As I write, the final touches are being put to the BFA and MFA degree shows. There is a palpable energy around the School. The new Bullingdon Road building, where the shows will happen, is proving an exciting, flexible and enabling space, and the High Street continues to hum with creativity. All the teaching and support staff have been working at full tilt alongside the students. It is a great team. Spaces are nothing without people, and people embody the associations of place.
For generations of students, Brian and Bullingdon Road are indivisible. Brian sadly retires this year, and we will greatly miss his inspirational teaching and wise leadership. It is appropriate that this past year he has generously taken on again the role of Head of School, which symbolises his centrality to the Ruskin. The good news is that he will be keeping his studio at Bullingdon Road - so that happy association of person and place will remain. He will continue to be very present, and to play a role in the ongoing development of the Ruskin, as Emeritus Professor, for which we are hugely grateful. In the autumn, we plan a party in his honour, to which all alumni will be invited.
Anthony Gardner, who has been wonderfully energetic in overseeing graduate studies (MFA and DPhil), takes over as Head of School. We look forward very much to working with him. In October we will also welcome two new half-time Associate Professors as Brian's successors: it takes two to fill his shoes. This is a moment of transition, with new ideas and stimuli coming in to join the rich and lively conversation which is so well established - with different generations of staff and students, present and past.
It’s been another fantastic year for the Ruskin’s graduate community. The MFA is now in its second year and our 14 students produced an exceptional Degree Show brimming with sculpture, moving image, performance, drawing and painting. Our DPhil programme continues to go from strength to strength. We welcomed four new students – Diego de las Heras Pardo, BFA alumna Hannah Jones, Inbal Strauss and Jason Waite – and congratulate Hilary Floe, Una Henry, Win Mukdamanee, Robert Rapoport and Charlie Ogilvie on the successful completion of their doctorates since the last alumni newsletter!
October 2017 promises to launch an equally exciting year for graduate study at the Ruskin, with a host of new MFA and DPhil students taking over the Bullingdon Road mezz space and Ian Kiaer taking over the running of the DPhil research seminars. I’ll also be stepping down as the Ruskin’s Director of Graduate Studies after nearly five years in the role, passing the baton on to Daria Martin. It has been an enormous pleasure to see our graduate community grow and thrive, making the Ruskin one of Europe’s best schools for graduate study in contemporary art, and to see our graduate alumni network swell with such talent!
I have just returned to teaching at the Ruskin after six months leave partly spent at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. The Institute is an independent research centre surrounded by trees and deer. It's chiefly famous for being Einstein's base for twenty years, and it's still home to some of the world's top theoretical physicists. But there are some art historians hiding out in the woods as well, notably Yve-Alain Bois (at the Institute) and Hal Foster (at Princeton University). I was there doing some research and keeping half an eye on the presidential election (https://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n20/malcolm-bull/great-again). Princeton is not all that far from New York, so it was good to get into the city and catch up with Nathaniel Whitfield (BFA 2014) who was on the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program after having spent a year at Princeton himself. There was a Carmen Herrera show on at the Whitney, which made quite an impression on me http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/CarmenHerrera . She's 102 years old, so the retrospective was probably overdue.
In this newsletter, two students share their news: Una Henry, a graduating DPhil student and Rufus Rock, an undergraduate second year student + BFA student rep:
Una Henry (St Hugh’s College)
"A hinge moment between past and future (…)
(Open Bracket) As a curator with far-reaching experience in the cultural sector, having run a non-profit arts organisation in Amsterdam for more than a decade, I decided to go back to art school in 2012, to take some time out to research, and to put a stop to what had become an overproduction of art projects, money and people.
Though at times I missed the intensity and companionship of working and colluding with other artists and theorists, undertaking the DPhil turned out to be one of the best personal decisions I’ve made. Using a gendered research method with its attendant discourse of resistance, I chose a research trajectory that was by no means easy. The Ruskin School of Art was my case study - my object of critique. I performatively maintained ‘a space of crisis’ to test how knowledge is produced and measured at the school under the new relations of production and reception under capital. While hard to see, there are points of rupture (where one can slip through) within the apparatus of the RSA, showing that the system is not monolithic, that the system can be opened up to an ‘educational turn’ away from regimes of discipline, authority and control.
