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 inviting submissions for its 171st Annual Open Exhibition. The exhibition will be on from 14th September 2024 until 5th January 2025.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 7th July 2024.

Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

A selection panel assesses every entry. In 2023, 665 works by 455 artists made it into the final exhibition. The RWA Annual Open is the largest open in the South West, with all artworks for sale and the opportunity to immerse yourself in a wide variety of creative works spread over the beautiful galleries at the top of Bristol’s Park Street.

Applicants must enter online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

Submission fees are charged per item:

  • £22 per item for General Public (£18.33+VAT)
  • £16.50 per item for Students (£13.75+VAT)
  • £16.50 per item for Friends of the RWA (£13.75+VAT)
  • £11.00 per item for RWA Artist Network members (£9.17+VAT)
  • RWA Academicians (who pay an annual subscription fee) receive free submission.

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

Read my review of the RWA Open Exhibition 166.

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The RWA Photo Open Exhibition wants your snaps…

Realm by Judy Darley

Submissions are open for the RWA Photo Open Exhibition. To be in with a chance of showing your photographic work in the RWA’s beautiful galleries, submit your digital images online by Monday 5th December 2022.

Entry is open to emerging talents, passionate amateurs, established artists and professional photographers alike. If you use photography to inform your sculpture, installation, architecture or other artistic practice, you are also encouraged to enter.

All you need is vision, and the courage to send in your finest photos.

A selection panel including internationally acclaimed artists will review every entry.

If selected, your work will be shown in the RWA’s galleries alongside some of today’s leading photographic artists and seen by thousands of visitors and potential buyers, as well as being available for a global audience to buy online.

An assortment of prizes are up for grabs too, including:

  • Teresa Knowles Bursary Award – £1,500 towards a photography trip to Italy PLUS  the opportunity to exhibit the resulting work at the RWA
  • MPB Sponsor Awards – £1000 voucher to spend on photographic kit; plus two runner up awards of £500 vouchers
  • Niche Frames Award – cash prize of £250 plus voucher of £250 towards printing or framing
  • Student Award – £250 cash prize for best work by a student, sponsored by the Friends of the RWA

Entries can be any size and can be single images or make up a limited series. They can be simple photographs or artworks that include a photographic element, including 3-D works. They can be any size.

Find the full submission criteria and submit your work here.

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

Art ablaze – review

Still from film. Provided by RWA BristolThe Royal West of England Academy (RWA) is currently holding an exhibition that examines the beauty and peril of fire.

From the romantic flicker of candle glow to a lurching, gigantic charred figure (Man on Fire by Tim Shaw), the artworks on display at Fire: Flashes to Ashes in British Art 1692-2019 demonstrate the challenges of this most voracious and ferocious of phenomena.

Au centre de la Terre II, Nadege Meriau, Photo courtesy RWA

Au Centre de la Terre II, Nadege Meriau

As always, the curatorial team have called in exquisite classic works, as well as showcasing how modern artists are exploring the element currently devastating the Amazon rainforest. The third of the galleries’ element-themed exhibitions feels weightier, unsurprisingly, than either the Water or Air-themed shows, and yet lacks the otherworldly after-feel of either of those, which I particularly loved.

Catherine Morland artworks

Here, there are fewer pieces that spill outwards from attempts at categorisation, but those that feature, not least Tim Shaw’s afore-mentioned Man on Fire sculpture, made from bin bags, foam and wire, as well as two dreamy pieces by Catherine Morland created using candle-flame on glass (shown above), are powerfully thought-provoking.

There are an array of artworks made by harnessing the power of fire and explosives, if only for a moment. Aoife van Linden Tol blasted discs of sheet copper to render her gorgeous, heat-scarred Sun III. In her case, the explosion was the focal point of a performance, rather than merely the means of creation; rather, it’s the artwork itself that is the byproduct.

Roger Ankling painted directly with sunlight, with a lens for a paintbrush in an act of heliography, to produce his sculpture Voewood, while David Nash crafted his fingertip-tempting Burnt Bent Book using a blowtorch.

As Mowgli learnt in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, fire is what sets us aside from other animals. It can be terrifyingly destructive, and yet it can also bring us together in comfort and safety.

Artists include William Blake, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Jeremy Deller, David Nash, Cornelia Parker, Stanley Spencer and JMW Turner.

Contrary to my own expectations, I found it was the more traditional pieces that drew me in – the richness of colour-play, of the fires’ brilliance against nightfall and its beauty set against what can only be panic and most likely death, makes them illustrations of the fragile line we tread beneath safety and peril.

My favourites include three jewel-like miniature watercolours by J. B. Pyne depicting the 1831 Bristol riots – undeniably exquisite despite their subject matter.

Look out for Sophie Clements’ mesmerising film (shown top). And on the way out, take a moment to admire Karl Singporewala’s sculpture of a blackened, skeletal Notre Dame tower – a reminder that human as well as natural wonders are susceptible to the hunger of flame.

Images supplied by the Royal West of England Academy.

Fire: Flashes to Ashes in British Art 1692-2019 is on at the Royal West of England Academy until 1st Sept 2019.

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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – ablaze

Man on Fire by Tim Shaw. Photo by Judy Darley
This remarkable sculpture is Man on Fire by Tim Shaw and is on display at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol until 1st September 2019.

Larger than life, the person is frozen in the act of careering through the gallery, trailing smoke and ash. The notes describe it as “a moment trapped between life and death.” To me it resembles a figure in the midst of an extraordinary metamorphosis.

How would you interpret this scene and give it narrative?

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

Fire: Flashes to Ashes in British Art 1692-2019 is on at the Royal West of England Academy until 1st Sept 2019.

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

Much of the magic of an assembled exhibition is the way 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.

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.”

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.”

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Sadness by Debbie Lee

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.”

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Enter the mind of Angela Carter

The Misfits by Nicola Bealing

The Misfits by Nicola Bealing

Author Angela Carter put her own twist on many traditional fairytales, as well as dreaming up her own unsettling stories that hark from ancient fables. In celebration of her askew imagination, the RWA is hosting Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter, an exhibition of artworks inspired by her writing, as well as original cover art from her novels and more.

After The Masked Visitor by Lisa Wright

After The Masked Visitor by Lisa Wright

Eerie, beautiful, thought-provoking and discombobulating, the pieces on show include Marc Chagall, Paula Rego and some truly luscious works by Leonora Carrington, as well as plenty of others that seem selected to haunt your dreams and stir your imagination.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts of UWE, and the artist and writer Fiona Robinson. Among my favourites were works by the wonderfully macabre Heather Nevey (below), and an understatedly unnerving oil painting titled Grandma’s Footsteps by Angela Lizon.

The Murder 1 cr Heather Nevay

The Murder 1 cr Heather Nevay

Other highlights include the chance to see Angela Carter’s photos, pens and other artefacts. For me the best part of all, and the most alarming, was stepping through a curtain into a gallery populated by strange figures with outlandishly large egg-like heads, seated around a table where a naked, terrified man lay prostrate – an installation by Ana Maria Pacheco titled The Banquet.

Wonderfully, while some of these works were inspired by Carter’s fiction, others, such as Chagall’s work, helped to fuel her creativity, while others still sprang from similar ideas, proving what a rich conversation visual and written works can enjoy.

Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter is on at RWA, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1PX until 19th March 2017.

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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.