Skip to main content

Your creative future starts here:


Life At Chelsea: Ross McCormick – MA Fine Art

Illustration: courtesy of Ctrl Alt Delete.
Written by
Gavin Freeborn
Published date
10 September 2018

Next in our Life At Chelsea interview series is MA Fine Art student Ross McCormick, originally from Coventry.  Ross tells us about his background, practice and work in this year’s MA Summer Show.

“My work initially took an avant-garde approach to craft and design, however through my year on Chelsea’s MA Fine Art course, I challenged and nurtured the development of my practice, consolidating the theory behind my work and encouraging a language of conceptual sculpture.

“I managed to obtain a sponsor for 1 tonne of shredded recycled automotive parts. Using this free supply of scrap metal I have created an immersive contemporary experience as reclamation to the hard labour efforts of automotive production in the Midlands of England during the industrial revolution.

“My work reflects how I see society. I also make art as an opportunity to explore who I am and to help me understand the world. I investigate the frictions and personal dissociations between the freedom of human life and the mechanisation of systematic structure. Politically and economically, the push and pulls of capital gain in juxtaposition to the energies of human labour are a main focal point.

A cement mixer churning a thick white substance
Mother's Milk 1

“My work investigates production, roles of masculinity and immaterial labour theory. It has a sensitivity to the local and the individual. During times of uncertainty and instability the topic of home has been a recent enquiry. I have been researching into my past to shape how I present myself now. Values, welfare, institutional power structures and human commodity empower an approach to sculpture as a tenuous rejection to the utilitarian design principles of form following function.

“As an Anglo-Irish 31 year old male I often search for a hidden or un-clarified Irish past. These subconscious feelings are related to my Irish grandfather who emigrated from Ireland to the UK. The allotment gardener, an influence of nature, green landscapes and freedom. This is in opposition to my British upbringing. My forefathers were all engineers or machinists in the automotive industry. As the systematic powers force an inhumane labour language of oppression I search for the realism, individual and emotive within object engagement, contemporary conceptual sculpture.

An image of the artist in the studio raking stones into neat lines.
Fruits of Labour 1

“I had a very important rare resin casting taken in 2015 after I made a cast of my hand holding my deceased grandfather’s hand in the open casket before his funeral. I wanted to make the sculpture in bronze. I know this technique required staff which are highly skilled in casting metals and experts in mould making.

“The first and main reason I applied to Chelsea College of Arts was for the bronze foundry facilities and skill levels of the staff available. I worked with the technician John to make the mould and technician Katrin during the Bronze pour. This entire process when working with the material was intense and every stage fragile to the process. Whilst working on this ancestral relic like sculpture, emotions and memories were triggered during that time of exchange. This is the power of sculpture.

The British Museum asked me to be part of their Rodin Lates exhibition using this piece of work. The bronze work was exhibited in the relics and religion area of the museum. It was such a rewarding experience and a confidence boost experience receiving interest in my work from this British institution. I was first inspired in the great works displayed by Rodin after a trip to the Rodin Museum in Paris. I saw his sculptures and became immersed in the language and emotion behind his investigations in to the body and form.

“During my time at Chelsea I have had a resurgence of confidence within my practice as an artist and personally. Chelsea gave me the opportunity, the time and space to allow my practice to flourish. The staff and students at Chelsea are a great network of individuals. It is this hub of self-individual creative confidence which enriches creative conversations, new ideas, generates friends and future opportunities for everyone!

“This year of study has given me the opportunity to meet and work with some amazingly talented international artists, from painters to sculptors and more. Having the space to interrogate my practice and produce a new body of work, I enjoyed having access to fantastic books in Chelsea and the other UAL libraries. Most of all the art scene can be investigated directly whilst studying at Chelsea by visiting many galleries, auction houses and events, all at the heart of London’s creative sector.

The artist in the studio preparing an installation for exhibition
Fruits of Labour 2
A hand holding gravel taken from the art installation
Fruits of Labour 3

“After MA Fine Art at Chelsea I will be registering officially as a professional working artist sole trader and aim to produce new work. My priority will be to keep collaborating with other artists to advertise myself and to attract gallery representation. I have also received a commission which I intend to start. To make my work I will also try to find a suitable role to help other students realise their skills and direct their focus through portfolio development.

“I think Chelsea represents the highly skilled and creative with an unstoppable passion to survive in the art world. This feeling of passion and fight for achievement within an artistic practice has been motivated and instigated from the teachings and provision by all the MA Fine Art staff, Patricia Ellis our course leader, and tutors Brian, Babak and Steven, with each educational program being a huge learning curve.

“If you are relentlessly dedicated and you are a good artist, this course will give you the opportunity to develop your practice. It does have to come from your efforts though. You will be with such a great mix of individuals that your practice will evolve through rigorous analysis and re-evaluation process.

“To be selected by Chelsea was a great achievement. Being the first in my family to go to university is something I had wanted to undertake but to have studied at Chelsea is so much greater. With legendary artists as Anish Kapoor, Anthony Caro and Helen Chadwick a legacy of art stands tall and it feels honourable to have succeeded in my journey as a Master of Fine Art at Chelsea.

“For my MA Summer Show I am curating and making a sculptural installation called Fruits of Labour, which will be an 8×4 metre Zen garden. Recycled shredded metal car parts will represent the compost in the space. Symbolic of human energies and struggle of a laborious efforts to that of the industrial revolution and the war effort. The zen nature of the garden acts as a message of peace. An anti-war approach, within fragile changing political and economic times the piece also reflects upon new times of energy sustainability within automotive transportation. Times of change through systematic development into a post-industrial society.

“Finally, the reference to the garden is symbolic of tranquillity. The idea of the retirement plan, coming to the end of a career working at the grindstone. This piece reflects the hardship and graft of the worker and stands as a reclamation to the people who spent their lives processing the development of the industrial revolution over the last century in my home town area of the Midlands.

“My time at Chelsea in 3 words? Relentless, empowering and character building”

See more work on Ross McCormick’s Instagram

and his website

Visit our MA Summer Show

Read more about MA Fine Art