In order to open this up, the only way this research was possible, was through the deeply personal relationships I developed with friends and tutors at the RSA. I’m indebted to my supervisors, Claire Makhlouf Carter whose tenacious spirit and intelligence has been a powerful driving force at my back, having discussed what was at stake in scores of conversations and providing cover and a place of repose when I most needed it, and Marina Vishmidt - once referred to as a conceptual rainbow - for her deeply informed insight as she picked out the knots of my research with a fine razor blade, both of whom deeply marked my thinking and the many ideas formulated throughout my research.
(Closed bracket) My Oxford college email address is active for one month more, but I can no longer send outbound messages. Access to the University portal has been partly shut down. Today I received ‘leaver instructions’ about deposit refunds, meal cards and fobs.
Moving on. In search of radical equality. From my writing desk in Newcastle Upon Tyne where I now live, in the absence of political utopias, I’m working on a rousing new project in association with Durham University’s AHRC-funded initiative Open World Research (Cross Language Dynamics: Reshaping Communities), as curatorial lead on a programme of events, visual arts and conferences in October this year under the title What’s Left? A Century in Revolution, as well as guest curator of the citywide programme Freedom City, organised by Newcastle University to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King."
Rufus Rock (Brasenose College)
"Hello all! I am currently writing to you from the dust cloud of the Degree Show build, where as a second year I'm helping the third years and the MFAs prepare Bullingdon Road for the final exhibition this June. Earlier this year I set up Ruskin Screenings, the Ruskin's very own film club. Given the fact that the project space at Bullingdon could in effect function as a cinema with an incredible projector and 7.1 surround sound it seemed a wasted opportunity not to. So far I've screened all sorts from Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen to Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Claire Denis. I'm also helping to organise next year's Ruskin Shorts, the short film competition hosted in Modern Art Oxford, which after a short blip this year is coming back in full force this October. The upcoming edition will be judged by MFA tutor Gil Leung, a curator from Modern Art Oxford, and a guest artist (soon to be announced!). We'd love to have submissions from alumni alongside students and staff. More information will follow in the near future - so watch this space!"
Christian Thompson (DPhil 2016) has been awarded a major new commission and a solo show at Monash University Museum of Art, with catalogue essays by Dame Marina Warner and our very own Professor Brian Catling RA.
Nathaniel Mellors (BFA 1999) has been working with Erkka Nissinen, to present their first collaboration, 'The Aalto Natives', in the Finnish Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.
Olivia Rowland (BFA 2016) , has received support from the Elizabeth GreenShields Foundation in support of her MA in Print at the Royal College of Art.
Tom Williams (BFA 2011) released his first single ‘Little Bird’ via Wire Boat Recordings recently and we were thrilled to celebrate this latest release with him - check out his website for more information.
In recent months, Ruskin tutors have been busy in Berlin, New York, Paris and London with their exhibitions and projects. By clicking on these links, you can find out more : Richard Grayson, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Claudia Sarnthein, Sigrid Holmwood, Jost Munster + Ian Kiaer
The Ruskin continues to develop opportunities for students to further understand the parameters of different professional environments and areas of expertise. Other, longer term, prizes continue to be firm favourites with the students too!
The Kevin Slingsby Prize for Funnel Vision 2017 was awarded to BFA Finalist, Josie Perry (Queen’s College), whose said: "I'm delighted to have been awarded the Slingsby Prize. The money will help me to realise future projects, a primary concern as I graduate from the Ruskin. It was great to present my work to the judges and to hear their thoughts, and I'm very thankful for this investment in my work."
Luke Dawes, second year BFA student (St Edmund Hall) won the Egerton Coghill Landscape Prize this year and his work now hangs in the Head of School’s office.
We remain enormously grateful to the Peel Family for their continued support of our students from St Edmund Hall. In 2017, the second year undergraduate students received support through the Fine Art & Professional Practice Bursaries, opportunities that have extend the reach of the students’ ambitions. Jess Heywood and Elaine Robertson both received funding to undertake projects, independent from their BFA course work, and Hanna Hoeiboe and Elaine were also supported on their placements at the British School Rome and the Musée Matisse in Nice. Elaine undertook her placement in Rome at Easter and reports: “I worked mainly on archiving in which I archived every piece owned by the British School on the site. It was interesting finding some real hidden gems and learn the inner workings of a place like the BSR. The most rewarding thing about the placement was getting to know everyone who worked there. The ladies in the archive and library were wonderful and it was great being able to have dinner and attend lectures with the artists and researchers, from whom I feel I have learnt so much even just from my short stay there. I am looking forward to going back for the June Mostra to see everyone's work and continue the conversations started!”
