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Metalism. Re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art

Exhibition  /  中文版-ChineseVersion  /  25 Sep 2021  -  24 Oct 2021
Published: 20.10.2021
Metalism. Re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art.
B.R. Gallery
Curator:
Michael Rowe, Jonathan Boyd, Rebecca de Quin, Max Warren, Sally Li
Management:
Sally Li
.

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Intro
The current exhibition featuring work by our most recent graduates, shows the development of metal art & design within the Jewellery and Metal programme, extending the compass of metal in the context of art/craft/design beyond the traditional territory of interests and portfolio of techniques and skills conventionally associated with silversmithing.
/ Michael Rowe

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Artist list

Xiahan Dai, Yujia Gao, Honggang Lu, Chong Shi, Haorui Wang, Yilin Wang, Junyi Yang, Yunqi Zhang, Ming Zhao
About the exhibition Metalism (text by Michael Rowe)
The Royal College of Art has its origins in 1837 as the first Government School of Design in Britain; in 1864 it became The National Art Training School when it moved to purpose-built buildings in South Kensington. In 1897 it received the title ‘Royal College of Art’.
 
The School of Silversmithing and Jewellery was established as a separate programme in 1948 under the leadership of Professor Robert Goodden. It was subsequently renamed Metalwork and Jewellery when Gerald Benney became Professor in 1974, and in 1984 under the leadership of David Watkins the title was changed to Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery. Following Watkins' retirement in 2006 Hans Stofer headed up the programme re-naming it Jewellery & Metal, the title it retains today under the leadership of Jonathan Boyd.
 
Many distinguished metal designers were students, from Christopher Dresser [1847-52] onwards. The earliest record we have of the silversmithing curriculum is from the first prospectus, published in 1926-27, noting ‘In the Metal workshops silversmithing, chasing and repousse, lathe work, enamelling and engraving on metal are taught’.
 
Through many years the Royal College of Art has nurtured some of the finest designers in metal in the UK. From the Post-war generation figures such as David Mellor, Robert Welch and Gerald Benney are internationally recognised as major Modernist designers of silver and domestic metalwork. Along with this designer- craftsman approach, the 1970s saw the emergence of the artist-craftsman movement, bringing a more Postmodern spirit in connecting with impulses happening in the fine arts where the emphasis was on concept and a more reflexive, investigative approach. This was pioneered by a small group of Royal College of Art applied arts graduates including Carol McNicholl and Alison Britton [ceramics], Fred Baier [furniture], and myself [metal]. Later from the 1990s onwards metal graduates Simone ten Hompel, Rebecca de Quin, David Clarke and Max Warren opened up new pathways. More recently the work of young talent, makers such as Linda Brothwell, Kathleen Reilly and all the graduates showing in this exhibition demonstrate that metal is a dynamic and expanding field of practice. The Jewellery & Metal programme has also had an impact in the field of larger scale public artworks in metal by graduates such as Chris Knight and Lee Simmons. Today the boundaries between art, craft and design are so fluid we think of ourselves simply as 'makers' within the framework of material culture.
 
The current exhibition - METALISM : re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art - featuring work by our most recent graduates, shows the development of metal art & design within the Jewellery and Metal programme, extending the compass of metal in the context of art/craft/design beyond the traditional territory of interests and portfolio of techniques and skills conventionally associated with silversmithing. In these works we see a shift to a more generic exploration of metal as a substance, recognising it’s pre-eminence historically in the development of civilisation, and envisioning it’s future potential for shaping human culture.
 
In doing this we are bringing new approaches and creative thinking to the subject, encouraging wider experimental and conceptual reach in terms of context and narrative content; and integral in this aim is the broadening of the range of metals we use and the ways we work with them. Theoretically the range is as wide as the Periodic Table but in practical terms we encompass copper, brass, bronze, zinc, silver, gold, aluminium, steel, iron, chromium, nickel along with the low melt alloys tin, zinc, bismuth etc.
 
In the Jewellery and Metal programme we see the medium-specificity of metal as offering a singular intensity of approach to material culture, a robust affirmation of engagement in the analogue realm while conversing with the rapidly expanding reality of the digital in everyday life. This perspective - the analogue and digital realms seen as a seamless continuum - defines the quintessential challenge at the cutting edge for today’s artists and designers. Finding one’s place, embracing and engaging with this exciting agenda is the challenge we make to our students on the Jewellery and Metal programme, and with it comes the opportunity to contribute to the extraordinary diversity of contemporary visual arts culture.
 
The exhibition METALISM : re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art focuses on a selection of recent Chinese graduates whose work contributes to this conversation. The range and compass of narratives explored and expressed through metal we see here is impressive, fascinating and indeed inspiring. Their projects show not only the great value in choosing metal as an art medium equal to other art mediums - painting, photography, print-making etc. - but in treating such a diverse range of topics and narratives, connected under the rubric of ‘metal’, the ubiquity of metal in everyday life is revealed for our contemplation.

