Chen

Proving how fashion can be art, Veronica Chen is a menswear designer whose creations are the epitome of coolness. Growing up in New York City and Beijing, Veronica challenges preconceived notions from a unique perspective. She explores luxury in pattern cutting and fabrication, with her own voice on masculinity in the eyes of a woman.  She discloses how she sees ‘the design process as an intimate conversation: one infused with my personal feelings, emotions, and attachments. I set out from a straight woman's perspective, approaching men from their bodies up to an emotional level. By ways of dressing, or rather undressing, uncovering and revealing inner emotions, I want to create garments that communicate either sexual desire, emotional flows or vulnerability.’ Exploring garments openings, and the relationship between the wearer and the person dressing him, her work is about an ‘emotional penetration’ and celebrating the strength of vulnerability. Some of my pieces are meant to be put on by another person, bringing in a subtle note of sensuality and a slight shift of power during the interaction

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/veronica-chen

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Veronica Chen, Silk Neckpiece, Cotton/Silk Satin Trousers, Leather Coat.

Alexis Lee

Reflecting upon these uncertain and unprecedented times, Alexis explores the collective and personal unconscious in contemporary mythology and folklore. She poetically reveals that “These unprecedented times plunge us into realms of the unknown, beckoning us away from reason and light. As we fall into this gap of human understanding, we witness the destructive energies that dwell in the unconscious and fill us with despair and anger. But these disturbances also awaken profound and ancient abilities, buried in the collective unconscious- the universal sitting at the bottom of our psyche. Their ripples herald a primal return to symbols, storytelling and Coincidentia Oppositorum. Here, incandescent Chaos endeavours to reshape finite reality in darkness. Here, we begin to create landscapes for the monstrous thoughts that threaten to shatter our mortal frame, worlds apart from ours- in myth.” Slender figures with eyes of angst or despair, or in this case, a story about the black plague, bypass.

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/alexis-lee

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Alexis Lee, Black Tears, Acrylic on Board, 80 x 180 x 2 cm.


Anabela Pinto

In a mysterious yet beautiful composition, Anabela Pinto captures tech that seems to have become obsolete. While these specific objects might be no longer in use, our dependence on tech is in full swing. In these works, Anabela reflects on the contours of materialistic desire and its relationship with the pursuit of happiness. She explains that ‘It is an observation of the cult of technology as an extension of the human psyche, where consumer objects appear to channel, reflect, and feed on the emotions of its users. I was thinking of the presence of technologies in the domestic space and how they transform our living environment, create new visual landscapes and specific aesthetics that tinge and shape our everyday rituals.’  

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/anabela-pinto


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Anabela Pinto, Untitled, 2020, Archival pigment print, 60 x 80 cm.

Jiweon Lee 

Jiweon Lee ruminates about ramifications of the gender binary and the role the colour pink plays. ‘ What is pink? What is femininity? What is it about femininity and the colour pink that some people fear? These questions were the beginning of my pink series. The pink I mean in my projects is typical femininity that is commonly seen in a ‘normal’ society. In viewing my work, I want the audience to think differently than the clichéd understanding of pink.’ In a similar vein, she delves into masculinity in Boys don’t cry. ‘Gathered here are the bravest of the brave from history. They clearly show what exaggerated masculinity is. I have invited them and brought them together for therapy. Even though they are so brave and full of manliness, as humans they also need time to think about themselves and drop some small tears. But for our heroes, that is not easy. They need a different kind of courage to do so. During my therapy, they encountered the “primordial pink” in their lives, the tears they always thought were too weak and girly.’

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/jiweon-lee


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Jiweon Lee, Boys don't cry, photo collage, 75X100cm

Yi Jin

A building catching the last sun rays of the day, rumpled sheets of a bed, birds flying over glistening water, golden hour captured from an aeroplane window, by creating a visual diary of his travels through Scandinavia, Yi Jin tries to preserve memories and looks for the existence of truth. Bc Yi was wondering if memories were real or fake, he explains that ‘my art practice can not only explore myself but also question the future of human society,’ and hopes that, ‘Making art helps me discover my own aesthetic taste and enrich my cognition of this complex universe, even though it is full of risks and uncertainties all the way through.’ He also reveals that artistic creation is a way to ‘record my self-growth. It changes simultaneously as I change, whether in tone or aesthetics. Art witnesses my changes.’ 

https://2020.rca.ac.uk/students/yi-jin


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Yi Jin, Installation shot, Photography, fabric, sculpture, films, video, plants.

Check out our SLADE highlights here and our CSM ones here.

All photos courtesy of the artist.