RCA2021 highlights

It’s that time of the year again! Degree show season! Online degree show season that is. As was the case last year, most degree shows are mainly taking place online. Only this year, the RCA class of 2021 had an IRL satellite graduate show in different places around London. Nevertheless, and here we go again, 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. But this didn’t take place without resistance. Since the beginning of the outbreak, PAUSE OR PAY UK in collaboration with other student let initiatives, has been fighting that studio-based students can pause their studies or receive financial compensation for the inadequacy of online learning for studio-based practices. Specifically, at the RCA, on top of charging the usual fees without receiving studio space for most of the academic year, those artists had to deal with since the outbreak, there was also the mind-boggling and infuriating situation that over 100 artists had their art or materials missing or damaged last summer during a clearout. More than often, a student lost over a thousand pounds worth of material and art. So amidst all of this, during the class of 2021 graduation this week, as @nothankyouRCA reported, hundreds of grads wore red square, the international symbol for students protesting against rising tuition fees and budget cuts in Higher Education. So with this in mind, we’re going to dive into some of our fav RCA Painting, Print and Photography 2021 grads :)





Amalie Gabel

Amalie’s intimate paintings are poetic in a certain way. So it doesn't come as a surprise that poetry is important to her practice. ‘The paintings for this show were made in between lockdowns and isolation requirements,’ she writes, 'They were inspired by my change in perception about the home and how it merges with public space.' You can read more about her practice on her degree show page here


Amalie Gabel, Waiting for Viridian — Oil on textile, 45 x 45 cm, 2021


Thomas Hjelm

Rethinking the ubiquity of persuasive communication and the aesthetic choices of mass media, Thomas creates mesmerising works which include text and slogans. About this piece, ‘BITE ME’, Thomas writes: ‘All you ever wanted or all you want is maybe not what you need. Using the notion of the eroded billboard, which gives evidence of its bygone incarnations, BITE ME references the idea that "happiness is a moment before you need more happiness." (Madmen)

A constant hunt for the next serotonin fix and the inevitable realisation that previous desires were largely superficial.’

You can read more about his practice on his degree show page here


Thomas, Hjelm, BITE ME — 170 X 130cm // Inkjet, Paint + Fabric Dye on Linen // 2021


Myro Wulff

There is something mysterious going on in Myro’s in between figurative and abstract photographs. You don’t know exactly what’s going on. Experimenting with formal traditions in the medium by testing its boundaries, he creates these elegant and enigmatic renderings of bodies and materials. ‘I am driven by a curiosity about human and material encounters and the combustion of possibilities they hold,’ he writes. ‘My work is process driven and this process is led by a deep feeling, a thinking with my blood. Playfulness and experimentation are elemental in my work.’ You can read more about his practice on his degree show page here


Myro Wulff, Ink Jet print on Epson enhanced matt, 150 x 200 cm

Mari Howells

Multi-talented & multi-disciplined artist Mari is a classically trained pianist, cellist, guitarist, AND fine art photographer. All of this together: music, literature, and theatre influence her practice, as she writes: ‘which transfuses different languages through the filter of photography.‘ And this leads to these mesmerising photographs that consist of many different flowing elements. She explains how she envisions ‘the work as a contrapuntal composition in five parts, where the juxtaposition of multiple perspectives continuously generates questions in a gesture of freedom and mobility.’ You can read more about her practice on her degree page here


Mari Howells, Endgame. 

Isadora Vogt

Isadora’s seemingly innocent renderings of folklore and fairy-tale stories are not what it seems. Thinking about how different display strategies affect the meaning of works, these brightly coloured cute motifs conceal a scary underlying story. ‘Often in my work the innocently cute appears potentially threatening;’ she explains,  ‘the domestic sphere takes on an uncanny dimension.’ You can read more about her practice on her degree show page here. 



