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.

Show your art at the RWA Annual Open Exhibition

RWA Open Exhibition 163

RWA © Alice Hendy

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is currently preparing one of my favourite cultural events – the RWA Annual Open Exhibition.

Submissions are open until 5pm on Tuesday 21st August, so if you get a wriggle on you still have a chance of being part of it!

The 166th Annual Open Exhibition will be open to the public from 7th October to 25th November 2010. Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

They say: “A selection panel assesses every entry and last year 624 works by 421 artists made it into the final exhibition. All work is for sale, and the exhibition attracts art-lovers and art-buyers from far and wide. Submissions are welcome from unknown, emerging and established artists, including RWA Academicians.”

Tempted?

All applicants must apply online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

Find full details here of how to apply here. Good luck!

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Get ready to sparkle

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition)

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition, but an artwork that evokes circus 🙂

The RWA will launch their new exhibition Sawdust and Sequins on the weekend of 24th and 25th March 2018, and it sounds fabulous. It marks the start of a spectacular exhibition that will run until 3rd June at the RWA Galleries in Bristol.

The exhibition will showcase historic and contemporary art that offers up a sense of the UK’s circus heritage and Bristol’s thriving circus scene.

The exhibition coincides with Circus250 – a nationwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of circus in the UK.

The opening weekend will transform the stately gallery buildings on Queen’s Road with  with performances from Circomedia Academy of Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre, with aerial displays, acrobatics, aerial displays, have-a-go workshops and creative activities for all ages to get stuck into.

It’ll all be happening on Saturday 24 March 10.30am–3pm and Sunday 25 March 11.30am–3pm. Find out more here.

Got an event, exhibition, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Beyond the curtains

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

I encountered Debbie Lee’s extraordinary solar etchings, paintings and prints at the RWA Galleries in Bristol. Taking up almost a full wall in the downstairs gallery, it felt a little like having drawn aside a heavy velvet curtain and discovered a wonderful circus of the shadows taking place.

“I’m a visual artist based in Dorset, and work in paint, print and animation,” Debbie explained when I got in touch to find out more. “In recent years I’ve made a series of mini etchings which have been exhibited around the UK and in France and Spain. They explore themes of magic and illusion.”

Hypnotist by Debbie Lee

Hypnotist by Debbie Lee

Debbie has linked the artworks together using an imagined narrative and bound them into a limited edition artist’s book entitled ‘Tread Softly’. “I like the containment that a book offers and the intimacy of studying each illustration secretly. I’ve made larger paintings of these miniatures and I hope to exhibit the prints, paintings and book together.”

Tread Softly artist's book by Debbie Lee

Tread Softly artist’s book by Debbie Lee

Debbie often works in print, and enjoys the social aspect of the print studio. “I sometimes invite other artists to my studio to print and share ideas while we work side by side,” she comments. “I have always made prints alongside my paintings and have visited many print studios during my travels to India as a commonwealth research scholar, as well as in Chicago and Tasmania. When I first moved to Dorset with young children, I found going to Poole print studio a great way to meet local artists and I have been teaching solar etching there for a number of years.”

Find out more about solar etching.

Debbie draws inspiration from “surrealism, outsider art and philosophy, psychological theories and fairytales. I like to paint on coloured Indian khadi paper. I am interested in the different process of working in miniature and large scale pictures. Sometimes I take a part of a miniature Indian painting and magnify it so that the brush strokes are physically present and the shapes become abstracted.”

Previously, Debbie worked as an art therapist with children, and still values this process in the work she makes today. “I will often start a number of pictures simultaneously, sometimes with my daughter making random marks on the paper, and exchanging the pictures between us working with large brushes and sponges which I later develop in my studio. I like the idea of developing attachment through drawing and painting with my daughter during this process.”

Debbie has also found support though joining creative parent projects. “We work together and encourage each other to retain our artistic practice,” she says. “Resources like this provide an archive of material for new creative parents to draw upon and a platform for parent artists to show artwork. Last year I was asked to contribute a creative piece of writing in celebration of grand mothering.”

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Sadness by Debbie Lee

In 2016 Debbie teamed up with other artists to experience collaborative ‘play’ on a massive scale at the Hansard Gallery in Southampton. “This has led to further collaborations with group members,” she enthuses. “Ideas from this experience evolved into a series of images offering a psychological inspection of women caught behind the scenes.”

Whispered by Debbie Lee

Whispered by Debbie Lee

The body of work they produced was also influenced by the novella The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one of my personal unsettling favourites. “It charts the female protagonist’s attempts to manage altered mental states after childbirth,” Debbie says. “Isolated by her physician and husband and told to ‘rest’ her creativity, she hallucinates disturbing figures in wallpaper patterns.”