In 2017, the School developed a new collaboration with the Prince’s Drawing School which sees one of the Ruskin students undertake a fully funded two-week artist residency at Dumfries House in Scotland. BFA student, Rosie Turner Mullan (New College), will be heading to Scotland to enjoy this opportunity during 2018.
The judges concluded their reviews in early May, for the 2017 entries of the Red Mansion Foundation Art Prize. This year, the Ruskin organised both the exhibition for last year's winners and a panel of judges to asses the entries for 2017. Hannah Oram was the BFA winner from the Ruskin this year and Ruskin alumna Sonia Bernaciak (BFA 2015) was also selected, as a student at the Royal College. In future years, the Ruskin will present this art prize to the Ruskin's MFA students, bringing the award in line with the other participating art schools whose contributing artists are postgraduate students.
Graeme Hughes, the Ruskin’s Printmaking Technician, who worked closely with the students in the development of their limited edition portfolio of prints, sent through this update: "I would like to congratulate everyone involved on their hard work in producing this wonderful limited edition printmaking portfolio, alongside their individual practice and work at the Ruskin.
This year's MFA cohort, with support of staff and wider University partners at St Catherine’s College, and our generous sponsors, have produced a fine collection of diverse printed artworks, of which all involved are immensely proud.
For the fundraising efforts, rising sales figures since the launch event at St Catz show how well-received the portfolio has become. 100% of the funds raised goes towards the students’ degree show and catalogue costs. We hope to build on this revenue, raised leading up to and during the Degree Show, with further sales, which will be warmly welcomed!
The portfolio project both celebrates and embodies the students’ creative skills and abilities as individual artists. in this project they have translated their work through traditional and cutting-edge printmaking methods and processes. It also demonstrates how the year group have worked closely together throughout the process. Notions and approaches to collective learning & making, collaboration, and developing professionalism within a community have been successfully explored and learnt.
So well done to all with this fantastic achievement! These limited editions have become a real success, with each portfolio a true testament to the creativity and spirit of the students and staff involved. The Ruskin is pleased to share this year’s collection with the the Ruskin Alumni, the art world, and the wider University community."
If you wish to reserve a copy, please follow this link
You are warmly invited to return to your art school to celebrate with our graduating MFA and BFA students at the Private View of their Degree Shows tomorrow night. The students will be showcasing the best of their work from 6 - 10 pm and more information and details about opening times in subsequent days can be found here
Remember, remember…….when you were pulling together your Degree Show? Here is an endearing reminder of the cool and dynamic graduating students of 1993!
In his new role as Emeritus Professor, Brian will look forward to catching up with some of our alumni around the world next year! We will be in touch with invitations and more information soon.
Discount on short courses – a few days of Chinese woodblock printing for anyone? A refresher course in life drawing? If you need a few days to yourself and would like to return to your old studios, do check out the Ruskin’s short courses and enjoy the 10% discount available to you!
A gentle reminder of how you can keep in touch with one another and reconnect with other friends from your colleges or societies via the Oxford Alumni Community website. Then, of course, there is also our rather fabulous Facebook page!
In recent months, we have seen the return of several alumni to the Ruskin which has been wonderful. Candida Cave (CFA 1972) Founder and Principal of Fine Arts College in London arrived in 5th week and took time to chat to some of our BFA Finalists in the Drawing Studio. The students loved hearing about how Candida developed her career once she finished her studies. Daniel Jubb (BFA 1993) also visited on the same day and let us know that he is working as a freelance graphic designer specialising in book cover design, marketing communications and branding, based in West Sussex. Emma Kennaway (CFA 1974) came to visit and her website offers news on her work and projects. More alumni briefly popped into the School when they were visiting Oxford and it was lovely to catch up with them.
As always, we love to hear stories from when you were at the Ruskin and how your life beyond your art school has developed. Do get in touch and share your news with our alumni coordinator, Juliet Franks, by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
We were delighted to recently catch up with Helen Atkinson Wood who left the Ruskin in 1979. An actress, presenter and journalist, Helen looked back at her time at the School:
Why did you choose to study at the Ruskin?
