New talent: Royal College of Art degree show 2016

Be inspired by five stunning projects from the RCA's postgraduate courses this year.

If you're looking for the best new graduates for your studio or agency, don't miss Computer Arts' New Talent special, issue 256, featuring the team's handpicked selection of the UK's best graduates – on sale 22 July 2016.

With Neville Brody as its Dean, the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art (RCA) is always a fascinating stop-off during graduate show season – and the fact that it only teaches postgraduates guarantees that extra level of quality.

Computer Arts spent an enjoyable couple of hours browsing the RCA's 2016 output to bring you five incredible new talents to watch across the fields of illustration, graphic design and animation.

Amélie Barnathan

Amelie Barnathan

Amelie Barnathan uses a combination of watercolour, ink and coloured pens in her work
  • Course: MA Visual Communication
  • Project: Mass Psychogenic Illness

One project you can't miss, given its dominance of one of the RCA stairwells, is the five-metre-long, hand-drawn frieze by Italo-French illustrator Amélie Barnathan – partly because of it's vibrant splashes of fluoro colour, and partly because of the dark surrealism and sexual violence of its subject matter.

"I undertook in-depth research into feminist essays on female hysteria, and the iconography used within religion – particularly around witches and witch hunting in the Middle Ages and 17th Century," Barnathan explains.

Her project explores mass psychogenic illness, or MPI, which she describes as: "A modern phenomenon characterised by more than one person spontaneously developing hysterical physical and emotional symptoms."

Amelie Barnathan

Borrowing imagery from mythology and personal fantasies, Barnathan's work "investigates the nuances of the female collective, and the pressures of conforming in social environments"

"Cases of MPI are predominantly found in groups of pre-teenage girls in segregated and secluded spaces, such as boarding schools or convents," she continues. "Symptoms include twitching, fainting, strange neurological symptoms, but also more culturally influenced behaviours like possession with djinns and spirits."

"The schoolgirls present in my drawings evoke the ecstatic rituals of the Maenads madwoman of Ancient Greece, to the processions and Sabbaths of the witches of the Middle Ages," she adds.

Filippo Fontana

Filippo Fontana

Filippo Fontana's comic book Magnum Magnum explores the topics of materialism and exhibitionism
  • Course: MA Visual Communication
  • Project: Magnum

Inspired by the contemporary figure of the Nouveau Riche in modern society, Filippo Fontana's comic book Magnum explores the topics of materialism and exhibitionism.

"Nowadays being 'self­-made' is worn as a badge of pride, and therefore the act of flaunting wealth becomes a form of social emancipation," explains Fontana. "This type of behavior became very popular in the black music of the '90s and '00s, which has always interested me."

Filippo Fontana

Magnum comments on materialism in an ironic, humorous manner to highlight its absurdity

For Fontana, the comic was the perfect medium to highlight the absurdity of the topic. "Graphic novels can communicate complex ideas and messages in a clear and concise way," points out, adding that the lack of words makes the book more accessible to an international audience.

Magnum portrays the adventures of three characters, each of whom represent an extreme aspect to human behaviour in relation to money. "Through the different stories, full of politically incorrect and dark humour, the comic prompts the reader to reflect critically about the ethical relations between wealth and our actions," he adds.

James Sanderson

James Sanderson

James Sanderson
  • Course: MA Visual Communication
  • Project: Preaching To The Preachers

A mixture of experimental publishing and protest, James Sanderson's inspired project Preaching To The Preachers deconstructs the "often reckless" use of language in the mainstream media, particularly when discussing contemporary terrorism.

"Such journalism 
can only make acts of terrorism and the perception of the perpetrator more potent, instilling hysteria and fear into public consciousness, thus becoming complicit to the aims of 'the terrorist'. 'Terrorism' sells, and news is business," observes Sanderson.

 James Sanderson

James Sanderson

To 'delegitimize' the newspapers' sensational rhetoric, he reframed the language into the context of a 'doomsday street preacher', which also provided a platform from which to engage both the public and the media outlets themselves.

After sourcing and analysing language from 15 years of newspaper archives – with particular focus on The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun – Sanderson produced a series of scripts that were performed by an actor outside the head office of each publication.

Leaflets were handed out to the public to explain the actual purpose and intent, with the campaign aesthetics drawing on references such as religious protest signs and leaflets, Palestinian martyr posters, and forms of terrorist propaganda.

Joana Silva

Joana Silva

Joana Silva's stop-motion animation project Lemon Tree makes use of miniature props in a single-room set
  • Course: MA Animation
  • Project: Lemon Tree

A film about a fictional character recreated through a specific space, Joana Silva's final project Limoeiro – Lemon Tree – is her first departure from a more 'fine art' approach, having studied Painting in her native Portugal.

"The story is not meant to be read as a narrative, although there are intentional symbols of themes such as time and nature," explains Silva. "The space itself becomes the body of the central character, and it changes and ages every time a transition of time is mentioned."

Joana Silva

Silva built her set at a small scale, to emphasise the qualities of the materials

Drawing on personal stories and experiences from three different generations of her family, Silva describes the central character as an "unknown family member whose body was assembled from fragments of my own."

The single-room set was built at a small scale to emphasise the qualities of each material. "One of the challenges I met was a practical one: animating millimetres," she admits. "But it was extremely gratifying seeing this character fighting for its own body throughout the creative process."

Tess Dumon

Tess Dumon

Tess Dumon
  • Course: MA Information Experience Design
  • Project: Take Shelter

Taking the form of an entire room, Tess Dumon's installation Take Shelter is a statement about the predominance of public information in our intimate daily lives.

"The viewer enters a pinkish, chaotic bedroom which echoes a melancholic nightmare of its inhabitant," explains Dumon. "Patterns from floor to ceiling and personal items all create a 3D narrative; a sample of one day of information consumption."

It's a deliberate visual overload, intended to "exhaust the eyes and the brain" of the viewer, while bottles of pills placed throughout the room illustrate the phenomenon of Information Fatigue Syndrome (IFS), a psychological pathology produced by an excess of information.

"Paradoxes are everywhere in Take Shelter," adds Dumon. "The pink colours, at first welcoming, become overwhelming as the viewer starts to understand the sinister content of the patterns. I wanted to illustrate how the horrible images we see every day on the news, become banal."

Get a half-price subscription to CA

We know it isn't always easy being a new graduate. So to celebrate 2016 degree show season, get an incredible 50 per cent off an annual subscription to Computer Arts magazine.

For just £39 you'll receive an entire year of industry insight, opinion and inspiration, delivered to your door. Plus: subscribe before 8 July to guarantee your copy of 2016's New Talent issue!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Carson is editor of Computer Arts magazine.