RA Magazine Spring 2013
Issue Number: 118
Where are they now?
As the second-year RA Schools students prepare for ‘Premiums: Interim Projects’, their mid-course show, Ben Luke finds out how RA Schools alumni are faring.
The RA Schools are unique in offering students a three-year postgraduate programme. Students not only have the chance to exhibit at the end of their course but also to mount a show at its mid-point. The ‘Premiums: Interim Projects’ exhibition at 6 Burlington Gardens provides a useful testing ground for students’ work 15 months before they graduate. It offers them a chance to exhibit professionally, at the beginning of their lives as practising artists. As this year’s show opens, we talk to four RA Schools alumni about their experience at the RA and how their careers are evolving.
class of 2012
Adele Morse © Richard Dawson. The RA Schools course prepares its students for many things, but not to become an internet star in Russia, as Adele Morse can testify. Last June, she completed her RA course with a multi-media installation focusing on the orang pendek, a fabled South American animal, rather like the yeti, said to live in the Sumatran rainforest. But while that show prompted an invitation to exhibit in a gallery in Shoreditch, it was a project the previous year that led to her fame further afield. Morse, who is also a taxidermist, had rather clumsily stuffed a fox, creating a forlorn, if amusing-looking specimen. When she put it up for sale on eBay last October, photoshopped images of the fox went viral, appearing alongside everyone from Stalin to Obama in countless memes, and soon Morse’s website – adelemorse.blogspot.com
– had 10,000 hits in two hours, and a following in Russia that was reported in Moscow Metro and on social networks such as Live Journal. Now, she says, ‘The social element that has come out of it has turned the fox into something that I would consider to fit in with my practice.’
Morse had decided to sell her fox to help fund her research into the orang pendek and cryptozoology – the study of mythical or unverified animals – for a new work. ‘The evidence of its existence is so rich visually and the drawings of it are amazing,’ she says. But while she plans to visit Sumatra, Morse will not be idle in her east London studio: she has been commissioned to make two more foxes, and students from the Moscow State University are negotiating an exhibition in Russia for her.
class of 2007
Anthony Faroux. © Richard Dawson. French-born Anthony Faroux undertook his first degree in art in the early 1990s in Marseille. But after a difficult time –‘in those years, if you made paintings, you went through a hard time with your tutors,’ he says – he gave up and moved to the UK. ‘From 1997 to 2003 I was just living my life in London. But I am happy I came back to art, in a calmer, more reflective way.’ The RA course, he says, ‘felt like a residency,’ and it has set a pattern. ‘I seem to be a guy who just goes on residencies and fellowships,’ he says. The residencies he has secured, however, are top end; a scholarship at the British School in Rome, a residency at Durham Cathedral, and now the Jerwood Painting Fellowship, which culminates in a show at the Jerwood Space in London. The residencies give Faroux the chance to develop his work away from commercial pressures – for the Jerwood award, he was given a £10,000 bursary. But he was also given something invaluable – a year’s support from a mentor,
the painter and writer Fabian Peake (married to Phyllida Barlow RA). Faroux says Peake’s diverse approach has helped him grapple with his own eclecticism – he also makes videos and sound art. And the two have also collaborated, with Faroux helping Peake with editing a sound work. Faroux’s studio in Brixton, however, is filled with enigmatic paintings, evoking desolate cityscapes and still lifes. He takes elements from sketches or works from his imagination to create paintings that hover between figuration and abstraction. ‘I am excited by the idea of fragments, of diluted memory and selective memory,’ he says.
- Jerwood Painting Fellowships 2013 Jerwood Space, 13 March–28 April
class of 1991
Sarah Pickstone © Richard Dawson. When Sarah Pickstone joined the RA Schools in 1988, her love of open-air drawing was deeply unfashionable. But 25 years on, she continues her plein-air studies and it has paid off: Pickstone won last year’s John Moores Prize for her exuberant canvas Stevie Smith and the Willow, one of a group of works that will feature in an exhibition at Roche Court this spring. ‘I am shameless about drawing outside, I really love it,’ she says. A frequent haunt is Regent’s Park, which has prompted her most recent body of work (including the Stevie Smith painting) that is based on women writers who have walked through it. She describes the paintings as ‘an invocation to the spirit of those writers’.
The prizewinning work incorporates a brief sketch that Smith herself scrawled alongside a poem. Pickstone recalls: ‘I had been reading one of her poems and the image that she drew alongside it was in my mind as I was drawing the willow in Regent’s Park for the umpteenth time – it just slotted in.’
- Sarah Pickstone: New Work New Art Centre, 6 April–12 May
class of 2012
Pio Abad © Richard Dawson. Even while he was an RA Schools student, Pio Abad was exhibiting in galleries and had shown an installation in last year’s Glasgow International Festival. Since leaving the RA, he has featured in the 2012 ‘London Open’ at the Whitechapel Gallery, and was shortlisted for the Dazed & Confused Emerging Artist Awards.
Abad draws on complex political and cultural research, with a particular interest in his homeland, the Philippines. His final show at the RA explored the Marcos regime’s connections to Andy Warhol and the actress Brooke Shields, as well as reflecting the political activism of Abad’s father in Manila. Abad brings together diverse artworks, images, trinkets and other items, all of which have a distinct potency within his installations. ‘I am interested in the possibility of objects behaving like cultural weapons,’ he explains. ‘Even the most ornamental things can function to enforce a certain ideology, a certain way of living,’ In his studio is a series of wall-based works that are parodies of designer scarves, printed with images of objects found in aftermath of the Bosnian conflict. ‘I don’t think art dealing with socio-political issues has to be dry or clinical,’ he points out.
Abad, who lives and works in south London, has a busy year ahead, with a solo show at the Zabludowicz Collection in London and another in Manila in October. He has recently returned from the Filipino capital where he was working on curatorial projects, as well as conducting further research. Abad says: ‘I’ve been fortunate in being able to support myself solely from my practice. It doesn’t make for a stable lifestyle, but that’s the nature of the life of an artist.’
- Zabludowicz Invites: Pio Abad Zabludowicz Collection, 11 April–19 May
- Premiums: Interim Projects 6 Burlington Gardens, 7–16 March. RA Schools sponsored by Newton Investment Management
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