With each degree show that passes, it is said that we are witnessing the future of contemporary art; it is arguably never more true than at the Royal Academy Schools, a unique three-year postgraduate programme for emerging artists which facilitates entering the art world big league. For this interim show, visitors to the Royal Academy of Arts are treated to a free showcase of students half way through the certificate.
Video, sculpture, music, painting and photography are on display; artists working with paint are producing some of the most arresting work, definitely a welcome addition to an exhibit at the forefront of contemporary art making. Rachel Jones’ rich, sweeping canvases are certainly inspired by modern masters including Pollock and Francis Bacon, but ultimately are vibrant and utterly sumptuous. The same can be said for Richard Lockett, whose beautiful oil paintings offset his installation work ‘Creativity/Exhaustion’, where clothes hangers hold both hi-vis jackets and overalls, with the words ‘creativity’ and ‘exhaustion’ printed on them respectively, evoking the precarious nature of the arts and the struggle to thrive.
It is important to bear in mind that ‘Premiums’ is an interim showcase, and it will be another year before we see the artists exhibited together in the final degree show; observing the influence of peer, tutor and public critiques is certainly something to look forward to. That being said, each artist is well enough established in their own practice with distinctive ideas and styles; this is never more evident than in Glen Pudvine’s work, where the artist is always the subject and always naked. Is Pudvine parodying narcissism, mocking the supposed “security” of male sexuality, or simply massaging his own ego? There are plenty of amusing symbols and references in the exhibition, whether this is Matilda Moors’ digital prints with cartoonish eyes expressing different levels of exhaustion, or Sam Keelan’s three-hour long video of himself dancing to Selena Gomez’s track ‘Good for You’, the audio of which echoes around the gallery space. The latter is another example of pure self-indulgence but if one is willing to let that slide it is fairly entertaining.
Symbolism of reflections are also prevalent, whether this takes the form of selfie-style bedroom dancing videos or Debora Delmar’s ‘Architectural Bodies’ series, comprised of mirrors with domestic objects such as a yoga stretch strap and a curl bar. Viewer seeing themselves figuratively reflected back is hardly a revolutionary idea, yet Delmar’s sculptures allow us to think about our relationship with the built environment and how we are shaped by architecture and everyday structures. The greatest thing about this interim show is that there is something to suit all tastes, and it is easy to see how the majority of works will fit into exhibitions and collections around the world, whetting the appetite of eagle-eyed Royal Academy visitors.
Words by Issey Scott