Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review: Royal Watercolour Society - Spring Exhibition 2009

The Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society at the Bankside Gallery in London is for works by Members and Associate Members only.

View of Bankside Gallery all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell,
all paintings copyright the artists

Unlike the recent 21st Century Watercolour Exhibition - which I know disappointed quite a few people due to the lack of pure watercolour - this exhibition has many more paintings in pure watercolour and in my opinion was all the better for that.

Special mention must go to David Brayne who is the featured artist. The end wall had a very striking collection of his paintings which he creates using raw pigment and acrylic gel.
My working method starts with the use of raw pigments to creat my own colours. It involves a lot of risk taking and is a lengthy process. I am never entirely sure what to expect but I couldn't make these paintings any other way
David Brayne RWS Spring Exhibition 2009 catalogue
All his paintings had a wide painted frame and no mat (and no slip showing either). It looked very much as if they had been framed using spacers between glass and painting. I thought they looked most impressive framed in this way.

Annie Williams RWS RE won the Turner Prize for Watercolour. I think this must be new as I don't recall ever seeing this being awarded before. However it's jolly nice seeing a Turner Prize being awarded for watercolours for a change! I certainly never ever tire of looking at her paintings.

I've asked her (while demonstrating in the past) how she works and it's really good to see a detailed explanation of how she creates her watercolours on her member's page on the RWS website. Here's a small extract.
I love to use colour, shapes and patterns and the effect of light and shade – still life allows me to use all of these. The backgrounds are often abstract contrasting with the more carefully drawn objects. The colour is built in layers of thin wash.
Annie Williams
Overall the exhibition was a pleasing mix of
  • realism (eg Paskett VPRWS) through figurative (eg Berry RWS RE and Bawden RWS RE) and the abstracted (eg Hackney RWS) to the completely abstract (eg Henderson ARWS)
  • watercolour, gouache, watercolour used with other media (eg pastel, collage with paper) and some use of acrylics. As indicated earlier what it was most pleasing to see were some excellent paintings made using just pure watercolour.
  • a complete range of approaches from the very traditional (eg Doyle, Roxby Bott and Halliday) to the more adventurous and innovative (eg Brayne) and those mixing watercolour with other media (eg pastel in the case of Rushton)
Artists whose work stood out for me included:
  • Michael Chaplin's large painterly - in a loose washy sense - works
  • Liz Butler - whose paintings of trees in this exhibition were all very small for a change
  • Harry's Chair by Michael McGuinness RWS - a great pleasure for those who like the very plain and simple. It's also a complete contrast to some of his other work.
  • I loved Stuart Robertson RWS's Nepalese Lions for the great colours and the rich sense of textures.
Pictures at the entrance - on the left (including Dawn bottom left)
and the right (including Nepalese Lions bottom right)
  • The delicacy of Dawn by Alexander Vorobyev RWS grabbed me from the get go as I entered the gallery and drew me in - which is amazing given its very high key palette and total lack of contrast. It was like a mesmeric maze for contemplation where you just need to sit and look at it and follow all the various indistinct figures around the painting. Read his comments on his work on his member's page - it's fascinating
I normally really love the work of Jane Corsellis RWS, Paul Newland RWS, Leslie Worth PPRWS and Fay Ballard AWRS but somehow this time around it was more of a case of like but not love. I was also puzzled as to why some members weren't showing anything at all.

Finally I can confirm that I didn't see a single work which looked like it might have been created other than by hand using a brush! Nobody in this exhibition is trying to be hyperealistic to that extent!


Peggy Montano & Paintings said...

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into this great show.
I will go through it again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for alerting me to the RWS current exhibition. I hope to visit it soon. Interesting that David Brayne doesn't use a mat. I rarely use one when framing pictures for myself, but if I take pictures for criticism or appraisal, the general comment is that they need a mat. I like pictures that go right up to the frame.


Making A Mark said...

Jenni - I think the framing with a mat is seen as the 'academic/museum oriented' way of doing this.

The reality is that as long as there is no chance of the paper touching the glass it's fine.

Robyn Sinclair said...

Thanks for the preview, Katherine. What a shame the RWS only posts thumbnails of its members work. It would be lovely to be able to click through to a larger image. I guess it's okay if one can later visit the exhibition but unfortunately this one can't :(

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