It was an appropriately hot day when we went to this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is always interesting to see the packed mix of work by Academicians, Hon. Academicians, and other folks all together with the only label being a number.
Jeannette Hayes: Queen of Sweden (image from here)
It is possible to look up the number in a published list of works which supplies name of work, name of artist, technique, and price - because this is a selling exhibition. Indeed the proceeds go towards paying for the RA Schools, which are free to the students. This alone makes the exhibition worthwhile in my opinion.
This year the hang is light and airy, with white walls, and each room with an inviting atmosphere. Each room works as a whole, but we found that sometimes - perhaps even often - individual works seemed to lose their particular distinctiveness. Some pieces more than held their own, of course.
Romuald Hazoume: Petrol Cargo (image from here)
Initially, years ago, I used to look at everything carefully. Now, however, I scan the rooms and look closely only at those pieces which catch my eye. I miss a lot, of course, but that is generally true in life, and it allows me much more time with the individual pieces which speak to me for whatever reason.
Hughie O'Donoghue: Departure (image from here)
I enjoy recognising artists whose work I admire and like - the pleasure is even greater when I am drawn to a work which I don't fully recognise but turns out to be by a favourite. This adds to my appreciation.
Alison Wilding: Simian Drawing VI, IV, and II (images from here)
And of course there's the delight of the obverse: finding a work or group of works which call to me across a room, only to find that they are from an artist to whose work I had not previously warmed. This happened to me with the above pieces. Alison Wilding is a sculptor, and the works which spoke to me are drawings - ink, collage, and pencil. But she says on her RA page: “I don’t think my work on paper has remotely anything to do with the kind of sculpture I make, and I think that’s why I do it - because it’s an opportunity to go down a different route,”
I admire her sculpture, but I do not have the language to understand it, and as yet it does not move me. But these works on paper intrigue me, and encourage a desire to play around myself. Indeed it is about time I went back to playing with abstracts and with my pastels etc. My attraction to Jeanette Hayes' work tells me that too.
Jock McFadyen: Harvey Reaches Down Behind the Bar (image from here)
Sometimes a piece of work catches me unawares, and stops me in my tracks because it feels as if it's telling me something about my own work. I don't necessarily understand in particular what the work is trying to say to me, but the image remains burned into my brain. This year that happened with Jock McFadyen's enigmatic painting shown just above.