The series of artworks produced in response to the novella also ties in with the phenomenon of pareidolia, an intriguing topic that formed the basis of one of my recent writing prompts on SkyLightRain. “I projected wallpaper and invited the group to draw out images from the patterns and made a stop motion film of the process which inspired future paintings,” Debbie says.

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Exploratory play is key to Debbie’s imaginative process. “I like to experiment with animated drawings – drawing over one drawing and erasing it over and over to create the sense of movement,” she says. “I find this a satisfying way to bring memories to life using collected sound tracks and images. It has also been a good way to take my work to a wider audience and this year I have had my animations, including Drawn Curtains, screened in Chicago and at the RWA.”

These processes provide a foundation for Debbie’s larger paintings. “For me these are windows to my imagination (Sadness),” she says. “I enjoy the physical activity of working on a large scale and I enjoy the playful processes I go through to create them. I try to create a believable world from my imagination.”

You can see more of Debbie’s work and find out where she’s exhibiting on her website www.debbieleeart.co.uk.

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

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Shades of thought

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

The concept of painted landscape representing human emotions is intensely appealing to me. Stormy skies, wind-lashed fields and scenes verging on abstraction can all evoke a state of mind.

It’s a school of thought artist Clare Thatcher is fully enrolled in with her dark, contemplative layers of oil paint applied to linen or plywood.

Formation by Clare Thatcher

Formation by Clare Thatcher

“I’m a Contemporary British artist based in Bristol with a passion for painting,” Clare says. “I attended University of West of England from 2011 till 2014 graduating with a First Class BA Honours Degree in Drawing & Applied Arts, and then gained a MA Fine Art at Bath Spa University. Since graduating I’ve exhibited in London, Belgium, Nottingham, Bristol & Bath.”

It’s the psychological impression of a setting that she aims to capture in her paintings. “My work is deeply connected with a sense of place, taking influence from the idea of liminal space in landscape,” she says. “The locations I choose and the focus of my attention is highly selective, personal and resonant of individual landscape features and associated thoughts, emotions and reflections. The emphasis is upon the sense of contemplation within place.” Continue reading

Breath after breath

Waterclour by Liz Butler RWS

Watercolour by Liz Butler RWS

If you visited RWA’s exhibition of The Power of the Sea in 2014, you’ll know how excellent their taste is in choosing works preoccupied solely with one particular element of nature.

This time around the remit was to seek out pieces that scrutinise a more intangible aspect of our surroundings – the very stuff we live in and breathe.

The Balloon over Calais by E. W. Cocks, 1840, oil on canvas, cr Science Museum: Science & Society Picture Library.

The Balloon over Calais by E. W. Cocks, 1840, oil on canvas, cr Science Museum: Science & Society Picture Library.

More than one artist on show creates a sense of substance through the presence of a balloon or several; for others, such as Jemma Grunion and her scattering of oils and resins layered on board, it’s the clouds that transform the unseen into the visible.

Paintings by Jemma Grundon and orbs by Polly Gould

Paintings by Jemma Grundon and sculptures by Polly Gould. Image by Alice Hendy.

You’ll see sculptures representing curls of sky and swooping birds, anamorphic landscapes by Polly Gould, clouds created on tracing paper through the art of rubbing out, a glass trombone and an avian flu molecule. There’s even a depiction by L.S. Lowry of early 20th century air pollution – it’s clear that air resonates with countless possible interpretations – from freedom to sound.

L. S. Lowry, A Manufacturing Town (1922), oil on panel, 43.2 x 53.3 cm. British Council Collection. Photo © Art Image Library LTD. © The Estate of L.S Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

L. S. Lowry, A Manufacturing Town (1922), oil on panel, 43.2 x 53.3 cm. British Council Collection. Photo © Art Image Library LTD. © The Estate of L.S Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

The exhibition itself is beautifully laid out, allowing space to meander and contemplate as light streams in through the main galleries’ lovely and very appropriate skylights. Through four centuries of work, there’s an overriding sense of humanity marvelling at the things that soar so high above us, and of the desire to enter, investigate and conquer this nebulous territory. Artworks focused on flight abound, and a colourful windbreak made from shredded plastic by artist Freya Gabie wafts gently in the breeze.

Windbreak made from shredded plastic by Freya Gabie. Image by Alice Hendy

Windbreak made from shredded plastic by Freya Gabie. Image by Alice Hendy

Other works offer an altogether more intimate examination of our relationship with air, not least in Capacity by Annie Cattrall, made in part using exhalations of human breath. Just knowing that gives me delighted chills.

Capacity by Annie Cattrell. Image by Alice Hendy

Capacity by Annie Cattrell. Image by Alice Hendy

For me, the sky has always seemed to be our very best art gallery, offering up colour studies, sunset silks and endlessly reconfigured sculptures.

To host an exhibition concentrated on this extraordinary theatre of the atmosphere is an act of audacity that I applaud.