Isadora Vogt, Hose im Wind — oil on canvas 90 x 110 cm, 2021


Gal Schindler 

Gal creates her fascinating paintings by carving out loose lines in wet layers of paint. It evokes a sense of freedom; something that’s in constant flux until it’s done. ‘By marks of removing and revealing, the figure is both appearing and disappearing, living in a state of LIMBO,’ she explains, ‘constantly shape-shifting and refusing binary thinking.’ She continues by elaborating how ‘They move and overflow beyond the edges of the canvas, claim their territory and look the viewer in the eye - they are not merely painted but they ARE the painting.’ You can read and see more works here

Gal Schindler, DoubleNegation — Oil on canvas, 100 X 160 cm



Margaux Derhy

Fascinated by the tendency how intimacy, grief, healing are omnipresent in cultural expressions such as contemporary film, photography and literature, but often absent form contemporary painting. ‘In my paintings,’ she explains, ‘I try to give form to emotions that manifest from other realms and dimensions beyond the domains of everyday life. My imagery is rooted in the cornerstones of our earthly existence — life and death, isolation and connection, and love and loss — and is realized through oil painting layers of cold and contrasting colors.’ It’s how’s she’s been able to translate these emotions into form. You can read more about her practice here.


Margaux Derhy, Wise Woman Home I, 96 x 162cm, 2021


Eva Suhajek

Transcending traditional painting practices, Eva creates large-scale painting installations that create playful engagements with its audience. ‘I am interested in playful engagement with the audience. Playfulness is a key approach in my artistic practice, but equally my understanding and perception of the world as such. I look at it as a tool for emancipation, a tool for becoming liberated from social and political restrictions. By creating encounters in forms of installations in public space as well as formal institutions I am continuing to explore the moment when play happens. This moment of participation is an ephemeral and hard to describe instance, where one is present and open to carefree engagement’. You can learn more about her practice here.


Eva Suhajek, Make You Feel My Love - Mixed Media on Canvas, 150 x 200


Richard Burton

There is something about Richard’s paintings that make it futuristic and nostalgic at the same time. By depicting real life situations using a color palette that you wouldn’t find in the natural world, it conveys an out-of-this-worldsensation. He explains how in his work is ‘fed by synthetic environments and the emotional distance they generate. There is an element of aspirational living, which I blend with traces of sci-fi to produce a kind of numb, restrained longing. For me the repetition of upholstered forms speaks to our constant seeking of comfort, and the impossibility of that need being wholly realised.’ It’s magnificent. You can read more about work here.


Richard Burton, Clone — oil on linen, 55 x 50 cm, 2021


Catherine Repko

Depicting tender moments between women, Catherine captures the relationship between her and her three sisters in such a gripping way. In a beautiful and intimate way there is a noticeable deep sense of connection. She tells how: ‘This year, the studio became filled with cheap print-outs of pixelated faces of my three sisters, faces from different angles, photographs of us together, now as women: embracing, hands held, fingers intertwined - a deep connection, empathy, love and history. Thinking about the space between us, as adults, how we support each other and what these female relationships mean to me as a woman now, I began painting. Four women.’  You can read and see more of her works here


Catherine Repko, Boundless love, 2021 — Oil on canvas 128 x 182 cm


Anna Rekas

Visualising dreamlike settings of intertwined memories, Anna paints imaginative stories she remembers from her childhood in Poland, focusing on female figures from her family and landscapes. In my work, I focus on topics connected to my family and nationality, especially the cult of icons in Poland and its strong connection with identity and cultural ritual. Icons seem to be a mythical topic, understood as physical objects and as a part of traditional culture. Through my practice, I want to narrate and create my own icons: places, people, objects that are close to me. https://2021.rca.ac.uk/students/anna-rekas 


Anna Rekas, Places, where I cannot be. Places, figures, and me. 2



Ruocong Ma

Working in different mediums, such as painting, video and soft sculptures, Ruocong’s gripping and enigmatic depictions of sexuality are about celebrating ‘the tenderness of tears and loneliness in a girlish voice, finding the treasure in a childish pipe dream and the stigmatized feminine. The twisted and ferocious silhouettes of the human skeleton highlight her inner spirit, one of collision and rebellion.’ The featured piece, ‘White Moon’ explores ‘the aggressive, silent acts of “Touching” and “Gazing” from a female perspective. In the murky white moonlight, two overlapping bodies are having a conversation that no one knows about.’ You can learn more about her practice here


Ruocong Ma, White Moon, Oil on canvas, 120 x 160 cm


Shadi Al-Atallah 

Shadi Al-Atallah paintings are life-sized dynamic self-portraits exploring mental health, queerness, and racial identity, inspired by spiritual practices, family history, and childhood in Saudi Arabia. ‘To me,’ they explain, ‘painting the body takes away its limitations. It allows for emotions to be embodied truly and freely. The painted body is limitless and can exist in many forms. The painted body is genderless and painless. These self-portraits are assembled constructions of desires, fears, memories and current states in a still captured moment. They are many faces and bodies compounded to represent my embodied self and the perceived world.’ You can learn more about their practice here.


