Professor Sir Christopher Frayling reckoned there was always a mood about the Royal College of Art’s graduate show. One year he’d detect a fascination with war and guns, another it might be fairytale whimsy, and then there was body-part obsession or toilet humour.
This year’s show – the first since Paul Thompson took over from Frayling as RCA Rector and Tord Boontje succeeded Ron Arad on the product course – doesn’t have such a strong theme running though it. There is diversity.
There are increasing concerns with system design and recycling – brought together admirably in Adam Patterson’s project on the transport of goods and more esoterically in Lawrence Lee’s Baby Project to make infants more aware of their bladder functions and reduce nappy disposal. There appears to be a greater mass of moving-image work and Tony Dunne’s interaction students have broadened out from the biotechnology that preoccupied them a couple of years ago to explore more eclectic concepts.
As for themes, several of the illustration students are more painterly than previous generations – Owain Thomas’ diary depicting daily news, for example, or Daniel Frost’s prize-winning Gulliver’s Travels project. And there is a fascination with materials, manifest in the textiles show, but also superbly shown in projects like Seongyong Lee’s Plytube, which creates elements out of birch plywood with the characteristics of cardboard tubes for furniture and the like.
But the greatest link across the show is the nationality of the students, with Asian names featuring heavily. This has been building for some time, with Chinese students in particular coming to London to complete their studies, and will have a broad impact. Cultural differences don’t always show in their MA projects, but the international links forged will surely build creative dialogue.
Get to the RCA to see for yourself. Show Two continues in Kensington and Battersea until 4 July.