Jeannette Kerr voyaging through the Arctic

Jeannette Kerr voyaging through the Arctic

As an added bonus, you’ll find Arctic Air, an exhibition by Janette Kerr PPRWA RSA (Hons), made in response to three weeks on a ship sailing up the coast of Svalbard, Norway. The works are compressed with layers of wonder, representing Janette’s awe at encountering icebergs and glaciers, and thinking of “the hundreds, even thousand, of years locked inside, suspended in tiny air bubbles.”

Ancient Air by Jeannette Kerr

Ancient Air by Janette Kerr

Just like the exhibition in the upstairs galleries, this is a contemplation of a part of our planet so otherworldly that it almost feels off-world…

And yet this element is what enters our body and fuels all our vital internal churnings. Without it we could not exist, let alone create and appreciate art.

Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768-2017 is on at RWA in Bristol until 3rd September 2017. Find details at http://www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/air-visualising-invisible-british-art-1768-2017. All images in this post have been supplied by RWA.

Art review – Drawn 2017

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal_£2000

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal

The Royal West of England Academy‘s biannual exhibition Drawn has returned, with a wealth of works that reveal the powerful possibilities offered by ink, pencil, paint and thread and more.

“Drawing is a means of communication and interpretation; it is a building block of creativity and a fundamental part of the creative process,” says  Gemma Brace, Head of Exhibitions.

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork_£350

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork

The variety of mediums was exceptional, including a selection of atmospheric etchings by invited artist Norman Ackroyd RA. My favourites among the others include Rebecca Swindell’s ink drawings on corks (shown above), titled Eighteen Occasions, Yurim Gough’s Shopaholic on ceramic, and Belinda Durrant’s corset titled Gilded Cage.

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite_£3000

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite

Dail Behennah’s elegant executed Terrain is a three-dimensional geometric landscape that drew me to my knees for an almost immersive view. In other cases, a few swipes with a stick of charcoal conjure an arresting portrait, while skilled artists such as Kevin Line capture scenes of uncanny realism with the same humble medium.

Bowed to the Wheel by Kevin Line

Bowed to the Wheel (cropped) by Kevin Line

In the adjoining gallery, dim-lighting and a sense of seclusion offers the backdrop to Lines in a Landscape: Drawings from the Royal Collection, a selection of works lent by Her Majesty The Queen.

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Next door you’ll see examples plucked from the RWA’s own extensive collection for Beyond The Sketchpad, before emerging into the Drawing Lab with the option to create your own work.

In the speeches at the preview, Peter Randall-Page RA RWA swept us away with a reminder of all the ways in which the term drawn can be used: how we can draw curtains; draw people together; draw water from a well; draw swords; be drawn and quartered,  among others.

Even in language, it’s clear that drawing opens up a multitude of possibilities, but in this case it’s the paintings, etchings, sculptures and otherwise realised works that stopped me in my tracks.

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, Charcoal on paper_£950

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, charcoal on paper

Drawn and its accompanying exhibitions are on at the RWA until 4th June 2017.

To submit or suggest an art review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

A creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

Evil crab by Judy Darley

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

Submit your art to the RWA’s Drawn exhibition

Sea Mark silver, Tania Kovats, 2015, image courtesy of Sidney Cooper Gallery and RWAThe Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is currently preparing for their Biannual drawing exhibition Drawn. The show aims to “explore the boundaries of drawing and celebrate it as both an autonomous discipline and an interdisciplinary tool.”

The image above is from the 2015 exhibition, and shows Sea Mark (silver), by Tania Kovats, and is provided courtesy of Sidney Cooper Gallery and the RWA.

Entries are invited from artists who draw or explore the concept of drawing in their work. Submissions are open until 5pm on 15th March 2017, so if you still have a chance of being part of it.

As well as the opportunity to have your work showcased in the exhibition, prizes for Drawn include the following:

  • The Theresa Knowles Travel Bursary which offers a bursary of £1,500 to go to Italy to make new work.
  • The Student Prize – a month long exhibition at Hidden
  • Work on Paper Prize – £400 of printing and framing courtesy of Niche Frames.

Tempted?

All applicants must apply online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System.

Find full details here: www.rwa.org.uk/artists/open-exhibitions/drawn-artist-information. Good luck!

Writing prompt – expectations

Grandmas Footsteps by Angela Lizon

Grandmas Footsteps by Angela Lizon

This eerie oil painting is Grandma’s Footsteps by Angela Lizon, and is one of my favourite artworks on show as part of the RWA exhibition Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter.

Resembling a black and white photo, it shows an obedient little girl apparently gazing at the camera with a worried expression on her face. And no wonder, because a vast grizzly bear lurks just behind her.

To me it encapsulates our parents’ and society’s expectations that we smile for the camera, regardless of what may be breathing down our neck.

This week, consider a situation where someone may be expected to act against their instincts. How might they respond? What might the outcome of their actions be?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.