Shadi Al-Atallah, Room 33 — Mixed media on paper 59.4cm x 42cm

Katya Granova

In her paintings, Katya proves the flaws of the passing of time, history-writing, and photography. As she beautifully asserts, ‘I alter, abstract, and fictionalize transferred photographic images, either of my family or found in flea markets, leaving an imprint of my own bodily movement in them through my gestured marks - and this movement driven by the desire to reclaim the past. By translating the sign of “oldness” into a painted image I can control the visual dynamics of the photographic image, start to impose my own subjective position, organize a formal space and think through painting. The large formats of my canvases allow me to feel them not as a window, but rather as a portal to the past, through which I can insert my presence. I seek to disrupt the linear spatial perspective of the photograph, so I deliberately destroy the relationship between the foreground and background, mixing them into a single pictorial mass of slimy paint. Therefore, my painting is a way to enter into some sensual interaction with the reality from the past, captured in images, driven by my protest against the subjectivity of history.’ You can learn more about Katy’s and her practice here


Katya Granova, Boiling crayfish, 2019 - 250x200 cm



Helen Bermingham

Creating captivating dynamically layered paintings, Helen’s work investigates ideas around memory and time. Repeating the same movements in paint on different canvasses, she is interested in how repetition, like recalling a memory, it’s bound to change.In this way,’ she explains m, ‘I see painting as a repository of time and memory. As the work progresses the lines between memory and fiction, past and present become blurred and make way for something new. The marks change and develop to be used again in future paintings thus constantly propelling the work forward while also looking back to the past.’ You can read more about her practice here


Helen Bermingham, Skyscraping — oil on canvas, 180 x 130 cm


C. Lucy Whitehead

Thinking about bodies and the spaces they inhabit and their increasingly fragile relationship with the fysical, Lucy is fascinated with the quirks of our bodies beyond our control. She elaborates how ‘The swelling, burning blushing pinks which bloat or sag and serve as the signals we need to see beneath the surface. The physicality of our exterior which is often filtered out by mass media but are the very things that makes us, us. The notion of us, or I, is a battle fought internally and externally when attempting to occupy the boxes constructed by society which tell you how to look and behave.’ You can see more of her works here


C. Lucy Whitehead, Paradise - Oil and charcoal on canvas, 76 x 102 cm


Taylor Bull

Taylor’s work plays with the perception of space by mixing landscapes and childlike figures and references in different degrees of abstraction. 

 

'In saturated colour I simultaneously

 

                                  share

                                                               and

                                                                                                      obscure

 

personal idiosyncrasies. 

 

My paintings disassemble into weight-defying fields of form and colour, surreal and quixotic, yet cluttered with domestic familiarity.

Space recedes and merges.

Abandoned

figurations

float in abstract panoramas where time is not present.

 

There is nowhere for the eye to rest, forcing it to flit over the surface in a channel-surfing mentality. Combinations of wide eyes and obstinate smiles feel overbearing and sickly sweet.

                       I overwhelm the visual plane.

 

Executing whole paintings in one go, my body moves over the surface intuitively, layering and scraping paint away.

 

                                              I paint without a plan. Only the imagery of my experience.

 

My experiences are personal. My personal experience is not that personal; time, childhood, sexuality, feminine desire and deviant behaviour - my paintings explore the incomplete and recurring transgressions of bodily propriety of one form or another. In fluid brushstroke, I use blithe playfulness to navigate the tragic humour of humanity, ribald and ribbed for her pleasure.'

You can read more about her practice here.


