From 10–17 March 2017 an exhibition in the RCA's Dyson Gallery in Battersea showcased work from over 40 of the College’s technical staff. From jewellery and textile design to painting, sculpture, photography and interactive virtual realities, the week-long exhibition will bring to the fore talent and technical skills that are sometimes hidden from those outside the College.
The RCA’s technical staff have a wealth of skills-based knowledge, which is put to use on a daily basis supporting students across the College. From an award-winning photographer to Lady Gaga’s shoe designer, the exhibition Hidden celebrates these remarkable talents and some of their most innovative creative work.
‘This project began several months ago and has grown far beyond my initial expectations,’ explained Ailsa Sinclair, curator and organiser of the exhibition and Co-President of the RCA Students’ Union. ‘The technicians are the backbone of the experience of studying at the RCA, and they all put in a huge amount of expertise, skill and time into helping realise student projects. Many of the technicians are well-known practising designers and artists in their own right, with the majority having studied at the RCA or other art schools.’
World-renowned shoe designer Natacha Marro is just one of the well-known designers included in the exhibition. Marro is celebrated for her wild and visually striking Bubble Shoes and she has worked with clients including David Bowie, Grayson Perry, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani and Olivia Newton-John.
Many of the current technicians are also graduates of the College. Finnish textile designer Jonna Saarinen graduated from the RCA in 2011 and works as a printed textile technician. Within her personal practice, Saarinen specialises in screenprinted textiles and brightly coloured kitchenware. She will showcase new large-scale prints and drawings in the exhibition. Her beautifully handcrafted work explores the natural beauty of Nordic nature and the nostalgia associated with growing up on the Finnish Archipelago.
Simon Ward, a photography technician at the College, is also showing some new large-scale print work. Ward graduated from the RCA in 2007 and went on to win the Man Photography Prize in 2009. His vividly explicit series Still Life demands instant attention. These high-impact images are meticulously detailed flatbed scans of dead animals, created with what Ward describes as 'a single brushstroke of scanned light'. Ward’s highly aesthetic and memorable prints will be displayed in unusual spaces around the gallery, adding to the impact of encountering them.
Hidden was a unique opportunity to see the range of work produced by the skilled technical staff. ‘It has been quite amazing to work with such a breadth of talent from so many varied disciplines that make up the RCA,’ Ailsa explained. ‘This exhibition has been a fantastic and unique opportunity for over 40 technicians and non-academic staff to come together and create a lively, varied and innovative exhibition.’
As part of the learning environment, the College provides specialist facilities across traditional workshops and cutting-edge digital technologies such as rapid prototyping, CNC milling and laser-scanning. Technicians play a vital role at the College, supporting students in mastering the required skills for their particular aesthetic and approach. As Hidden highlights, many of these technicians are highly skilled specialists in both traditional crafts such as glass, metalwork, jewellery, screen printing, or letterpress, as well as expert innovators with newer technologies.