Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Exhibition review: RWS and RI - High Watermark 2009

RWS & RI Landscape paintings in watercolour
- including works (in the centre) by Ronald Maddox PRI, Hon RWS, FCSD, FSAI
President of the Royal Insitute of Painters in Watercolour

paintings - copyright the artist
photo - copyright Katherine Tyrrell

For the very first time in 178 years, the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour are currently holding a joint exhibition of watercolour paintings. High Watermark 2009 is, uniquely, also going to be on view at the TWO galleries in London which are the normal homes for exhibitions by the two organisations.
Why a joint exhibition?

I was intrigued as to why it had taken 178 years for a joint exhibition and found the answer in the catalogue which I'm reproducing below as I'm sure it will be of interest to many watercolourist painters. 2003 the Turner Watercolour Award was launched at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, but since then fewer and fewer watercolours have been accepted and 'hung' by the omnipotent RA. In 2008 it was proposed to divide the Award, given by a private sponsor, between the RWS and RI. This resulted in three members from each Society selecting a work from each of the Societies annual exhibitions. This informal link prompted Ronald Maddox, the RI president to discus with Richard Sorrell, at the time the RWS President, the idea of the two organisations mounting a shared exhibition promoting the professional skills of painters in watercolour and water soluble mediums. The result is High Watermark 2009 - an event that those with a passion for watercolour will warmly applaud.
High Watermark 2009 - Exhibition Catalogue
The catalogue then goes on to explain the history behind the existence of two watercolour societies - which I shall leave for another day!

Leslie Worth PPRWS 1923 - 2009

Landscapes - including two by Leslie Worth (on far right)
paintings - copyright the artist
photo - copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Before reviewing the exhibition, a quick note to say that tomorrow's post will be about Leslie Worth former President of the Royal Watercolour Society who died on 21st July 2009. There are two works by Leslie in the exhibition which are quite sublime.

Exhibition review
The exhibition will promote watercolours and water-soluble media, bringing the very best of professional British watercolour painting to a wider audience
I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibition which seems to have much more 'traditional watercolour' painting than I've been used to seeing of late at the Bankside Gallery. By which I mean traditional watercolour paints used with the techniques associated with traditional watercolour painting. I'm sorry - I'm very much 'old school' when it comes to watercolour and so far as I'm concerned acrylics are a completely different medium! I'm also not sure what waterbased oils are doing in a watercolour show. I'd still like to see an exhibition which is devoted to 100% watercolour with any other medium limited to a very small percentage of the work. I also rather suspect I'm not alone in that wish!

So for those who 'old school' like me you're likely to enjoy this show which includes a lot of 'proper watercolour' paintings - although there is also some acrylic work on display.

Being a numbers person I did a count-up and the split between different media is as follows:

No. of works in exhibition
watercolour and acylic4
watercolour and bodycolour
watercolour and gouache
watercolour and ink
watercolour and pencil
watercolour and pastel
watercolour and collage
watercolour, pigment and acrylic gel
watercolour and mixed media
gouache and pencil
acrylic and inks
mixed media
water based oil
Source: catelogue

As the exhibition is combining the work of the members of the two organisations, work has been limited to two pieces by each member and (in the case of the RWS) associate member. There also seemed to be some size ruling in operation as every member who had a larger than average piece included also had a smaller than average piece balancing it out.

A wall of paintings including figures
paintings - copyright the artist
photo - copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The exhibition was very nicely grouped so that themes - such as landscapes, still life and work including figures all had a specific place within the gallery.

Then within the genre hung on each wall the works were completely mixed as to whether they were by RI or RWS members.

A wall of paintings including figures
paintings - copyright the artist
photo - copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I think I'm going to pay this exhibition another visit when it does to the Mall Galleries and it'll be interesting to see how it gets hung there. I always tend to think of the Bankside Gallery as being much smaller than the Mall Galleries when in fact the really important distinction is that it is much narrower!

I've included my photos of the exhibition and have tried to give a sense of the work on display. I think I'll comment on individual artists after seeing the exhibition again at the Mall Galleries where it opens next Tuesday after closing at the Bankside on Sunday.

  • Bankside Gallery: 48 Hopton Street, London, SE1 9JH (see location map)
  • Mall Galleries: The Mall Galleries are on The Mall towards Admiralty Arch by Trafalgar Square. (see location map). Admission £2.50, concessions £1.50 (free to FBA Friends, Art Fund Members, Westminster Res-card holders and under 16s)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting read. Being an ARWS and living in Scotland I thank you for the summary as I wont see it in the flesh. cheers!
Angus McEwan

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