Taylor Bull, Marry Me, Archie — Acrylic & Spray Paint on Canvas 120 x 160cm 2021


László von Dohnányi

Mesmerised by the digital aesthetics of technologically-generated images, László sees painting as a technology. He creates these complex hybrid hyperrealistic-technical-natural looking forms, that are nor figurative nor abstract. He explains how: 'In my work, I explore the reciprocal influence between these technological images and painting. My process starts in the digital format; sourcing virtual 3D models from the Internet and using architectural modelling softwares to distil the data down to forms and shapes that resonate with me. Central to my practice is the notion of remediation; the concept that new media transform and refashion prior media forms. Remediation is a defining characteristic of new digital media because it is constantly remediating its predecessors. When an older media in turn adopts features of a more recent media, it is referred to as retrograde remediation.' His work explores this retrogade remediation 'by incorporating characteristics and features of CGI (computer-generated imagery) [editor note: the same software GOT used for their dragons] back into my paintings. I think of the CAD file selection process as a form of ‘digital cannibalism’ - digesting the virtual world - consuming these digital objects by retrograde remediating VR, with its artificial realism, hypermediated interfaces, ultra-sharp edges and aesthetic over stimulation back into painting.' As László combines more traditional picture references with cutting-edge 3D digital-modelling tools, his fascinating paintings operate at the crossroads of digital and analogue image creation. 'I think of my painting process as a technological mimesis' he says. 'When painting, I follow rules and algorithms that mimic the idiosyncratic characteristics associated with the technological creation of images. I am interested in how technology can be utilized as a crutch for the mind; informing and assisting the different decision-making processes. This systemization of the painting process aims to inject elements of unpredictability and complexity into the paintings.' You can read more about his practice and see more of his works here.


László von Dohnányi, A close up of a flower — 160 x 130 cm


Iseult Perrault 

Completely rethinking the genre of landscape painting, Iseult’s work creates a new universe for humans and animals. ‘My installations alternate between 2D and 3D, virtual and real, playing between discomfort and aesthetics. I build images and landscapes that question human beings on their positioning and their relationship to their environment.’ She’s interested in the landscape; it's a universal notion common to all human beings. ‘These representations trigger in us a will to question the world around us and the different ways of positioning our gaze in relation to our environments. My work plays with the authenticity of landscapes, their temporality and their limits.’ You can read more about her practice here.


Iseult Perrault, "Every cloud has a silver lining" — detail, acrylic on canvas, 155x78cm

Hyeyeon Im

While considering the relationship between material and visible image, Hyeyeon’s work is like an abstract rendering of memories. ‘I try to capture landscape, experiences and places by painting and building a sense of experimental memory.’ It’s part of an endless exploration of different ways to capture precious personal moments of everyday life. ‘Such actions are fragments of my memories gathering again and I am able to express how I thought and felt by using different materials - from canvas painting to acrylic board painting. I don’t think it ends there, however. The possibilities are endless and I am excited to continue exploring.’ You can read more about Hyeyeon’s practice here.

Hyeyeon Im, Personal features - Acrylic on Canvas, 91x116cm



Alyina Zaidi 

Creating her own fictional fantasy world, there is a touch of magic in Alyina’s paintings. Having lived in India, the US, and now in the UK, her works reflect her cross-cultural background. Working in a distinctive palette, her colour choices are mostly influenced by colours found in Kota, Uniara, Mughal, and Safavid miniatures, by memories, and by the environments around her. I knew I needed a bit of magic in my life, especially during this pandemic. So I took to creating a fantasy world where magic existed and tried to uncover certain mysteries through my paintings. In one painting, I wanted to unearth why certain rituals were the way they were in this world I created. You can read more about her practice here.


Alyina Zaidi, The Dark Valley - Labyrinth — Acrylic on wood, 40.64 x 50.8 cm

Yi To

Transparent forms and lines flow on the canvas, opening up a spectrum of light and depth. In these breathtaking paintings, Yi explores the primordiality, the earliest stages of human life, the root of our existence which is an experience every human being shares with each other. She explains that she’s ‘exploring the pre-narrative state of life formation where the body cannot be located in a specifically gendered, racial, or geographical point. Seeing existence as an embryonic domain where it actively takes the shape of reproductive patterns that vascularise, root, and sublate within a collective network, how this matrix relates to transcendence and the sublime is a fascinating and equally enigmatic subject that my practice heavily draws upon.’ You can read more about her practice here.



Yi To, Reciprocal Topography - Oil on canvas, 140 x 190 cm




Hawazin Alotaibi

Working across different mediums such as painting, audio, photo, and video editing, Hawazin’s work investigates the notions of gender, masculinity, and self-representation on social media in the ever-changing cultural and political dynamics in the Arab world, specifically Gulf countries. ‘I explore those themes’, she explains, ‘through my experimentation with motion glitches and distortions of my paintings, photographs I’ve taken, or collected photographs from social media platforms and gender portrayal imagery from encountered cultural and religious books.’ You can read more about her practice here.


Hawazin Alotaibi, Drowning, 41 x 68 cm

The show officially ran until July 4th, but it will probably be up for a while. You can check out all of the RCA's 2021 grads here.