Monday, April 14, 2008

Royal Watercolour Society - Spring Show

I visited the Spring Show (13 March - 13 April) of the Royal Watercolour Society yesterday at the Bankside Gallery.

The Royal Watercolour Society is the oldest and most prestigious watercolour society in the world. Its aims and objectives include promoting the language of drawing and painting and especially of watercolour painting to an ever widening public.
The RWS has defined 'a watercolour' to mean 'a painting in a water-based medium on a paper-based support'. This definition allows a vast range of work of an indeed infinite variety.
RWS website
Mirror Reflections
Olwen Jones RWS

This exhibition is limited to works by members of the Royal Watercolor Society. You can see some of the works in the show on the Spring Show 2008 page of their website. In total, the exhibition contained 189 paintings with prices ranging from £200 to £6,000 although most of the works were in the £500-£2,500 price range. There were also a good number of sales stickers on the walls. (Tip for artists exhibiting in contemporary art galleries in London - neutral frames continue to be prevalent).

I've commented previously to readers of this blog and will do so again - the contemporary flavour of works in this exhibition is more marked than the work I see frequently on the Internet. There is not a lot of "traditional" style or photorealistic watercolour. There is much more of an interest in the painterly qualities of water based painting. I guess one could they say these are paintings which are proud to declare their water-based heritage and aren't trying to pretend to be something they're not.

The exhibition was well hung - with some very pleasing walls in terms of the size and colours in the mix of works by different artists. As I did in psotings about the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition 2008 (which has proved to be a very popular post with watercolour fans around the world) I have some shots of the gallery throughout this post to give you a sense of the works on display. Many thanks also to Hannah at the Bankside Gallery who supplied images of the individual pictures featured.

Battersea Allotment by Paul Newland RWS, NEAC
winner of The Turner Watercolour Award 2008 and Turner Medal
watercolour and gouache

Paul Newland won the 2008 Turner Watercolour Award for his painting Battersea Allotment.
The Turner Watercolour Award honours the most distinguished work in watercolour, which can include pen and ink or gouache, on paper. Previously awarded at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, this year the prize has been divided between the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour. Judges Rosalind Turner and Ronald Maddox PRI selected the winning painting from the works on display at the RWS Spring Exhibition, and presented the award of £2500 and a Turner medal at the private view.
RWS Members' News
His paintings mix watercolour and gouache and have an abstract quality while being representational in nature. His paintings communicated an intense enjoyment in gradations of colour and the use of the full range of edges - from the completely diffuse and sfumato effects (quite literally in the case of Battersea Allotment) to the precise, sharp and angular. I very much enjoyed his work and had it marked down to be featured in this post before I realised he'd won the Turner Watercolour Prize.

Paul Newland studied at the Slade School of Fine Art for his first degree and also has an MA in Art History and has participated in a number of mixed and one person shows. He was elected to full membership of the RWS in 1998 and to the NEAC in 2002.

I particularly enjoyed the painting of Autumn leaves by Fay Ballard AWRS. She graduated from Central Saint Martins Art School in September 2006 with an MA in Fine Art having previously studied History of Art at Sussex University. She also has a Diploma in Botanical Painting from the Chelsea Physic Garden and was elected as an Associate of the RWS last year.

Who are these vagabonds even more transient than we? watercolour
Fay Ballard ARWS

She combines painting in watercolour with an intense interest in all manner of items of a botanical nature. Her website describes her process...
Drawing inspiration from plants and working from direct observation, her paintings express human emotion through the beauty of nature.
Fortunately, the catalogue for the exhibition expanded on what this meant in relation to this particular painting - and I loved her description which I've repeated below
This painting was inspired by walks on Hampstead Heath last autumn when the sun shone through bright blue skies and the ground was covered with a carpet of leaves. I took a bunch of leaves home with me, piled them high on my desk and set to work drawing and painting. As the picture developed, the leaves began to take on expressions and emotions as I projected my own feelings into eacg leaf. The painting took several weeks. I make a rough pencil drawig first and then apply layers and layers of paint until I reach a density that is enough.
Fay Ballard ARWS - RWS Spring Exhibition Catalogue
If you enjoy this painting, then I suggest you visit her website to see more of Fay Ballard's watercolours and drawings.

