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Royal Academy of Arts - Summer Exhibition 2018

I love art and enjoy going to art exhibitions whenever I get the time. I visited the 250th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts last month and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This year’s exhibition was co-ordinated by Grayson Perry and was advertised as “the biggest, brightest and most colourful Summer Exhibition yet, in our 250th annual celebration of art made now.” Most of the art was for sale and the money raised from commissions will go towards the Academy’s non-profit making activities, which include educating the next generation of artists in the Royal Academy Schools.

Over 20,000 artworks were submitted and 1,300 of these were selected for the exhibition, giving artists a 6.5% chance of being selected! Reviewing the submissions is a monumental job and it must have been difficult for the judges to select their favourites. When walking around the galleries I was awestruck by how many pieces were on display and thought to myself, how on earth do they decide which picture goes where, how do they make the most of the space they have? How do you group the pictures together? The end result was very impressive indeed.

I really enjoyed going into the different galleries and finding different types of artworks gathered together, some were fun, thought provoking, shocking, calming or just simply a pleasure to look at. There were prints on display in The Sackler Wing of Galleries and a “room of humour” in the new Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery. There was also an installation of over 200 flags designed by the Royal Academicians which overflowed into the West End streets.

This was my first time at the Summer Exhibition and before going I was under the impression that all of the paintings were submitted by amateur, unknown or up and coming artists, who were members of the public looking for a chance to exhibit at the Royal Academy. I thought how wonderful it must be to ‘casually’ drop into conversation “oh, did I tell you, my work is being exhibited at the RA darlinks?!”, how fabulous!

The reality of the exhibition was that a lot of the art works were by famous or established artists, so although I enjoyed it I was a little deflated that there were not more pieces by unheard of or amateur artists. My feeling of ‘isn’t it great that normal people get a chance to have their work exhibited at the RA’ was somewhat diluted as I felt this made their 1 in 20,000 chance even less.

Anyone can submit two pieces of art for consideration and I think it is wonderful that, in theory, people from normal backgrounds have a chance for their work to be exhibited at the RA. There are thousands of submissions so there is only a slim chance of being selected which is then watered down even further by established or famous artists being given gallery space. Still, a tiny chance is better than no chance so I would still suggest to any budding artists to give it a go - you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Among the famous exhibitors this year were David Hockney, Wolfgang Tillmans and Tracey Emin. There was a huge art work by Hockney called “Seven trollies, six and a half stools, six portraits, eleven paintings, and two curtains” - it was a photographic drawing printed on seven sheets of paper mounted on seven sheets of dibond and was not for sale (see picture below). Tracey Emin had a picture called “Mother 6 We Always Knew You” and was a bargain at £22,000 compared to a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans called ‘Paint Spill’ which cost £68,000!!

David Hockney, "Seven trollies...."

I was happily overwhelmed by the amount of art on display and it was hard to pick an outright favourite so I will mention several that caught my attention.

The first piece of art that stood out to me was in the courtyard and you could not miss it! It was a sculpture made out of metal and fabric by Sir Anish Kapoor RA, it was called “Symphony for a beloved daughter 2018”. It was a very simple piece but it immediately grabbed my attention, it reminded me of a Japanese sun and looked like it was part of the scenery, I presume that logs beneath the red disc are meant to signify heat and the red dot is ‘hot/heat/sun/fire’. I may have this completely wrong but that is what it said to me!

I was interested in a large painting by Mark Wallinger (below) which was called “Action Painting”, it is black and white and when I looked at it it made me feel like there was physical movement in it, sometimes I felt like I was looking at hands moving and other times it felt like a simple flow of movement, I could not stop looking at it. Unfortunately it was a little out of my price range at a mere £102,000.


Michael Alan-Kidd painted a picture called ‘Cleansing of the Poor’ that is excellent and I hope it makes people sit up and think about the gentrification of council house areas (see below). Another picture that I liked was called ‘Italian Hat’ by Emrys Williams, it was an oil painting of a lady wearing a hat at a jaunty angle with an Italian style house on it, it reminded me a little of Picasso’s painting style (see second photo below).

I love painting old London houses and absolutely loved Melissa Scott-Miller’s painting of “View of Islington from a tenth floor”. I have painted pictures of individual buildings and sections of streets and have often thought about painting a larger area - seeing Melissa’s painting has inspired me to have a go myself! I love the style of houses that she has painted and the allotment gives the area a suburban feel but this is contrasted with the City skyline and a stadium in the top left, bravo Melissa!

A Banksy piece was displayed called ‘Vote to Love’ that is spray paint on a UKIP placard and it was listed as costing £350,000,000! Obscene! What is ironic is that that Simon Stevens promised £350 million a week for the health service a fortnight before Philip Hammond delivered his last Budget. I think Banksy has a sense of humour!

Ken Howard RA painted a picture called “Aqua Alta, Venice” and I thought the reflection in the puddle was beautiful and I love the angle it is painted at.

A photo by Anna Grayson made me laugh! It is a fun picture called “The Moaning Geezer (After Leonardo)” where a grumpy looking chap resembles the Mona Lisa. Very original and funny!

“Red Bear” by Debbie Lawson is a bear emerging from a rug, it was very eye catching! I don’t think the bear was quite as good as a chameleon at blending in! I presume it is also another take on a bear rug!

I loved a painting by Jock McFadyen RA called “Le Village Hollandais”, it was very simple but effective. I’ve never seen a picture like this and wondered why as it was a simple but effected composition, making the heavens seem like they go to "infinity and beyond" and the earth very small in comparison.

I would love to have gone home with a painting by Bill Jacklin RA called 'Shooting Star', (below) but again this was way out of my price range at £70,000.

There was a sculpture by Cathy de Monchaux called 'Refuge' (below) that was made out of copper wire and mixed media, it was a herd of unicorns running through a forest. It was very unusual and I was intrigued by how she had created this mystical world in a frame.

There were two sculptures of dogs made out of wood, metal objects and nails - I thought they were really unusual, one was called “Gnasher” and the other “Rufus 3rd” (they were by Timothy Blewitt).

There was a piece called “The Queen” by John Humphreys, which was a sculpture of her head that was distorted (it looked like it had been squashed downwards) and it made my head go funny!

There were many more wonderful pieces on display and it is a fun exhibition to visit, but my one wish would be that next time more members of the public get a chance to have their work displayed too. The RA is a fantastic place to visit and I would highly recommend it.

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