Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Royal Society of Marine Artists - Annual Exhibition 2011

On Tuesday I was at the very well attended Private View of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists at the Mall Galleries.  This very popular event is recognised as the most prestigious and varied exhibition of marine art in the UK - it includes 307 works of art in all media.

 The exhibition continues until 23 October 10am - 5pm daily (but closes at 12pm on the final day)
The RSMA is one of the smaller societies affiliated to the Federation of British Artists at the Mall but it regularly features as one of the top 3 selling exhibitions in the Mall Galleries which probably relates to the enduring popularity of good marine painting and sculpture in the United Kingdom and the high standard of the work on show.
RSMA Website
Private View of the Annual Exhibition 2011 of the Royal Society of Marine Artists

It was opened by Pen Hadow, the first person to trek solo, and without resupply, from Canada across the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice to the North Geographic Pole.

Below are details of the artists who won awards, the work I liked, demonstrations during the course of the exhibition - and how to become a member of the society.

RSMA Prize List 2011

  • The Charles Pears Award For the most promising work by a non-member. Won by Fedor Gridnev for “Wharf” (119)
  • The RSMA-Worshipful Company of Shipwrights' Young Marine Artists Award
    • First prize (£500) won by David Cass
    • Second prize (£200) won by Rebecca Molloy for “ Boats” (306)
  • The Conway Maritime Press Award - “The Age of Sail” For work celebrating sail in the broadest sense, from historic ships to training ships to global yacht racing. Won by John Groves for “Running the Easting Down” (120)
 Running the Easting Down” (120) by John Groves 
  • The Russel and Chapple Prize For the most outstanding work in oil or acrylic, featuring sails. Won by GancedoTransparency” (113)
  • The Classic Boat Prize  For work broadly celebrating the subject-matter of Classic Boat magazine; particularly wooden boats and yachts, or traditional crafts associated with them. Won by David Howell Heading for the next job” (131)
 Heading for the next job by David Howell (131) 
  • The Derek Gardner "Deep Seas" Award Won by Jenny MorganThe Huddersfield Town hauls her trawl” (185)
  • The Sea Pictures Gallery Award – “Working Relationships” For work depicting the working side of the marine environment. Won by John Lines RSMA “Humber workers” (166)
  • The Winsor & Newton Oil Prize For the best oil painting. Won by Douglas GrayCaptain Sydney T. Smith MBE” (117) - see East Gallery photo below.
  • The Arts Club Award One year’s free membership to the Dover Street Arts Club. Won by James BartholomewBoats” (27)
Quayside Boats, St Ives by James Bartholomew

In general, the exhibition displayed a high standard of painting in a variety of media.  Most are in oil, however there are also very good works in pastel or watercolour. The exhibition places a heavy emphasis on the figurative and representational although some of the painting is more impressionistic than hyper-realistic.

The best paintings are those which have a very persuasive colour palette.  It's not necessarily 100% accurate but it is always sympathetic to the time and the place.  It's the deviation from the record in the photo which creates the art.

The exhibition includes a few examples of art which I'm less enamoured by.  Those remaining too faithful to the photo tend to 'stick out' - mainly because they are in the company of a lot of artists who know how to make better use of reference photos.  Hyper-realism was not rewarded in the prize-giving.  To my mind, the exhibition seems to value a painterly type of realism much more than hyper-realism per se.  The second category of paintings I liked less included some done by people of popular views of holiday destinations.   Some people avoid cliche better than others.

I was also impressed by paintings which portrayed light very well without using rather a lot of Titanium White right at the end.

A couple of artists whose work impressed me included:
  • Ivan Lapper RSMA - I very much liked a couple of his paintings in he West Gallery.   One is featured on the cover of the catalogue (see top) and this is the other - which kept drawing my eye back to it.
Reflections at Gweek, Cornwall by Ivan Lapper
  • Gareth Brown whose paintings feature on the top left and top right below.  They're both complex and colourful.

Here are some more views of the show

One of the walls in the East Gallery
Demonstrations and events

A number of members demonstrate or participating in other events during the course of the exhibition.  Today it was David Curtis ROI RSMA.  Here's the listing for the rest of the exhibition.

The RSMA is dedicated to celebrating the sea in all its aspects - the sea itself, its ships and vessels, its coastal scenes and buildings, its birds and creatures.  There are no restrictions as to subject, style or medium - other than the art has to be about the sea and tidal waters.

It's a bit of a blokey art society (as one might expect!) - but it also has lady members and some of these are prominent in the running of the society.

Those seeking to become members need to read the Membership queries page on the RSMA website.  Here's an extract from what they have to say.
Firstly you must submit to the Annual Exhibition work of a consistently high standard and suitable subject matter. It is worth reiterating here that we are a marine society and submissions must be essentially marine in character, pertaining to the sea or tidal waters. Images of waterways, canals etc. will not be accepted. Over a period of years a good proportion of the work you submit must be accepted (you may submit up to 6 pieces, of which a maximum of 4 can be selected). If you constantly fail to get a fair percentage of your work accepted then it is unlikely that you have been unlucky with your selection juries but more likely that you are doing something wrong or the work is simply not good enough to make the grade. You should try to discuss this with some of the Members and do take the trouble to visit the Annual Exhibition to judge the quality of the work that is accepted.
The exhibition catalogue contains an artwork in the exhibition from every member.  It's worth getting hold of a copy if you want to see the standard set by member artists.  You an also see artwork from previous exhibitions in the posts below



  1. I went to see this exhibition yesterday and have since read your post. I particularly liked James Bartholemew's use of pastel with watercolour.
    You have raised some interesting points and set me thinking as to what extent cliche is avoided or not.
    I'd like to go back and spend some more time there.
    I have stood on that harbour wall at St Ives looking down on the boats and that painting brought back for me the sense of being there far more than a postcard could.
    You say this is in the top 3 for selling, any idea what the other two are?

  2. I don't - although I could hazard a guess based on my experience of seeing red dots!

    I'll check with the Mall Galleries and see if I can find out.


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.