Olwen Jones
, the Vice President of the Royal Watercolor Society was the featured artist in this show - and also enjoys natural forms and, in particular, working in botanical gardens. Below you can see a display of her work. I found it full of fresh and vibrant greens and an intriguing mix of realism and abstraction of shapes - it struck me that she finds the abstract patterns in reality. I also very much enjoyed the display of the graphite observational drawings in her sketchbooks - complete with annotations of colour - and would very much like to know where she gets such big sketchbooks!

Display of work by Olwen Jones RWS

The painting top centre in the display (and affected by glare from the windows opposite) is 'Mirror Reflections' which is the image on the flyer for the exhibition - at the top of this post.
Here is a painter who is fascinated by shadows and reflections, by layering, texture and edges. Her contemplative pictures are built from observation and from improvisation, one is never quite sure what one is seeing.
RWC - Spring Show Catalogue
Olwen Jones trained at the Harrow School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Her work is held in public collections across the country. Olwen Jones is also a painter/printmaker and if you'd like to see examples of her prints, then I suggest you take a look at the images of her prints in the Government Art Collection.

Preggio, Umbria
Liz Butler

I found this painting by Liz Butler to be particularly arresting as I felt I'd been there. Some of my readers - you know who you are - probably have! The reason I was drawn to it is probably because I've attempted to do a very similar scene myself - which was started one afternoon while sitting on a roof terrace of a house in Umbria which really does have quite amazing scenery! (You can see Wynn's view of Umbria here).

The forms in her painting are very realistic but her treatment of colour is very interesting - it's almost mystical. She says
This is my first in a series of paintings about this area, the colour at different times of the year and the mood brough on by the ever altering light can change the same piece of land enormously, giving me much scope for painting.
Liz Butler RWS - RWS Spring Show Catalogue
Other member artists whose work attracted my attention included Diana Armfield (as always) and her painting of a vineyard in France; Annie Williams (ditto); Jenny Wheatley's vivid paintings of Collioure, Leslie Worth's seascapes (which are becoming increasingly Turneresque), all of James Rushton's work (see more of his non-watercolour work here on his NEAC page) and Michael McGuinness's drawing of a bare tree.

If you want to see more work by member artists, visit the members page and then click on a name - and this will produce a single image of that artist's work. As I indicated a year ago, it would be really nice to see this developed and expanded to either being a web-page per artist (as one finds with a number of the other national societies) and/or a link to the artist's website or main gallery so that people could appreciate more of their work. So many people look to start the purchasing process online these days that it very much seems like a missed opportunity.

Between 29th April – 11th May, highlights from this show can be seen at The Assembly House,Theatre Street, Norwich NR2 1RQ (01603 626402)

In 2006, RWS Friends in East Anglia was founded. RWSFEA is based in Cambridge and is devoted solely to watercolour. For more information about RWS Friends in East Anglia please refer to the contact details on the Friends page of the website.

The next show by the RWS is in August when they are doing a joint show with the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers which is also based at the Bankside Gallery.
Summer in the City
Thu 31-Jul-2008 to Sun 24-Aug-2008

A joint exhibition from the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.
Later in the year is the Autumn Show.
Royal Watercolour Autumn Exhibition
Mon 6-Oct-2008 to Sun 9-Nov-2008

All works are available to buy. Art Event Day tbc.
Finally, if you visit my Travels with a Sketchbook blog, you can see the sketch I did of The shoreline at Bankside - plus a few details about the local history of this very historic part of London.

[Update 15.4.08. If you enjoyed reading the above you may also be interested in today's blog post The RWS / Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2008 invites entries ]


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