ROYAL ACADEMY — SUMMER EXHIBITION 2022
PROJECTS / June 22, 2022
We are honoured to share the news that celebrated British sculptor Alison Wilding RA has invited Christopher Raeburn to contribute to the Royal Academy’s 254th Summer Exhibition. With this year’s theme around CLIMATE as ‘an all-embracing and urgent subject’, the mission of the
RA Summer exhibition is to address CLIMATE in all its manifestations, whether it presents as “a crisis or opportunity, nightmare, memory or simply our everyday experience of weather.” ‘AFTER THE GOLDRUSH (2022)’ by Christopher Raeburn is a direct response to this call to action on climate from the Royal Academy.
Inspired by the lyrics of Neil Young’s song After The Gold Rush (1970), Christopher sought to revisit the moral and social role of art as a platform that speaks truth to power. He explains “I kept thinking about this song— that refrain ‘Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies...’ — and considered how throughout the last century, artists in popular culture have been trying to give us advanced warning to take better care of nature and our impact on the planet. Looking back at it now, Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush (1970) was the prologue to the climate crisis that was on the horizon—but the world wasn’t ready for that song or its message then: they are now. So I wanted to revisit this particular conversation, while making it relevant to where we are today, in the 21st Century.”
“RÆMADE, RÆDUCED, RÆCYCLED”
Building on his own childhood memories, love of nature and adventure, and brand ethos
of craft and conservation, Raeburn has carried the motif of exploration into all of his designs throughout his career, using textiles as his chosen media for storytelling. Many followers of the RÆBURN brand will recognise his use of cartography and his signature aeronautical aesthetic that is visible in AFTER THE GOLDRUSH (2022).
Sections of an authentic IRVIN GQ PARACHUTE AERO TYPE 1000 MK parachute canopy form the foundation for the piece; first layered over an aluminium frame, lit from within. Continuing the use of unconventional, recycled materials, Raeburn has then used a single 1960s ONC (Operational Navigation Chart) map of the Aral Sea as the backdrop to his commentary and contribution to the RA’s dialogue on CLIMATE. Letters are marked, stitched, cut and removed to reveal the parachute canopy below.
The Aral Sea was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south which began shrinking in the 1960s and had largely dried up by the 2010s. Raeburn explains, “The original map that I’ve used here dates from the early 1970’s and charts the Aral sea
at a time when it was at its most expansive.” Since then the sea’s mass has reduced
by over 70% and today ships sit in sand where
once the ocean stood. Raeburn observes, “The Aral Sea and its desertification is a chastening and visible reminder that the climate crisis is the product of human behaviour. In its unique material composition, the piece itself acts as a cartography of time.”
“Design New Systems—New Ways of Thinking”—is Raeburn’s ultimate provocation that drives the values of his work. The pillars of ‘craft, community and creativity’ and “remade, reduced, recycled” are the tools he has used throughout his career as a designer, to amplify his message that the solutions to the climate crisis reside within the principles of circular economy design.
AFTER THE GOLDRUSH (2022), was designed and produced in the RÆBURN Lab in Hackney, London - Raeburn’s atelier, community hub and flagship retail space. The composition is a renewed invitation for us all to use our own creative power to reimagine and regenerate our world in the aftermath of the ongoing economic and climate crises.
Running from June 21 - August 21, the Summer Exhibition showcases art in all forms, from prints, painting, film and photography, to architectural works and sculptures by invited artists. Tickets to the exhibition can be booked here