Ralph is Subject Leader and Principle Lecturer in Fine Art. His practice, research and approach to teaching are grounded in an interdisciplinary and inter-media application, which assesses inclusive and unbridled methods of effecting social change within recent and emerging art practices.
The role Ralph has always sought for his practice is to isolate the most effective and relevant ways of reversing specific social and political transgression by providing art with a bigger role in encouraging a change in the way that decisions are initially made – rather than making art that is peculiar to specific issues. This is a change that is already being nudged along by a new accountability via transparency and information availability, both sanctioned and otherwise.
Ralph’s work extends the idea of activism as a means of making tangible the political and ethical confusions of everyday life, which in turn promotes change through the willingness to respect or accept behaviours or opinions different from one’s own. This legitimising of internal contradictions can fight intolerance.
Recent research explores the intersection between fine art and documentary making. The idea that an activist art practice such as Ralph’s own broader sculptural and installation practice might legitimately be seen today as having been superseded in its efficiency and ability to orchestrate change by documentary is at the nub of the photographic strand of Ralph’s work.
Ralph’s recent exhibition and symposium, An Embarrassment of Stains, Camp Joffre (2013), examined the remnants of internment Camp Joffre in South West France, in which 5,714 Jewish internees were held for onward transport – principally to Auschwitz. The project documented the disintegration of the camp since 2005, combining found objects and photographic documentation. This series explored notions of sacred space, veneration, and remembrance, and queried the circumstances that could see a site such as Auschwitz Birkenau redeveloped. Darbyshire’s corresponding photo essay was accompanied by the symposium Un Dialogue Ouvert, Paysage Conteste, October-December 2013.
Ralph teaches on the BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting and Drawing and the MA Fine Art programmes. Ralph’s work exploring engagement strategies within major strands of activist art practices has not only broadened the contextual landscape of the indicative references and theoretical connections which aid my teaching, but it has helped Ralph to support a newly assertive critique amongst students that evaluates relevance, delivery and responsibility. A politicisation of materials offers a framework of inclusivity and social mobilisation, which Ralph is expanding upon within the context of current pedagogical strategies surrounding the present moral force behind discursive and relational practice.