Sunday, March 25, 2007

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition 2007

Richard Plinke painting a watercolour
8" x 10", pen and ink in a Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The 195th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours runs until the 5th April 2007 at the Mall Galleries. I visited the exhibition yesterday with Vivien and Glen before we moved across to the Royal Academy in Piccadilly to see the Unknown Monet exhibition - of which more in a later blog post.

The RI exhibition is much bigger than the RWS Spring exhibition at the Bankside Gallery which I covered in my last post. The RI exhibition has 510 paintings, priced between £200 and £9,000, from artists working in any water based paint (ie including acrylics). Unlike the RWS, it also includes paintings from artists who are not members of the RI. The catalogue is excellent with very good colour reproductions of some of the members' work on the front cover and in the centre pages. Unfortunately, the society does not have a website, so I'm going to highlight a few who caught the judges eye and a few that I liked. In the absence of an artist's website I link to what appears to be the best website illustrating work similar to that in the show.

Vivien and I were both taken by the work of Mat Barber Kennedy, who lives in Illinois but is represented by two galleries in this country. He does very individual portraits of architecture - in this instance of Cuba. For anybody who likes a looser style do take a look at his site. He combines an excellent eye for composition with skills in an informal style of architectural rendering and a 'wet' approach to watercolour. David Walker RSBA also produced architectural renderings - but his were more restrained, using muted colours and had compositions with a strong abstract quality.

We all admired Carl Ellis 's exquisite portrait of two grayling. Carl is a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists whose site indicates he's taking 'a fresh look at sea fish'. Take a look at his page on that site if you want to see the technique of somebody mixing watercolour with oil pastel.

Felicity House, whose work we admired in the Pastel Society show, had yet more work to highlight in this show. "Journeying" displayed her particular talent for informal and naturalistic portraits which combine excellent draughtsmanship with a loose style. You can see more of her work on her page at the Bridgeman Art Library.

Still life fans will be interested in the work of Janet Skea RI and Sue Read RI. Both use expert skills to do very finely observed paintings of still life subjects. Sue tends towards the more traditional subject matter of English watercolourists featuring porcelain bowls and fruit and small objects d'art. Janet's work in the exhibition featured exploration of the subtle colours found in creams and greys and some interesting designs.

Sue Rubira is showing 'Big Tom' - another of her excellent watercolour macro face portraits. Sue does demonstrations of how she builds up her portraits on her blog.

Fay Ballard had yet more her botanical work displayed in this exhibition - but this time rather smaller works: Raddichio and Dockleaf Root - click on the image on her website link to see more of her work. Presumably this will be her last RI show as she's just been elected to Associate Membership of the RWS and apparently convention (or maybe it's the rules?) dictate that you can only be a member of one or the other.

In the past Geoffrey Wynne has won 3rd prize at the Singer and Friedlander Watercolour Competition with his painting Quayside. He seems to specialise in large aerial views of crowds in open spaces and is showing Djemaa el Fna, Morocco in the show - an overhead view of a Moroccan marketplace. He also had a large painting of fishermen in Portugal which displayed some wonderful washes.

The work displayed by John Yardley RI was, as always, incredibly simple, loose and effective - and had sold out. You can see more of his work here - keep clicking the icon at the bottom to see more.

Ronald Maddox RI, the President of the RI for the last 18 years, won the Ranelagh Press Award. His views of the English countryside displayed in the show are similar in style to this watercolour which is included in the Government Art Collection.

Mike Bernard RI won the Donald Blake Award given by the Lincoln Joyce Gallery.

Shirley Trevena RI won the John Blockley prize given by the Marine House at Beer. (Shirley has a website at but it seems to having problems.)

The display of work by Bob Rudd included a simply enormous and very colourful painting of Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Torridon (which is in north west Scotland) which won the Debra Manifold Memorial Award given by the Linda Blackstone Gallery. Personally I preferred the smaller works that were included but that might be because his large piece demands lots of white space around it which unfortunately isn't available in a society show.

I've got Terry Watts RBA down as having won an award but my scrambled annotation doesn't seem to match any listed in the catelogue. Terry works in acrylics and paints sharply realistic landscapes - often with big skies.

Cecilia Matson works in ink and her very striking cityscapes won her the Winsor and Newton Young Artist Award

While waiting for Vivien and Glen to arrive I did a very quick sketch of J. Richard Plinke RI producing a watercolour painting in the gallery (see top).

This is Vivien's review of the exhibition - she's got some links to slightly different artists.

The Mall Galleries are in The Mall in London - the Admiralty Arch end - and the exhibition is open daily, including Saturday and Sunday, between 10am and 5pm. For those UK readers thinking of visiting and making a day of it, it's very easy to get from here to:
  • the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery (short walk across Trafalgar Square)
  • the Royal Academy (a longer walk or very short taxi ride)
  • Bankside Gallery (walk and tube or longer taxi ride). This is the gallery holding the Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society.
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  1. Thanks so much for posting this. I wasn't familiar with any of these artists and have absolutely fallen in love with Sue Rubira's work. The quality of the work in the show seems really exceptional and I appreciate the introduction to British painters.

  2. P.S. I love your sketch of the artist painting--it's loose and fresh and seems to capture the fun of painting.

  3. Thanks for the comment Jana - I must confess you were one of the people I had in mind when posting all those links.

    I find it's always really interesting when visiting the artist pages on an art society website to see all the different sort of artists favoured in that part of the world.

    Maybe you can let other watercolour aficianados know about this post and the last one.

    And I'm sure Sue is going to enjoy having a fan who lives in San Francisco!

  4. Thanks to you and your blog, Katherine. It's great having my work exposed like this.

  5. My pleasure Sue - always nice to be able to highlight an artist whose work deserves to be seen.


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