Monday, March 31, 2008

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition 2008

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours is currently holding its 196th Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. The exhibition is open daily and finishes on Saturday 5th April 2008.

Cover: "The Fisherman II" by Frances Francis RI

There are 427 works in the exhibition this year compared to 510 paintings last year - which is a reduction of some 16% on the 2007 number. The catalogue comments on there being less space but I'm not quite sure why that is - certainly the new galleries display the work much better than before. The corridor to the North Gallery has been lost for display purposes but at least visitors can now quite clearly see that there is a gallery there! Could it be that there were more larger works hung this year?

What I noticed in particular was that a number of the people whose work I really liked last year - including a number of women artists - are not part of this year's show.

I thought the idea of showing all candidates for membership work together in the far part of the North Gallery was a brilliant idea. It made it a lot easier to assess the relative merits of each candidate in my opinion. As last year, we particularly admired the work of Geoffrey Wynne.

Three painters at the 196th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour
(L to R) Leslie Goodwin, John Folkes and Frances Francis.

The work in the bottom right hand corner is the work for the exhibition catelogue

Artists whose work I enjoyed this year include:
  • Mat Barber Kennedy RI – I appreciate his focus on architectural features and his relaxed and accomplished pen and ink line work with splashes of colour. He won the Turner Watercolour award this year.
  • Peter Folkes VPRI, RWA – his work demonstrates a rich use of textural effects and very simple and powerful shapes
  • Paul Banning RI, RSMA, AROI – a very accomplished watercolourist. I always think his work is very masculine in terms of some of its subject matter eg insides of boat yards, workshops and sheds. Do take a look at his website where you can see three of his works which were in the exhibition - The workshop, St. Osyth, The workshop, Frost and Drake, Tollesbury and The Studio Party
  • Diane Bell – who had executed pen and ink plus colour wash drawings of Erith Yacht Club in her sketchbook and had then extracted the pages and had them mounted and framed. They came across as very fresh.
  • Leslie Goodwin MBE, RI, RWA – his work is quiet, has very simple marks and shows masterful use of empty space and a limited palette
  • Bob Rudd RI – I liked some, but not all, of his paintings of monumental trees
  • Naomi Tydeman RI - won the John Blockley Prize and was displaying some fine abstracted marine work
  • John Yardley RI – continues to draw with his paint brush and to produce very simplified almost sketchy views of urban life which make me wish I could wield a brush to do likewise! Not least because he is an enormously popular painter who always sells well!
After a career in banking he started painting full time in 1986. Yardley received no formal training and maintains that this has given him the freedom to find his own style. His artistic impulse is to paint what he sees with little embellishment and he has the ability to capture the vitality of any scene.
The Street Gallery - commenting on John Yardley
I really liked the composition and design of the work of Kevin Hughes RI work from a distance but then found that the consistent and insistent texturing of the surface, which is much more apparent when close up, to be less appealing. Do take a look at his website though and make your own minds up.

There were a few graphic artists producing illustration type work – these included C.J. Archer RI ASA ( scroll down on the link) and Neal Meacher RI, ARCA.

This year there is a new award – The Turner Watercolour Award – of £2,500 plus a medal divided between the exhibitions of both the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. Prizewinners are as detailed below. It was a good year for people called Jonathan!
Bill Toop demonstrating on Saturday plus a very small admirer (not to scale!)
pencil in sketchbook, copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Although I’d loved Norma Stephenson’s work in this year's Pastel Society exhibition, I found her work in this exhibition to be very muted and lacking in colour and didn’t find them nearly so appealing.

One aspect which was rather curious was that several artists in this exhibition seemed to have a quite similar style. It made made me wonder whether they had all belonged to the same generation of students at art college.

One of the Council members, Bill Toop RI, was demonstrating his approach to watercolour in the gallery last Saturday and managed to create interest and appreciation in even the smallest of visitors. Terry McKivragan RI, the Membership Secretary, will be demonstrating next Saturday.

These are links to:
The RI does not have its own website which, in my view, is a great pity. It would be very helpful to aspiring watercolour artists around the world to see more work by its members and its exhibition.

I know there are going to be a lot of people clicking the links in this post and, although some artists (like Paul Banning) have really excellent websites, I just wish I could have found more good links of a similar ilk.

I visited the exhibition with Vivien Blackburn, Glen Heath and Tina Mammoser. We were supposed to be sketching as well for International Sketchcrawl day - but we didn't get a lot done - although we talked a lot!

Vivien at the Mall Galleries
pencil in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Vivien and Glen were attending the exhibition with the Leicester Society of Artists. A number of its members had work in the exhibition.

One of the interesting points which Tina raised was that she hadn't appreciated before that acrylic was an acceptable medium and she's consequently never considered submitting work - but will now have a think for next year.

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours has promoted the English art of watercolour since its foundation in 1831. Originally called the New Society of Painters in Watercolours, the RI was formed as an alternative to the existing society at that time, now the Royal Watercolour Society.

The RI continues its policy of showing diversity of styles and techniques, from traditional uses of the medium to the more experimental and innovative paintings now produced by members of the RI and other artists whose pictures have been selected by the RI council. These include many young painters who are encouraged to submit their work using water-soluable mediums.


  1. eeek!!!!

    with all the chat it's amazing my mouth isn't open!

    it was a lovely day

  2. Hi Kathryn, Thanks for your comments on my work both last year and this. I was thrilled to recieve the Turner award of course, but I was also thrilled to see what has happened to the gallery this year. Its now a really nice environment to see the work, enjoy a cup of coffee, experience art in light and space. It always felt a bit like exhibiting in a basement before now, albeit a basement with a wonderful address. anyhow, I check your blog from time to time and enjoy your thoughts, comments and links. Thank you. My website is and I hope that your readers will find it enjoyable. Best wishes, Mat Barber Kennedy

  3. Thanks Mat - my pleasure

    I'm certainly happy to recommend your website - I only wish that more artists had a website like yours!


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