/ Michael Rowe 2021
Professor of Jewellery and Metal, Royal College of Art
Honorary Doctorate, Buckinghamshire New University, UK
Honorary Doctorate, University of Hasselt, Limburg, Belgium


About the exhibition Metalism (text by Jonathan Boyd)
Metal has agency
Metal has a life of its own
Metal is the artist's collaborator

 
"to live, humans need to interpret the world reductively as a series of fixed objects, a need reflected in the rhetorical role assigned to the word material. As noun or adjective material denotes some stable or rock-bottomed reality... It seems, however that this is not a good empirical account of the microstructure of metals, which consists in irregularly shaped crystals that do not form a seamless whole... (rather)... a metallic vitality can be seen in the quivering of these free atoms at the edges between the grains of the polycrystalline edifice." (1) Jane Bennet, 2009
 
Metal offers a fluid multiplicity of narratives

In the English language the use of the suffix “ism” has multiple interpretations but generally when an “ism” is applied to a word it denotes that that thing has established itself beyond any singular meaning and has developed a wider purpose as a way of thinking, a mode of behaviour, ideology, or philosophy. We (JaM/RCA) believe that as we move further into the 21st century, “Metal” looks outward beyond its historical roots in the decorative, beyond style, to a wider physical and abstract philosophy. Whilst “isms” can be restrictive, the sheer ubiquity of metal in our material and everyday culture offers a newness of scope and a possibility to readdress the multiplicity of narratives that surround us (2).
 
Metal is, of course, ancient, and modern, it is omnipresent, making up the world around us. Yet we often take its ubiquity and state for granted, its apparent solidity is undermined by the fluidity of the molten state through which artists craft its various forms as well as through the fluidly of shared information which zips across our planet emphasizing our hyper-real existence. Like Bennet's “metallic vitality' we see Metal not as the inert, cold, solid substance but as a way of thinking and seeing the world, where concepts of fluidity and solidity are thrown beyond an anthropocentric lens and where narratives of scale, temperature, history, and space interact with the vast array of human and non-human networks.
 
Even now as you read these words which were typed on an aluminium keyboard and processed through copper, silver and gold transistors and wires, printed on paper printed through steel presses lightened with compounds of titanium, you (the reader) and I (the writer) are connected to the endless networks and narratives of a world driven and made of metal.
 
Through this exhibition, METALISM, you are presented with manifestations of these types of new thinking, being and making in metal via the work of nine graduates from the Royal College of Art in London. That these exhibitors are all born, brought up and now successfully working in China, thousands of miles away from their post-graduate education in London only strengthens the narratives of globality, necessity and urgency contained within any contemporary exploration of metal, and its material and theoretical possibilities. All of these exceptional artists have utilized metal as an expressive mode of communication, they have sought to subvert away from traditional narratives of decorative metal and have asked us to join in the world as seem through a lens of “metalism”.

/ Jonathan Boyd 2021
Head of Programme – Jewellery and Metal Reader in Jewellery
Royal College of Art


1) Bennett, Jane, 1957-. Vibrant Matter : a Political Ecology of Things. Durham :Duke University Press, 2010.
2) Metals make up over 80% of the periodic table of elements


About the exhibition Metalism (text by Sally Li)
Metalism: Re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art becomes the first official exhibition of the Royal College of Art's jewellery and metal programme in China, which will feature the work of nine representative Chinese graduates selected by the Royal College of Art's faculty. I hope these works will map out to the community how these cross-cultural learners, thinkers and practitioners have assimilated the creative methodologies of leading Western academic institutions while expressing their intellectual reflections.

