I went along to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy on Wednesday – always a weighty affair somehow. I think it is to do with such a quantity of pics, so close together, which means it requires a great deal of effort to really scrutinise and not be simply overwhelmed.
Broadly though I thought it was the best for a few years with some really interesting work. What would I pick out? Colin Davidson’s portraits (room IV), Mary Canty (room V),Ralph Brown’s bronze ‘Bride’ (room VIII) and Stephen Chambers set of etchings (room IX). Loads more, of course, but lists are dull to write, and even more dull to read.
As usual, I question how ‘open’ this ‘open exhibition’ is and how many places they give to emerging artists. I put work in for selection one year, when I was fresh from Art School and in the mood to be famous quite quickly – ha ha! I carried a large piece of work up from Oxford on the coach – the coach driver wouldn’t let me and my picture in the bus and I had to wait for another coach whose driver was more amenable. Then lugged said picture across London, already beginning to hate myself, my picture, my ambition and, of course, the Royal Academy – as it was clearly mostly their fault. Handed it in and waited for the acceptance letter; then went and collected my painting with ‘loser’ written indelibly across my forehead and reversed the journey. I am not bitter…time is a great healer.
Most open competitions now make their first selection of work electronically which is logistically much easier for both the artist and the selectors, although I accept that some work will lose by being reduced to a screen image. The Royal Academy says they hang upwards of 1200 pictures, and around 100 are from new artists – less than 10% which seems low. But the Summer Show is a great institution and there are plenty of other ‘open exhibitions’ to chose from if you are trying to make your way in the great world of art! Give it a few more years, and they will be begging me to submit work…dream on…