• 21 Jul - 27 Jul, 2018
  • Marjorie Husain
  • Art

In the heart of London, the 250th Summer Exhibition has opened in the Royal Academy of Arts, and daily one discovers visitors from all parts of the world flocking to see the various examples of, “Art being made today.”

Over two hundred years ago the Royal Academy’s founding members decided to hold an annual exhibition open to all artists, to help finance the students of the Royal Academy Schools, and the RA has kept the tradition alive through peace and war.

Artists from many parts of the world send their work to be considered, that includes painting, printmaking, sculpture, film and photography as well as architectural works.

The Royal Academy Committee then has the job of selecting well over 1000 artworks. Some years ago, two paintings of A.R Chughtai were selected to grace the occasion and were much admired in the process.

It is a wonderful place to explore, and this year is a historic occasion as the President and members of the committee celebrate the 250th exhibition to take place. This year the renowned artist of ceramics, Grayson Perry, enthusiastically took the coordinator’s role and assured that visitors to the Academy will view an extraordinary array of work.

“The most shocking aspect that struck me as I took on the role of coordinator for this year’s show was how fast it all happens. A high-profile exhibition of this magnitude and duration would normally be at least three years in the planning…” says Grayson Perry

Grayson need not have worried. Over the years the Royal Academy has developed such a skillful crew of curators, art handlers, administrators, technicians and painters that the RA event is always ready on time. As Grayson discovered, the applicants no longer -need to bring their work along to the Academy, as arrangements have been made for the Judges to view the work on a screen before making their decisions as to what may be shown.

Browsing through the Academy catalogue, one was amazed to discover the latest work of Tracy Emin, which for the first time in my view, appeared to have depth and feeling. Among the many pieces, a very interesting portrait of Coleridge was painted in oil, and Philip Sutton contributed a colourful, cheerful painting titled: “From Seeds of April Sowing.”

One has discovered that visiting the RA exhibition, it is often difficult to focus on a particular painting while exploring the large galleries filled with diverse pieces.

There were contrasts galore, Professor Trevor Dannat OBE; and Paul Koralek OBE both chose to work with pencil. Through the years artists Reynolds, Turner and Hockney are among the esteemed painters who have exhibited their work in the Summer Exhibition since it began.

It is a great place for meeting friends. Outside the entrance there are casual arrangements for coffee and tea, and people meet up here, before entering together. Once inside it is usually a full day’s outing. As well as the numerous galleries and artworks, there are restaurants, a snack bar, and a shop filled with tempting objects, including cards, books and miniature art pieces.

A part of the RA that is normally hidden from view is opened and one enters magnificently fine rooms. One story that is memorable is related to the Suffragette movement in the UK in 1914, when women were fighting for the right to vote. A Suffragette by the name of Mary Wood attacked a John Singer Sargent portrait with a meat cleaver before being handled by the guards.

Grayson Perry continued to express his thoughts and feelings; “I think my enjoyment of bright colours is a reaction to the dampening blanked of muted ‘tastefulness’ that sags over our material culture. It is easy to find yourself sitting in a Tube carriage when everyone is wearing black, or in a house that is all white, grey, black and beige…

“In 2015 Michael Craig-Martin was the coordinator and he painted Gallery111; an overpowering pink and I loved it. It taught me that you can hang art on any colour, so I have chosen a radiant lemon yellow for Gallery 111, a rich grey-blue for the Central Hall, and a fleshy pink for the Lecture Room.”

A friend who is very much in the London art scene, relayed his notes on the happenings. He informed me that every time he visited the Royal Academy it was very well attended. “But,” he added, “It is always a relief to pop around the corner to Mayfair to see the exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, “Howard Hodgkin” Last Paintings.” He added, “in my opinion his paintings are a class apart.” So there we have it, something for everyone. •