Each year the Premiums
exhibition gives the public a chance to see the work of RA Schools students at an interim point in their three-year postgraduate studies. The exhibition reflects the diversity of practice at the Schools and this year is no exception; with painting, sculpture, video and photography all represented. We spoke to three of the students about their work, and discovered some interesting connections between what's going on in the Schools and the wider life of the RA.
Toby Christian is a sculptor so naturally we were intrigued to hear what he thought of the RA's current Main Galleries exhibition, Modern British Sculpture:
"We were given a talk by one of the curators and I really enjoyed it. I think there were a lot of obvious choices that could have been made; but it’s a really good show, there's a lot of space around the pieces which is really important and the pace of the show is really good.
"I think what it does show is a really dynamic picture of British sculpture, which is really fluid. So actually it’s quite inspiring in that way, that it might suggest a possibility of sculpture rather than trying to state what British sculpture is. I left the show with a feeling of what it might be."
An installation shot showing Premiums 2011 in the RA's Sackler Galleries
The idea of sculpture as a fluid discipline is also touched on by the work of his fellow student, Sophie Michael.
"I started working in film towards the end of my time at the Slade," she explains.
"I was making sculpture up until my fourth year there. So the sculpture really informs the film, and I'm never sure what to say when people say to me 'what do you make?' because I make something in-between. The objects in my film are an installation I built in the project space at the RA, so it's something that was constructed to be filmed, but is nevertheless about sculpture and space."
Among her influences is the New Zealand artist Len Lye. Lye worked both in sculpture and film and his experimental film 'Colour Box' (1935) is represented in Modern British Sculpture: "It’s one of my favourites.”
"What's interesting is that they were made for the Royal Mail, they were advertisements. It makes me wonder if there's something being created now that in a few years’ time might be thought of as art, whereas at the time it was created to sell stuff."
German student Sonja Weissmann has three paintings in Premiums. She describes her influences as ranging from Renaissance landscape paintings to 19th Century German Romanticism, and lately cartoon characters and comic art. It's an eclectic mix, but then the Schools is a rich blend of influences and working styles.
"Compared to Düsseldorf where I studied before, and was more or less focused on the one person who was teaching me, now there are a lot of influences," she explains.
"The people coming in to give talks, the shows you can see, the museums around here… and of course my fellow students."
It's an aspect of studying at the Schools that Sophie Michael also finds interesting:
"I think we’re all really different, everyone in my year. Everyone comes from really different places in terms of their practice and their lives so sometimes it’s a struggle to find things in common.
"But at the same time we’ve learnt a lot from each other which is I think what they knew was going to happen when they ‘curated’ our year. It’s crazy how different the work in the show is, but I think it makes it really interesting."
- Premiums 2011 is in the RA’s Sackler Galleries until 20 February