Fall 2017 at RCA & London / by Salama Nasib

I couldn't believe my self starting the second year at RCA already. It seemed too soon to begin thinking about the degree show already, which was kind of stressing me out since the summer break. I knew time will pass by so quick the minute I step back to college, given my first year experience of more life hustle and less of studio life, so I guess that's a legit excuse ain't it. As stressed out as I may have looked (hopefully not too much!), I was ready to take on the second year with more energy, more determination, and even more hustling! 

The second year started so well already with Fatima (Tima) Ouzden and Moza Al Matrooshi joining MA studies in London. It felt lovely getting to know each other even more being away from hometown and coming to London for the same purposes. As the first batch of RCA Arabs have graduated already and returned back to their countries, seeing new faces certainly gave us more hope and determination for the Arab Art Salon. I am not sure if I ever mentioned this before so excuse the memory loss (which is typical), but a bunch of us Arabs studying at RCA formed a group to reconnect and discuss topics and issues that we face at school coming from the Middle East. It started mainly as a way to vent away the lame commentaries we receive during our school critiques and discussions, and grew to become a more powerful and insightful cultural facet to the RCA/ western audience. Few new faces joined this group including Noura Al Serkal and Rana Al Ogaily, and serious devoted tasks and goals were established and aimed for. More details here.

Speaking about the studio life, the fall term was a bit slow. We moved to our new studios which were double the size of the first year studios. It felt fresh and I loved my studio peers. Luckily my studio was located inside a small room with a door so we were able to have more privacy and quiet time in there to focus. I really wanted to pick up the personal memory topic again and so I have decided to continue the "Transition" series perhaps it can help achieve my goal. I had the chance to go to the Kensington campus more often that term, and investigate the possibilities of using different tools and techniques for the base support including CNC router, 3D Printer and Laser cutter. Some tests were great actually but there was something in me that wasn't convinced 100% so once again took my time with this series. In the meantime the Print department started introducing an ongoing induction series that cover Photo-Etching, Photo-Lithography and screen-printing techniques. All running at the same time with different technicians and signed-up students, for a period of 2-3 hours a day, to gather at the end and compare results between all of these various techniques. It was the first time I witnessed and worked on photo-lithography, with that bada** Fag/Korrex flat bed press! I instantly fell in love with the process from A-Z (of course), from digitalizing the images to exposing them on litho metal sheets to registering on the press to printing them. As it goes with any print technique, the preparation of the process takes longer than the actual printing itself. David Bowie was our main guy there but that little picture of two figures playing is a test of mine.

In the summer I had few ideas that I sketched out, playing with positive and negative spaces and with imageries and drawings. At the time I was thinking of screen-printing but since the photo-litho induction I decided to go ahead with the experiment and present the results in my print department presentation day. Those are pictures of me presenting in the big Gorvy Lecture Theatre. Received amazing comments and somehow ideas started flowing after the presentation. 

At the same time I was working on four different projects including a commissioned project and an open call one. The commissioned project was for The Address Hotel in Dubai which there will be a separate post about it soon. The open call was for a newly established group based in Paris, focused on issues related to women and tits! I found it interesting and a different kind of topic to explore visually, and as a way to encourage and support this group I worked on an illustration. More will be shared on a separate post. The third project was Xmas Fete - an annual event hosted at RCA where students can sell their products in time for Christmas holidays and gifts hunting! The print department rented three tables and we all sold a variety of products including: original hand-printed editions, holiday cards, tote bags and much more. I took the chance to screen-print the moon series onto papers, tote bags, and postcards. I also made some special Christmas edition postcards. It was a fun project and a good start to my future e-shop :) The fourth project was an annual print initiative project where the second year students plan a project to edition and distribute, share or exhibit in various locations outside RCA. We settled on an Envelope project in which each student is meant to interpret the word “letter” or “envelope” in an open, free context. As I was looking through the scanned old photos of my mother, I noticed her sweet, lovely smile and couldn’t resist but feel so nostalgic about it. I miss it and I felt the need to keep it alive in my head. That’s how the idea of my envelope project came to life. It was a letter from my heart to my brain, with a smile of my mother inside, and a wish that said: “please remember this smile and never forget it”. A simple and genuine interpretation of the project that became very close to my heart. This marked the successful beginning of tackling the memory series (finally!).

Besides my studio life, I did more activities around London this year. I had the chance to visit Tate Britain and check out Rachel Whiteread’s show which was phenomenal. Loved every piece she had in there and as usual bought few books of her work and process. Hassan Hajjaj also had a solo show in Somerset House called “La Caravane”, and appreciated the films he produced and showcased there. Frieze took place in early October which was the first time for me to check it out. Not a huge fan of commercial fairs but definitely found few super interesting artists such as Timothy Taylor. We got invitation to attend the private preview/ auction of Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World, which was visually pleasing! Of course no bidding took place from my side but it was nice visiting London’s Sotheby’s. Our head of department - Jo Stockham - was showcasing some of her work in Chisenhale Art Place in East London which is a great gallery space/ studio/ dance spaces for members to join and use. I had lovely conversations with Jo regarding her work, and with other members of Chisenhale studios - certainly a place I would recommend to others. There was also Woolwich Print Fair that took place in November, located in South East London. An amazing fair with fantastic selection of prints - few of our graduated friends were showcasing their work there and we couldn’t feel any less proud. Something to aspire for next year! Last but not least, my fellow artist and friend Walid Al Wawi launched Sawt - a second project under Samt, which hosted Areej Kaoud as the curator and few other artists including my friend Shamma Al Ameri. Sawt had a talk hosted in Tate Modern as part of Tate Exchange, and then there was a show organized at Walid’s house! The house beautifully turned into a gallery space with works from various artists from the Middle East focusing on political issues presented in a serious or sarcastic format. It was great seeing Walid’s vision coming to life and more importantly, it was great meeting each other in London and find that space to discuss and laugh as well about our history.

I’ll end this long post here. Certainly a positive start of this second year. Looking forward to the next chapters of my London adventures :)