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Experimental Design

Kinga Oktabska

Kinga Oktabska is an interdisciplinary artist from Wroclaw, Poland, currently completing her MA in Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art. 

She was awarded a Global Design Diploma at IED Barcelona Escola Superior de Disseny in 2015 and graduated from a Design for Set & Screen degree at UAL, receiving a Theatre Design Prize at Wimbledon College of Art in 2018.

Her work explores transformations of urban landscapes against the background of social, cultural, political and economic change. She interprets space as palimpsest: a composition of layers of time engraved in matter. Her artistic practice, embedded in the experience of space, aims to reconstruct the narrative of a place written in physical traces and signs that have been erased, imagined or that are invisible to the eye. She is interested in applying process-based work as a research methodology to tell stories of change, observing temporality, permanence and cyclicality in landscapes.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, First floor

Dust is a recollection of landscape fragments, bonded with the earth. It is a story of rise and fall, permanence and temporality. Dream and reality. A topography drawn from invisible lines; a space textured with ashes. A relief of landscapes lost, imagined and re-remembered.

In my recent body of work, I invite you to follow the shore, entering the archives of Battersea filed under the water. This borough of south-west London hosts one of Europe’s largest regeneration zones. At low tide, landscapes blur at the shore, both old and new. Once a storage of empire, now an arsenal to the capital of finance. An island of lustrous skyscrapers emerges from the ashes of demolished factories, washed up by the river.

I moved to Battersea in the summer of 2020. I was discovering the new neighbourhood by foot, mapping out routes to take me back home. I found myself returning to the river, walking downstream from Wandsworth Bridge towards Nine Elms. At the shore I felt settled, present, watching as time took on its different forms. While the river flows, converging over a landscape of ever-growing memory, a different story is told beneath. The water mirrors the rise of skyscrapers with their fall; concrete is diluted in the ripples; glass cracks in the lapping of the waves. Each construction brings with it a new promise of permanence; yet the bulldozers follow the cranes with accelerating speed. All that is left is the dust: dunes of ashes piled up higher than their perforated floors.

You expect something to be there when you come back. But sometimes it’s gone, and it feels like you’ve lost something. As I watched the landscape vanishing, I wanted to record its fading contours; to anchor the tearing thread that seams parts of you. I began reclaiming relics of Battersea’s dismembered landscape: scaffold hinges cloaked in rust; disfigured remains from some bygone shipwreck; corrugated bolts that once held up towers in the sky. It felt like picking up parts of someone else’s memory, somebody who would have remembered a different scene. It felt important. I wanted to bring them back, to piece together a whole from the parts. I searched through the records of the past in the library. I haggled for Victorian land deeds at online auctions. I scavenged enamels at flea markets. I followed Martha and Tilda down the slipway at St Mary’s church. I walked with Polly Up the Junction.

Tomorrow I am searching for yesterday, in the puzzles of debris laid out by the Thames. Hidden in the dust I discovered pipes, rubble, intimate stories, shards of glass, unlived lives, secret dreams, a nesting ground for the birds. I created a topography of memory, reconnecting the lost riverscape with its matter.

Battersea's river shore
Battersea at low tide
Research: found objects, photographs, documents
Metalpoint processforming drawing tools from found objects
Dust collected in metal polishing process
Riverscape: Nine ElmsMetalpoint on prepared panel, 40 x 60 cm
Riverscape: Nine Elmsdetails
Riverscape: Nine Elmsdetails
Metalpoint on prepared panels, 10 x 10 cm

I shaped fragments of objects reclaimed from Battersea’s river shore into metalpoint styluses, retrieving the traditional drawing and writing techniques of the Renaissance, where metal dust becomes embedded in a surface prepared with a specially formulated gesso, described in The Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini from the 15th century.  The hinges and scaffold parts became my drawing tools, and in doing so, the forgotten remnants of the past assumed a new meaning.

Dust: Topographies of MemoryArtist's book in an ash wood slipcase
Dust: Topographies of Memorydetails
Metalpoint drawings on Fabriano paper
Tidal matter seriesDust on 35 mm film, in collaboration with Nicholas Faris
Tidal matter seriesDust on 35 mm film, in collaboration with Nicholas Faris
Metalpoint drawings on Japanese tissue

Artist’s book in an ash wood slipcase, documenting research on Battersea’s landscape. Part memoir, part fiction. The book is illustrated with metalpoint drawings I created with metal from the river shore; scans of records collected in my personal archive; photographs made in collaboration with Nicholas Faris, where excavated matter from the shoreline was used to develop textures onto 35 mm film. The book comes with a stylus shaped from metal found at the river shore and wooden panels layered with gesso. Translucent Japanese paper marks the borders between chapters; the recycled paper which makes up the body of the book is produced with water which is returned to the river. The cover is printed with dust.

Limited Edition of 6 copies

Part memoir, part fiction.

Printed and bound at the Royal College of Art with support from:

Ian Gabb - Letterpress

Francesco Corsini, Kristian Berge - Risograph

Sharon Lee - Bookbinding.

Slipcase: ash wood

Cover: metal dust on Saint Armand - Old Master - Gaspe

End paper: ash wood veneer; metalpoint on Fabriano paper

Chapter interleaving: risograph & metalpoint on Maruishi paper

Body: risograph on Neenah Environment

Text and design by Kinga Oktabska

Edited by Niall Walker

Slipcase made by Sebastian Wesolowski

Includes bibliographical references.




25 x 16 cm
chapter 2

Letterpress print of a fragment of writing from the artist’s book. Printed with the dust from Battersea’s river shore.


Letterpress print