As usual you can guarantee that the RA’s summer exhibition will be an overload of the senses. This year doesn’t disappoint either. In fact, under the influence of Martin Craig-Martin’s zeitgeist colour-tripping mastery he has upped the colour volume from a six up to an outrageous 11. Not that I’m complaining as I’m a fan of using colour on gallery walls where it can be used to accentuate artworks. Sometimes it can get a little boring when seeing white wall after white wall.
I’m a massive fan of painting there’s no doubt and there were the usual suspects in attendance including a few favourites of mine… Frank Bowling, Chantal Joffe, Barbara Rae, Cornelia Parker and Tracey Enim. There were also a few duds such as Una Stubbs and Harry Hill (sorry!!). But as much as I love these artists, it really was the sculpture that was head’s up by far the best art on show this time… in my opinion of course.
There is such a vast array I surely won’t do it justice but in terms of learning about new sculptors I was in my element. Starting in the courtyard with Conrad Shawcross’ twisting weathered steelwork ‘The Dappled Light of the Sun’ and going up the stairs via Jim Lambie’s vinyl floor stripes aptly named ‘Zobop’. You are then immediately greeted by the most sublimely perfect perspex human figure in multi-coloured layers of colour. Liam Gillick’s ‘Applied Projection Rig’ is made out of anodised aluminium and plexiglas, a cool alternative to the greek statues you find so often in art galleries and museum across the world, plus it sets the scene for Craig-Martin’s colour onslaught.
Wandering around the vast halls I was mesmerised by the sheer vastness of paintings on display. However as I’m focusing on sculpture, the next one on my radar is the layered bark ‘Cork Dome’ by Davd Nash, next to ‘Radical Landscape’ in the Large Westom Room and curated by Ian Ritchie RA (my personal favourite room). Incorporating dozens of architectural and landscape pieces,
“As a cultural art form, a landscape can be anything”
Martha Schwartz, FASLA
‘Protean Pattern’ encompasses the vision of this ‘radicalisation’ looking very much like some alien manifestation in its delicate intricacy of polypropylene, brass and acrylic materials. Other startling great additions come from Joe Tilson, Mick Moon RA, Richard Whadcock, Sarah Sutton, Sheila Girling and Will Alsop RA to name but a few. ‘Untitled: Slidingupturnedhouse’ by Phyllida Barlow is a revelation of material combination including cement, scrim, pva and plaster. The continued use of mixed materials continues apace and are encapsulated by Antony Gormley’s five new metal ‘figurines’, blocks of metal built up like Lego to represent the human form. Very much in keeping with Craig Martin’s visionary sculptures you see as soon as you enter the courtyard and foyer.
A quick back step to paintings so I don’t miss out on mentioning the optical, yellow and black stripes of Keith Milow’s ‘First and Last’, Cornelia Parker’s ‘Stolen Thunder III’ a quirky painting from her referencing the multitude of red stickers that line up against a work as they are sold. Joe Tilson RA’s ‘The Fiur Elements’ merged from painting to sculpture with its use of wood and other mixed media. Which brings me back to sculpture and the ‘Untitled’ acrylic work by Sir Anish Kapoor using glass, reflection and infinite ways of viewing. A changing sculpture that grabs the imagination in its subtle complexity. And this sums up what the RA Summer Show is all about.
Before I end its not without substance to mention the accompanying exhibition by this year’s crops of RA final year graduates. If you’ve never seen these cavernous expansive studios sat next to each other in a maze of white walls then you must do so. Its freedom tying it into your trip to see the main show is a great opportunity not to be missed. From large, mainly abstract painting, to varied video work, assemblages, sculptureas well as madcap installations involving mixed media and found materials there really will be something that catches your attention.
My attention was caught by the polystyrene works by Evelyn O’Connor, a crazy psychedelic, sugar coated array of sweetly coated mixed media sculptures even including the use of tomato ketchup, sugar, pva, polystyrene, polystyrene beads, food colouring, silicone, steel, compost and finally, acrylic paint! The overall foundation to the student’s art seemed to be one shrined in the conceptual.
RA Summer Exhibition
On until 16 August 2015
Please note: my laptop is currently on the blink so there won’t be as many images to look at until it’s sorted… I’ll let you know when this is remedied!!