Saturday, 9 June 2007

Visit to the Royal Academy Summer Show

I am bent on visiting the Friday evening preview of the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition and remind myself all day, at work, that that is how I'm going to spend the evening. The claim is that the Summer Exhibition is traditionally the start of the Summer Season which is news to me. In previous centuries the exhibition was very fashionable and it was considered an honour for an artist to be able to exhibit there. In recent decades the exhibition fell into a decline and became a byword for mediocrity but now it has sharpened up its act. The show is the world's largest open submission art exhibition, which means anyone can submit work providing they fill in the forms and pay the fee, and I can say from my own experience there is a very strong chance that your work will then be rejected and you'll simply be out of pocket but you will have a nicely framed piece of work to admire.

The Royal Academy of Arts was established in 1768 and its original home was in Somerset House which is on the Strand but eventually it moved to its present home at Burlington House in Piccadilly. Burlington House has a very large and grand courtyard and I like to think of visitors in the past arriving by carriage, but this is 2007 and I arrived on foot having travelled most of the way from Holborn on the number 8 bus which terminates at Victoria Station. Burlington House was originally a private Palladian mansion that was greatly enlarged in the 19th century and the feeling I get when I enter the building is that I'm visiting a very grand, aristocratic family home - what with the big staircase opposite the entrance, the paintings on the ceilings and the marble here, there and everywhere - and I sense that it's time to kick back, relax and take it easy. This was nigh on impossible on Friday evening when the foyer was more like a crowded tube train during rush hour!

I deliberately avoided buying the list of works and their prices since I didn't plan to buy anything apart from a drink and made do with reading the panels with explanatory text that are near the entrance to each gallery. Sadly I found a lot of the text tediously pretentious so attended to the work on display instead which is after all what I was there for. The piece of work that I really wanted to see was David Hockney's 'Stand of Trees'. In fact it is one landscape painting made up of 50 separate paintings and occupies the end wall of the largest gallery. I'm never sure whether I actually like Hockney's work but I did find this one fascinating; I spent some time trying to see how he built up the layers of the painting and I did this while enjoying a sit down and a glass of pimms. This painting was all the more interesting because I'm trying to resolve a problem I'm having with a landscape of my own and I'm hoping that studying the Hockney will help me solve it (a detail from it is shown here).

As usual I can never look at all the exhibits in one visit because there are simply too many to see so I belted round the other galleries in my haste to find the exit and en route I paused in the gallery devoted to architecture which I always enjoy although don't always understand. While there I spied, on a ledge by an architectural display, a temporary installation of empty champagne flutes and discarded pimms glasses complete with swizzle sticks, bits of cucumber and mint leaves and I thought there's an opportunity for some pretentious witticisms but I just couldn't think of anything.


Rio said...

welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. we have bookmarked you and will be keeping an eye out for new posts.
Love and light

Robynn said...

That Hockney sounds fascinating. Maybe I'll manage to get myself there to see it.

cathy said...

I think I saw that on TV a few weeks ago. next time i am down I'd like to see it.