Degree shows 2011: RCA communication art & design

It has to be said that I left it feeling somewhat disappointed with this year’s RCA show. Usually the communication art and design work is displayed really clearly in a large space in the main building but this year the work was displayed in corridors, small rooms and even stairwells in the Stevens Building…

It has to be said that I left it feeling somewhat disappointed with this year’s RCA show. Usually the communication art and design work is displayed really clearly in a large space in the main building but this year the work was displayed in corridors, small rooms and even stairwells in the considerably smaller Stevens Building.

I know, for example, illustrator Rose Blake is among this year’s MA graduates, yet somehow, despite going around in circles several times around the exhibition spaces, I failed to spot her work exhibited. Having said that, there was some super work to be found, so here is a small selection to whet your appetite and hopefully encourage you to visit the exhibition yourself over the next few days.

Joohnho Kwon‘s interactive typographic sculpture, Life, was the first piece of work to not only greet but block the path of visitors to the communication art & design section of the show. Turn the crank on the right of the nearly three metre high piece and the physical rows of text turn to reveal that there are, in fact, four pages of text to read. The text is an extract from a harrowing  interview between Kwon and a female refugee who had escaped from North Korea where she had suffered numerous human rights violations.

Catherine Hyland exhibited three large scale photographic prints including these two images:

Wonderland, China, C-Print, 1981.2mm x 1280.8mm

The Finishing Room, Sri Lanka, 2010, C-print, 1981.2mm x 1320.8mm

As well as exhibiting three large framed C-type prints (which made me think of the work of Andreas Gursky) Hyland also exhibited a moving image piece called Inglenook which featured a plume of what appears to be smoke travelling towards and past the camera’s viewpointf. It was actually shot in the north of Iceland at the same time of the hugely disruptive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April/May last year. “Inglenook focuses on a well-known furnace which grumbles beneath the ground, expelling gases through the peak of a hidden mountain ridge,” Hyland explains. “The piece attempts to create a seductively sinister husk of the former event. A poetic meditation of the prodigious but overlooked.”

Inglenook from catherine Hyland on Vimeo.

Another film I enjoyed was Liron Kroll‘s High Expectations film which, the accompanying blurb explains, “aspires to highlight the gap between the idealised family photograph and the reality it represents. To create the film, actors were first shot against a green screen. They were then placed in photo illustrations, constructed from hundreds of photographs taken in various places around the world.” The following series of extracts from the film don’t really do it justice as the pace of the full version is wonderfully slow.

High Expectations (extract) from Liron Kroll on Vimeo.

I liked the tricky-to-photograph We Do Big Things slogan, inspired by ghost advertising wall paintings and a Barack Obama speech theme that was painted on the wall of a stairwell and projected on to by Michael Lum:

And in one of the gallery rooms up the stairs I found Hannah Montague’s mutant letterforms screenprinted on to wooden panels. The letterforms were designed for RCA’s journal Arc. “The forms reference Deleuze’s concept of ‘becoming’ where and when A becomes B, A does not give up being A,” says Montague. “It continues to be A, yet it becomes B without transforming itself into B.”

In animation, I enjoyed Soyoung Hyun‘s piece How Life Tastes, extract below:

How Life Tastes (excerpt) from Soyoung Hyun on Vimeo.

I also enjoyed the frankly bizarre film, Decoration (still shown below), by Ben Wheele whose recent work, he says, “has explored a boroque netherworld of collapsing logic.”


I also wanted to include here the first piece of work that made me slow my already slow pace walking through the main RCA building towards the back where I could exit and find the Stevens Building where the Communication Art & Design graduate work is exhibited: these illustrations by Emma Shipley, graduating from the Textiles MA. As well as the drawing on paper (detail above) the image was printed on to textile (below) and hung on a wall wallpapered with another of Shipley’s intricate, nature-inspired patterns.

The RCA degree show is on until July 3 (closed on July 1). For more info and opening times, visit For a selection of work from the graduates of the communication art and design shown, go here.


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