On Sunday 17th June we had a day out to London to visit the Royal Academy of Arts and the 250th annual Summer Exhibition– the world’s oldest open submission exhibition- which, none too cryptically, means anyone can submit their offering, be they Royal Academy members, professional artists or Joe/ Josephine Public; and across a wide range of media: Print, Painting, Architecture, Drawing, Film, Photography, Sculpture, and some things which fall under the ‘none of the above’. Many of the pieces were for sale- ranging from £100 to £350,000,000 (although that may have been a political statement by Banksy)
This year was curated by Grayson Perry, and the number of submissions was an all time high of more than 20,000 pieces, ultimately reduced down to 1,351 exhibitions spread across 14 spaces.
We weren’t exhibiting or buying, but we were looking, admiring, and occasionally saying, “Seriously?”…
Here, in no particular order, are our 5 favourites from the exhibition. In honour of the ‘blind judging’ applied for the official consideration we put our lists together independently, so out of 1,351 options, and our own considerably varied taste, there was little to know chance we’d have any cross-over…you’d think.
Number 1(chosen by both): VIEW OF ISLINGTON FROM A TENTH FLOOR:
Melissa Scott-Miller, Painting/ Oil
Simon Says: The sheer level of detail in the painting was amazing with a different story every where you looked on it. Would imagine you could find something new whenever you looked at it.
Nicola Says: I just loved the normality of the view and how someone could take such a “taken for granted” view from a window and transform it into such an engaging landscape. Like Simon says it left you with the feeling that you could look at it for hours and always find something new.
Number 2 (chosen by both): MIRROR–
Suzanne Moxhay, Photograph | Archival pigment print
Simon Says: I do tend to go for drawings which have a photo-realistic tendency. This piece worked the other way round a digitally printed photograph that looks like a really spooky book illustration. Taken from a wider collection I really want to visit the house these were taken at…
Nicola Says: Really unusual for me to pick a photograph: that’s usually Simon’s bag but this image was really haunting and had a spooky Narnia feel that I loved.
Number 3 (Nicola Choice): Poet, Girl in the Black Dress, The Last Cigarette, Waiting for the Song
John Wragg, Painting/ Acrylic
Nicola says: I love John Wragg I think it’s the mixture of his muted figures against such bright pops of colour draws your eye into the image.
Simon says: A complete cheat, clearly. Multiple choice. I assume this was a buy three, get one free deal. Of the four, none of which are my taste, I like the Girl in the Black Dress best.
Number 3 (Simon Choice): LOVELY EYES
Cathie Pilkington, Sculpture/ Jesmonite/ Oil/ Etching/ Blanket/ Lace
Simon Says: I don’t often get the ‘humour’ that’s talked about in many forms of art- be it music, art-art, or Wes Anderson films. Maybe I just don’t get ‘subtle’ and that’s why I liked this. ‘A lovely pair of…eyes’ is such a 1970’s smutty Carry-On type comment that using the idea literally in a piece made me smile. Sure, it reminded of Monty Python, Tim Burton, Homer coming into the real world, and Marion Cotillard in ‘Introducing Forehead Tittaes‘ but it was funny, and the sculpting detail in the face really worked.
Nicola Says: I’m afraid my conservative has kicked in here – I hate it! I get the Monty Python feel but the idea of having this in the house doesn’t appeal at all – the humour doesn’t over rule the ugliness for me.
Number 4 (Nicola Choice): FIVE GRAND
Luke Wade, Print/ Drypoint
Nicola says: I really found this piece moving, a lot of which is obviously down to the subject matter but actually the image itself has a sense of destruction and decay, almost as though it could be erased with a swipe of a cloth. The mark making is really sensitive – I’d love to be able to create something so delicate and yet powerful.
Simon says: I didn’t notice this one when we were visiting, but seeing it, and especially, zooming in via the Tate app, as can be done on any of the pieces, the detail and starkness is very impressive and moving in the context of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Number 4 (Simon Choice): RED BEAR
Debbie Lawson, Sculpture/ Carpet and mixed media
Simon Says: It’s a bear. Made out of carpet. Look at the feet!?! This narrowly won out over Gnasher
Nicola Says: Again my conservative art taste kicked in – it is impactful, in fact it pretty much dominates the room and I’m sure if it was displayed in a hotel reception I’d stand and admire it for a bit but not one of my favourites.
Number 5: Nicola Choice: Cheating again: Can’t decide between WILLIAM JOYCE AND FRIENDS
Mick O’Dea, Painting/ Acrylic and Charcoal
GANGLAND CAFF- Andrew Lee, Mixed Media/ Menu Board
Nicola Says: It feels wrong to pick out the Wiliam Joyce image given who he was and what he stood for – I never thought I’d pick out an image of British Fascists but I love the style and the image is really arresting. It also reminded me of a comment Grayson Perry made on the BBC documentary where he noted the irony that those with left wing views have become almost fascist in their condemnation of anything that contradicts their politics. The Gangland Caff just made me smile and anything that can stand out in such an overwhelming exhibition gets my vote.
Simon Says: I was close to picking the Gangland Caff as well, which I was surprised to see was a piece from 2007- I had thought before reading about some of the pieces we saw that everything was either newly created or produced. The William Joyce piece, from such a famous photo is striking, and looks almost collage in the way its’ put together. (But its’ not a carpet bear).
Number 5: Simon’s Choice: THE ENCHANTED GROUND–
Andrew Holmes, Drawing/ Colour Pencil
Simon Says: I always tend to go for photographs first. Especially Black and White. Especially of Americana. So I was drawn immediately to this piece from across a crowded hall. I liked it just as much close up, but even being close up it took me a minute to realise that this was actually not a photograph, but instead what I would think of as, in my very limited knowledge, as a photo-realistic rendering of the landscape.
Nicola Says: I did like this even though didn’t make my top list – the image is technically brilliant but just not enough going on for me.