I knew at Oxford University there was going to be a really good opportunity to do some acting because I had a friend who was already there and had joined OUDS (Oxford University Dramatic Society). Art was also my strongest subject at school, I’m not an academic but acting was always my passion.
Key memories of your time at the School?
It doesn’t feel that long ago, so they don’t really feel like memories! Some of the people I met then are still amongst my closest friends, and I continue to work with them now. That said, my time at the Ruskin was the creative seedbed for my life.
My days there were filled with rehearsing for lots of plays, and trying to keep up with my work at the School. Jean Lodge (Tutor in printmaking) Peter Rhoades (Tutor in printmaking) and Maggi Hambling (Visiting Tutor in drawing and painting) were a source of great inspiration to me during my time there - Maggi and I both now have homes on the Suffolk coast, so I’ve been following her career with great interest.
One fabulous memory I have was sipping a cup of coffee in the Nosebag café when I saw six beautiful men in white linen suits walk past the window. I recognised one of them and ran up the road to follow them. When I caught up with the group, at the corner by the Randolph Hotel, I opened up my Tate Gallery diary and asked David Hockney to autograph it for me, telling him that I was a student at the Ruskin. He said what a great place to be – he knew Maggi too as they were Royal College of Art contemporaries – and said he couldn’t think of a better place to learn about drawing than the Ruskin. Before crossing the road to the Ashmolean he mentioned to keep on drawing, it’s the cornerstone he said and left me dazed and blinking at the signature he had left on my page.
Although I didn’t do a lot of rowing when at Oxford – I was far too busy with plays and dating brainy boys – but when I did leave, I was asked by the BBC to take part in a TV series with other Oxford and Cambridge graduates from the entertainment industry called The Other Boat Race, it was celebrating 150 years of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. The motley crew of two teams were taught to row by Stephen Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. Being in entertainment you get asked to take part in all sorts of different shows - Have I got News For You, Celebrity Pointless, QI - and, as for The Other Boat Race? Would I be telling you this story if we hadn’t won?
Talking of brainy boys…Richard Curtis saw me in one of the plays that I did in my very first term at the Ruskin and asked if me if I would like to be in a revue with him, Rowan Atkinson and Howard Goodall and the rest, as they say, is history…. Richard Curtis wrote the part of Mrs Miggins which I played in Blackadder 111.
How has studying fine art contributed towards your critical thinking in your career?
It was absolutely the foundation - working in mixed media and being taught the versatility to move between one medium and the next creates the ability to survive in the feast or famine world that is show business; you need to be able to turn your hand to lots of different things. Painting, drawing, printmaking, writing a history of art paper, taught me to be light on my feet. I now describe myself as a polymath, acting, presenting, voiceovers, travel writing, in this industry you need to be adaptable, and not to be proud, so that you can widen your field of experience. ‘Dance every dance’ is my favourite mantra, and I like to think I picked that up at Oxford, and continue to live and work with an open mind.
Marilyn Monroe once said that you make luck happen and that has certainly been true in my life, and it all never seems that far away from everything we were taught at Ruskin.
A while ago, I was invited to take part in a celebrity version of Watercolour Challenge. Although I’d used watercolours as an art student I took them up and as a result have local exhibitions in Suffolk from time to time. For that programme were asked to give money to the charity of our choice if we sold a painting and I chose Comic Relief, as I’ve been involved with it since its conception. As soon as I started painting again, I was reminded of how much I love it.
Some of the friends I had whilst at the Ruskin, who I started my career with, are now collaborating together again. Philip Pope, Angus Deayton and Michael Fenton Stevens and I all produced a radio show called Radio Active, along with the late and much missed Geoffrey Perkins. It went on to become an award winning television series KYTV. Last year we reformed to create a retro sell out show at the Edinburgh Festival. This year we are on tour performing through a summer of festivals - London Southbank, Henley, Petworth, and Glastonbury.
What recollections do you have of putting together your final show?
I threw everything at it as I had a lot of catching up to do!
During that period, I was a punk and was taking part in a play at the Roundhouse in London, written by Doug Lucie called We Love You. It inspired my final work, there were a lot of crude wood cuts, prints of punk bands and political statements. And a rather edgy collage! Peter Rhoades my tutor was particularly supportive of my work at that time.
Now I need to see more about what is happening at the School today!
And finally, we think of you and hope to see you again soon. This comes with very best wishes from all of us here for a wonderful and productive summer.