Art review – RWA Open Exhibition 166

Daydream by John Huggins. Photo by Judy DarleyThe galleries at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) have a grandeur about them that rivals many of the world’s finest art museums. Their annual open exhibition opens up those spaces to any artist with vision and talent. I adore the democratic nature of this annual show, where anyone can submit their work for the possibility of seeing it selected to see it hang or stand among notable creations ranging from the famous, to the infamous.

The 166th open exhibition lives up to those aims, with paintings crowding walls to the extent that at times you’ll be crouching, and at others balancing on tiptoe. Inevitably, this leads to some being more difficult to view, and more than once, I was asked by older gallery visitors to read out the small notices revealing artist and exhibit name.

Offerings (Earth) by Jenny Leigh_Photo by James Beck

Offerings (Earth) by Jenny Leigh_Photo by James Beck

Sculptures gathered in unexpected groupings too, from totem-esque found and assembled materials, to a transparent bin bag crammed with what resembled rubbish, amid elegant creations such as Yurim Gough’s Four Elements. Invited artists Jock Mcfadden RA and Carol Robertson provided anchor points, while the RWA’s own Academicians offered some familiarity.

The whimsical Octavia (below) by Caroline Taylor summoned up memories of myths – we sorely wanted to take her home, but found had already sold. Other favourites included Clouds, Fields, Moor by Andrew Hardwick and John Huggins’ Daydream, shown at the top of this post.

Octavia by Caroline Taylor

Octavia by Caroline Taylor

In other instances, it was human figures who enchanted us, in ceramics, bronze, ink and paint. A quizzically tilted head or the choice of a cabbage and pigeon as a crown was enough to elicit charmed giggles.

Altogether, despite the number of landscapes and abstracts on offer, this is a very congenial exhibition. The majority of the selected items brim with personality. Whether inspired by human, by animal or by a playful or startling blend of the two, the artworks on show given the impression of freezing momentarily as we enter, and continuing their conversational chatter after we depart.

Mule Head by Dorcas Casey_Photo by James Beck

Mule Head by Dorcas Casey_Photo by James Beck

The less characterful creations are, for the most part, equally enticing. I saw a child zone in immediately to this sculpture below, drawn by its bright colour and resemblance to a familiar toy.

RWA Open Exhibition 2018. Photo by James Beck

RWA Open Exhibition 2018. Photo by James Beck

To me that’s much of the magic of an assembled exhibition like this, where serious themes give way to the joy of originality. It invites us to remember the delight of creating – of letting our imaginations loose to rambunctiously play. This is an open exhibition that celebrates art in all its forms, and invites us to bring our own openness to the mix.

Until 25th November 2018 at the RWA, Bristol.

Seen, read or experienced anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Bristol art – Autumn 2018

Before Nightfall by Nigel Shipley

Before Nightfall by Nigel Shipley

There’s so much art happening in Bristol at present that I barely know where to look first. Last weekend (6th-7th Oct 2018) was Art on the Hill – the ever-inspiring Windmill Hill and Victoria Park arts trail. The Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail will follow from 23rd till 25th November. Can’t wait!

Prior to that, HOURS Gallery is hosting Daydreams, an exhibition of Nigel Shipley‘s abstract paintings, accompanied by music and readings of poetry created in response to the works. Sounds really intriguing! I love work that transcends form in this way. The performers are all members of Bristol Tonic.

Bristol Tonic poet

  • Date: Saturday 13th October 2018
  • Venue: HOURS Gallery, 10 Colston Yard, Bristol BS1 5BD (HOURS is in Colston Yard, accessed from the top of Colston Street, through an archway between Bike Workshop and Blaze)
  • Times: Gallery open from 10am-10pm. Performance from 7-8pm. The exhibition can be viewed by appointment until 1st November, ring 07909874586 to arrange this.
  • For more details, go to: www.nigelshipley.com
Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

And the RWA’s wonderful Open Exhibition has launched, revealing a spectacular array of works, including Yurim Gough‘s ‘Four Elements’. Definitely one for your calendar! The show is on until 25th November 2018.

Judy Darley in Redcliffe Caves

If you’re seeking further inspiration, don’t forget Bristol Festival of Literature, running from 19th-28th October. I’ll be reading in Redcliffe Caves on Tuesday 23rd October as a guest of Bristol Writer’s Group for an event titled Dark Confessions. There are masses of other curious happenings too, so I’m hoping to get to as many as possible. Hope to see you at an event or two!

The psychology of a landscape

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Growing up deep in the north Somerset countryside played a role in shaping Andrew Hardwick as an artist.

In case you were wondering (I had to ask), saltings are grass land that are on tidal land, and are regularly flooded by sea water. Imagine that, a place occupied both by sea and land. My inner poet is in raptures.

