Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: "High Watermark" at the Mall Galleries

Paintings of Thames Bridges by the Presidents of the RI and RWS at HighWatermarks Exhibition
(left) Ronald Maddox PRI Hon RWS - Summer, Hungerford Bridge
(right) David Paskett PRWS - St Paul's and Millenium Bridge in the Snow

High Watermark opens today at the Mall Galleries and runs until 3pm on Saturday 20th August.

I was at the Private View yesterday and this thread contains some images of the exhibition and my thoughts on it.

This is the way the exhibition is described.
The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) and the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) are joining forces once again to promote the very best of British watercolours and fresh work in water-soluble media – a highlight of the summer calendar. Exhibition organised in association with Bankside Gallery.
The first half of the exhibition was at the Bankside Gallery in July.  There are:
High Watermark - Annual Joint Exhibition 2011 by members of the RI and RWS
The exhibition fills the West gallery (only) and displays a variety of media and styles.  It's well hung - grouping paintings by members of both societies into small clusters characterised by either palette or subject matter or style.  Its punctuation by blue paintings can clearly be seen when viewed from the entrance level.

Now for more about the exhibition in terms of the paintings!

As with most themed exhibitions,. some have made an effort to address the theme while others have ignored it.

The theme of High Watermark has very definitely been thought about by some of the contributors.  I was amused by John Newberry RWS's take on it - his painting of an aquaduct seemed very apt!

Aqueduct, Segovia by John Newberry RWS
Abercastle by Mark Raggett ARWS

The two Presidents - Ronald Maddox PRI, (President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour) and David Paskett PRWS, (President of the Royal Watercolour Society) had both opted to paint pedestrian bridges over the River Thames - see image at the top of this post.

There were Maritime paintings on the end wall

Paintings of the sea and coastline
(Left) Bedruthan Steps by Bob Rudd RI 
(right) In the Quiet where the Seagulls Ride by David Firmstone PPRWS

plus a corner devoted to boats and boatyards - where I spotted a painting by that well known marine artist (he will appreciate the irony) Mat Barber Kennedy RI (Mat Barber Kennedy) who lives in New York.  I'm very enthusiastic about his paintings of buildings and it was a complete surprise to find he does boats equally well!  (See comments for Mat's explanation of this painting)

Two sons, Savannah by Mat Barber Kennedy RI

I also very much liked the subtle winter colours displayed in a couple of figurative paintings of beaters by Colin Allbrook RI RSMA.  They seemed to me to be excellent examples of the type of more traditional watercolour of the English Countryside which sadly seems to be less prevalent these days.

Watercolour paintings by Colin Allbrook RI

The painting which intrigued me most was by Anna Dudley Neil RI.  I had my nose close up the glass trying to work out her technique.  It's either some form of scratching out or alternatively the use of water-based inks and a pen - as her paintings are full of tiny marks which are close to but not exactly hatching.  It's very effective when combined with transparent glazes in creating a painting with a very dense pattern of marks and glazes using a limited palette

Glenwood Canyon, Colorado by Anna Dudley Neill RI

If you're in London this week I suggest you take some time out to go and see it. Admission is free.

You can also see paintings by members of the RI in their only out of London show in 2011 - RI in Winchester at the Minster Gallery, Winchester, Hampshire between 13 October to 12 November 2011

The RWS Autumn Exhibition will be at the Bankside Gallery between 7th October – 5th November 2011



  1. You're right Katherine, John Newbury's interpretation of the theme is superb and by the looks of it brilliantly executed. I wish I could see the show.

  2. Katherine, so glad that you reviewed the show and that you continue to tirelessly promote and disseminate information with such enthusiasm. Glad that you liked my boat painting. There was an uncertainty and a fear around the southern coastal waters and the shrimping industry in general when I was in savannah in 2010 shortly after the bp leak chugged millions of gallons of oil into the gulf of mexico. I wanted the painting to present the shrimping industry under a threatening sky and with a suspicion that things might never be restored. Yours, mat barber kennedy

  3. I was struck by the strong verticals of the bridge paintings... very unexpected. The one on the right is so dynamic and rich. I live Austin, Texas, and kayak the rivers here, often sketching bridge. I remember taking my wife to London and really enjoying the Royal Academy and all the watercolors up at the Tate.

    Wonderful blog,
    I too enjoy your boat painting :)

  4. Thanks Mat - great explanation for your boat painting - makes it all the richer for me now!

  5. Hi Nick - if you ever get to London again visit Tate Modern on Bankside and then look out of one of the vertical slit windows in the galleries - and you'll see the very vertical view of the Millennium Bridge which David Paskett painted.

    What's particularly neat about these two bridges is that each President has painted a bridge close to the gallery where their art society exhibits.

  6. thanks for the tip Katherine! I'll be looking for some new views for my own bridge scenes too. I'm traveled out here recently. New York and Hawaii. No complaints, but time for a rest. Enjoying your posts, Nick


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