As one of the world most important art institutions, the Royal College of Art has been providing leading talent to the field of art since its establishment in 1837. The Jewellery and Metal programme explores the significance and our interactive relationship with the material. We can see artistic responses across material culture, semiotics, commercial contexts and many other connections relevant to our contemporary everyday lives to the current dramatically changing social and cultural landscape. We can also gain insight into the intellectual thinking and creative skills of artists which are nourished by history and technology. Chinese handcrafts have accompanied the rheological concept of arts and crafts as they have pursued their role throughout history. From the establishment of the discipline of 'Arts and Crafts' in 1953 to the replacement of 'Arts and Crafts' with 'Art and Design' in 1998, to the return of 'Arts and Crafts' in 2012, we gradually recognize the importance of craft to visual culture and its bridging role of traditional culture, as well as the development and experimentation directed to the future. When the contemporary craft is progressing more to a 'handmade art', the teaching philosophy of the RCA Jewellery and Metal programme brings unique inspirations into the realm of contemporary metal art. Therefore, the nine artists in this exhibition who come from a cultural background that lies between the 'distinct disciplines'——a collision of Western and Chinese ways of thinking, a dynamic inter-textuality between traditional culture and the current context, and more of a co-frequency resonance between matter and thought.
/ Sally Li, B.R. Gallery
METALISM. Re-thinking narrativity in metal at the Royal College of Art 2021
B.R. Gallery
2021
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Ming Zhao. Vessel: Bell cup, 2019. Brass, glass.. 25 x 7 x 7 cm; 13 x 6 x 6 cm. Photo by: YDMD. Ming Zhao
Vessel: Bell cup, 2019
Brass, glass.
25 x 7 x 7 cm; 13 x 6 x 6 cm
Photo by: YDMD
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Ming Zhao. Object: Serve, 2018. Ping pong ball, glass.. Ming Zhao
Object: Serve, 2018
Ping pong ball, glass.
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Chong Shi. Object: Miss the Target, 2014. Chinese chopper, Victorian brass candlestick.. 22 x 3 x 30 cm. Chong Shi
Object: Miss the Target, 2014
Chinese chopper, Victorian brass candlestick.
22 x 3 x 30 cm
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Chong Shi. Object: Pattern Candleflat, 2014. Silver with gold plated.. 12 x 26.7 x 1 cm. Chong Shi
Object: Pattern Candleflat, 2014
Silver with gold plated.
12 x 26.7 x 1 cm
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Chong Shi. Object: The Lost Other Half, 2014. Pewter, victorian candleholder.. 43 x 33 x 19.6 cm. Chong Shi
Object: The Lost Other Half, 2014
Pewter, victorian candleholder.
43 x 33 x 19.6 cm
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Yujia Gao. Vase: Front View 0° 1, 2019. Gilding metal.. 11 x 23 x 21 cm. From series: Look Right. Yujia Gao
Vase: Front View 0° 1, 2019
Gilding metal.
11 x 23 x 21 cm
From series: Look Right
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Yujia Gao. Vase: Side View 30º, 2019. Gilding metal.. 13 x 13 x 20 cm. From series: Look Right. Alternative view.. Yujia Gao
Vase: Side View 30º, 2019
Gilding metal.
13 x 13 x 20 cm
From series: Look Right

Alternative view.

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Yunqi Zhang. Installation: Disremember. Death is cold, but it is not, 2019. Ice.. 20 x 20 x 40 cm. Yunqi Zhang
Installation: Disremember. Death is cold, but it is not, 2019
Ice.
20 x 20 x 40 cm
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Yunqi Zhang. Piece: Wedding ring box, 2019. Photo print on brass, brass, red thread, gold ring.. 3 x 3 x 3 cm. From series: Memorial. Jewel box.. Yunqi Zhang
Piece: Wedding ring box, 2019
Photo print on brass, brass, red thread, gold ring.
3 x 3 x 3 cm
From series: Memorial
Jewel box.

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Honggang Lu. Glasses: Saturn Rings, 2017. Steel, lenses.. 14.8 x 13.4 x 5.5 cm. Honggang Lu
Glasses: Saturn Rings, 2017
Steel, lenses.
14.8 x 13.4 x 5.5 cm
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Honggang Lu. Glasses: Eclipse, Lunar, 2015. Sliver, brass, lenses.. 57 x 13 x 25 cm. Honggang Lu
Glasses: Eclipse, Lunar, 2015
Sliver, brass, lenses.
57 x 13 x 25 cm
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Haorui Wang. Vessel: Glitch Series Vessel, 2019. Resin, silver-plated surface.. Haorui Wang
Vessel: Glitch Series Vessel, 2019
Resin, silver-plated surface.
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Haorui Wang. Vessel: Glitch Series Vessel, 2019. Resin, silver-plated surface.. Alternative view.. Haorui Wang
Vessel: Glitch Series Vessel, 2019
Resin, silver-plated surface.

Alternative view.

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Junyi Yang. Installation: Would You Marry Me for One Moment?, 2018. Found Object. 7.5 x 13 x 9 cm. Wedding ring box, projector.. Junyi Yang
Installation: Would You Marry Me for One Moment?, 2018
Found Object
7.5 x 13 x 9 cm
Wedding ring box, projector.
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Junyi Yang. Sculpture: Living, 2018. Sculpture, clocks, paint.. 20 x 5 x 35 cm. Junyi Yang
Sculpture: Living, 2018
Sculpture, clocks, paint.
20 x 5 x 35 cm
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Xiahan Dai. Necklace: Morning Prayers I, 2021. Copper, silver, African black wood, resin.. 16.1 x 18 x 5 cm. Xiahan Dai
Necklace: Morning Prayers I, 2021
Copper, silver, African black wood, resin.
16.1 x 18 x 5 cm
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Xiahan Dai. Necklace: Morning Prayers I, 2021. Copper, silver, African black wood, resin.. 16.1 x 18 x 5 cm. The box. Xiahan Dai
Necklace: Morning Prayers I, 2021
Copper, silver, African black wood, resin.
16.1 x 18 x 5 cm

The box

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Yilin Wang. Object: The Unaffordable, 2019. Sterling silver.. 24 x 10 x 7 cm. Yilin Wang
Object: The Unaffordable, 2019
Sterling silver.
24 x 10 x 7 cm
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Yilin Wang. Object: The Unaffordable, 2019. Sterling silver.. 24 x 10 x 7 cm. On body. Yilin Wang
Object: The Unaffordable, 2019
Sterling silver.
24 x 10 x 7 cm

On body

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Exhibition venue.
Exhibition venue

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Exhibition venue.
Exhibition venue

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Exhibition venue.
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