These are among views that capture Andrew’s attention and inspire much of his art.

“I have a studio out at the farm and that enables me to collect all the things that are left over from farming,” he says, listing: “Decorating paints, PVA, plastics and pigments – soot and soils. I glue and cement it all together on canvas bound with wire.”

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Becoming an artist was a process that gradually consumed Andrew Hardwick over a number of years. “It took quite a long time,” he comments. “The enthusiasm and fascination slowly built up, and before I knew it, it had taken over my life!”

Art classes and a part time foundation course contributed to his enduring desire to create. “I think when you go to art college they expect a level of seriousness and professionalism that cements it, that make you click and identify fully as an artist,” he says. “I’m now totally committed.”

In truth, it was seeded in his psyche from his earliest days.

The artworks themselves just come, Andrew says, “from doing lots of walks. They’re not immediate representations, not something I’ve seen and am recording in a straightforward way. Rather, they’re memories of a landscape, with lots of accidents in play in making the final artwork.”

The moods of his surroundings intrigue Andrew endlessly. “I’m interested in the psychological implications of a place, as I remember it,” he explains. “I do occasional works based on actual places – a recent exhibition was all based on Bodmin Moor, for example – but these aren’t pictures of specific views, rather the feeling of the view.”

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Andrew enjoys the challenges of his work. “It’s all very personal and because of that it’s fascinating to do,” he says. “My passion for the landscape is a big part of it, but also the way I perceive it as mirroring my own state of mind. Finding ways to explore that is key to what I do – answering the questions in myself.”

Clouds, Fields, Moor by Andrew Hardwick

Clouds, Fields, Moor by Andrew Hardwick

He’s keen to dispel the myth that dark works are proof of a dark personality. “I work mainly around the estuary and Dartmoor so people might presume I’m a bleak person, but the opposite is actually true. I see my work as reflecting the power of nature and wilderness and the power of being alive. It’s wonderful being out in the rain with the wind blowing. It can be frightening, but it can also be spiritual – elemental.”

He adds: ‘I see a lot of joy in my work – it\s a celebration of life and living things.”

Andrew will be exhibiting at the RWA’s 165th Annual Open Exhibition from 1 October until December 3rd 2017. He will also be showing his work at the Totterdown Front Room Art Trail on 18th and 19th November 2017.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Open eyes and minds

Maenads Series by Tim Shaw pic cr Jack Offord

The RWA 164th open exhibition is currently on at the galleries on Queen’s Road, Bristol, populated by strange creatures, wondrous landscapes and portraits with soulfully intriguing expressions.

The open exhibition is always a highlight, showcasing a wonderful breadth and variety of artistic talent. Narratives whisper and wriggles on every page, canvas board and plinth.

The Maenads Series by invited sculptor Tim Shaw (shown at the top of this post) exudes a wonderfully satisfying sense of joy as they cavort, drum and wave their arms in the air, filling more space than their few inches in height would have you expect.

Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes photo cr Jack Offord

Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes

Other works prompt laughter and smiles, such as Simon Tozer’s Mermaid screen print and Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes. Jean Crosse’s A Bowl of Eyes is exactly what its title suggests – a ceramic bowl with eyes on stalks, which led us to remembering old teddies with cataracts and myopia or a single off-centre orb offering the impression of a sly wink.

Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace photo cr Jack Offord

Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace

Quieter, meditative artworks take their place on the edges. Self-portrait as Icarus by Richard Twose depicts the artist conducting a flock of pigeons on strings, as though they are marionettes or kites, while the Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace gazes steadily back at the viewers, unfazed. Grey Rouge by Rhiannon Davies, is a miniature portrait in watercolour and gouache, well worth crouching down to see.

Yurim Gough with her Heart Chakra -> Ego bowl at RWA annual open exhibition 2016 photo cr Jack Offord

Yurim Gough with her Heart Chakra -> Ego bowl at the exhibition launch

Heart Chakra -> Ego by Yurim Gough looks to me like a new take on her elegant life studies on clay, with a serene face imposed over the model’s own and a perimeter of dreaming figures kneeling at the bowl’s rippled edge.

In a trio of paintings by Karen Bowers (Flood and Willow, Sue’s Field, Late Autumn, Late Afternoon and The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden), autumn mists catch in trees and halt us with their atmospheric beauty. These are artworks that present a moment in which to pause, exhale and renew your strength – how fitting for this time of year.

Quite simply, this is an exhibition where humour, contemplation, landscape and memory are offered up in an exceptionally wide-ranging array of works. Escape there for an hour or two, and you’ll inevitably emerge refreshed and inspired.

The 164th RWA Annual Open Exhibition is on until 27th November 2016. Find details.

All photography in this post is by Jack Offord, provided courtesy the RWA.