There’s no denying the absolute, sweeping, full-blown sensory onslaught you experience when visiting an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. Well quadruple this, times by a hundred and you can just about try to imagine the sheer amount of high quality visual art produced by this nation. And all housed in just one part of the RA’s stunning 17th century mansion, Burlington House. Because this is what it is. An annual show exhibiting the UK’s best loved, most technically gifted, highly successful artists, alongside hundreds upon hundreds of work, both small and large, created by this year’s ‘cream of the crop’ professional and amateur artists.
From etchings, monotypes, lithographs, screen prints to oil, acrylic, watercolour works on canvas, wood and metal. Sculpture, classic and contemporary, architectural drawings next to intricate building models. Meditative video, contemplative poetry. Figurative, abstract. Portrait, landscape. There’s something (and more) for everyone.
Particular favourites of mine were the bright, colourful works by Gillian Ayres RA and Barbara Rae RA (who I absolutely adore and worship as an artist) along with the abstract wondrous creations of Hughie O’Donoghue RA. His work is so hard, so sublime, so perfectly smooth, yet defiant in its colour and movement, just like still, glistening water on stone. Then who could doubt the phenomenal power of Anselm Kiefer’s hugely dynamic ‘field of flowers’ piece. I also loved lots of smaller works made by emerging artists which had been lucky enough to be selected from thousands of entries. How the selectors manage to choose and then curate the entire Summer Exhibition is completely beyond me!
Don’t get me wrong there are some disadvantages to this year’s Summer Exhibition and absolute fatigue halfway through is inevitable. So is the surprised look on your face which tends to ‘fix’ itself permanently onto your face whilst you wander around spellbound enough that you can’t quite turn away no matter how ‘eye-fatigued’ you get. This turns out to be the main shame of the show, as the ticket price is pretty expensive at £13.50 so you really can’t take it all in in one go. If, like me, you’re from the North on a day trip, then you’ve either got to get another train to London before the show finishes, or appreciate it as much as you can whilst you’re there. Knowing you’re lucky enough to have seen it in the first place. It does get busier in the smaller rooms but overall I didn’t feel like I couldn’t see the works properly… most of the time.
If you’re an artist or interested in art, then its a must-see. If not, its still a must-see, it’s that special.
Catch it while you still can – til 17th August