Saturday, December 05, 2015

Review: Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters 2015

a view of the Main Gallery of the Mall galleries and the ROI Annual Exhibition
I visited the 2015 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters yesterday afternoon - and came away with a theory about framing. That's going to take some number-crunching and another post to reveal however it's likely to be very relevant to next year's exhibition - and those of others who exhibit at the Mall Galleries.

As you enter the Main Gallery
Back to the ROI Exhibition - first a summary of what I noticed about the show, then the prizewinners and finally a shout out for the artists whose work I liked best in the show!

I'll be covering the ROI Young Artists tomorrow and the framing question on Sunday.

The exhibition is open every day (10-5pm) until 1pm on Sunday 13th December at the Mall Galleries. Admission £3, £2.50 concessions, Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, ROI Friends, National Art Pass holders and under 18s.

You can read the e-catalogue on Issue - this gives you sizes and media and prices for the work selected for the show - and is a recommended read for all artists who aim to submit work via the open entry.

There are additional events:
  • the ROI Paint Live event: 10am - 5 pm
  • oil painting demonstrations by members of the ROI (free with admission) - as follows for the remainder of the show
  • the ROI Art Event evening on 9th December - easels and boards available - bring your own materials and buy a ticket!
  • the President's Tour on 9th December


The exhibition is on show in the West and North Galleries. I was extremely pleased to see that there is now a much better mix of artwork by members and juried artwork by artists from the open entry between the two galleries. This has been a bit of a theme of mine in the past and this change has allowed some excellent paintings from the open entry to find a place in the Main gallery.

At the same time if serves to reduce the discontinuity between Main Gallery and the North Gallery which at times, made some Fed. Society exhibitions look a bit like chalk and cheese (and not always in favour of the members!).

Sadly I'm not sure the hang does justice to this much better mix.

That said parts of the hang are delightful. I particularly enjoyed this wall of traditional subjects in contemporary ivory white frames.

Paintings by Roger Dellar and Lucy McKie
This colourful section held the centre of the South Wall in the Main Gallery with conviction
It includes on the right three paintings by the late George Devlin ROI (Obituary)
On some walls more traditional frames and subject matter were successfully hung next to more contemporary paintings to the detriment of neither.

A wall in the Main Gallery
However - I'm afraid I really wasn't a fan of the hang in the first room of the North Gallery (with the exception of the Young Artists wall which was extremely well hung).

It wasn't anything to do with the paintings. It was much more that they didn't talk to one another - the discontinuities were too marked, the eye level and lines were wandering and the balance was really off.  It looked a bit like a hang by committee with everybody doing a little bit. I'm a big fan of the 2+2=6 approach to hanging a wall where the placement and juxtaposition makes every painting look that bit better.

One view of the North Gallery

A new website for the ROI

The ROI have a new website. I'm not sure when they updated it.

The plus point is it is now uses a responsive template which means it's mobile friendly - something that is now essential for the websites of all artists and art societies. The minus points (and there are a few) are that the content does not do the ROI justice.

Personally I find it very disappointing. It has:
  • no information about the exhibition 
    • no dates, no venue, 
    • no names of selected artists via the open entry, 
    • no details of events during the course of the exhibition. I had to look at the Mall Galleries website for all these details.  
    • It's got a lot of other information than frankly would have waited in line while the essential content was updated.
    • the 'Call for Entries' is just one part of an exhibition - there's a lot more information that needs to be on a website it it is to market that exhibition effectively.
  • the first sentence of the section on "About the ROI" is both wrong and misleading.
  • it completely excludes any reference to artists who have achieved AROI status.
I made exactly the same points last year. I'd recommend that now the exhibition is over, a great deal of effort is put into getting its "24/7 exhibition" on its website 'house' in order for the benefit of all its members.

This is a very old and prestigious art society which needs to give the world a good impression.

[Update: I'm pleased to say that the website has now received a limited update with respect to the exhibition]


Below the links in the names are to the websites of the artists.

The Phyllis Roberts Award (for oil painters under 35)  - £2,000
Self Portrait by Bernadette Timko
Oil, 36 x 25 cm £800
Bernadette Timko is a very impressive young painter - I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work. I wish she had a website!

The Alan Gourlay Memorial Award 
- an annual prize of £1,000 for a painting of outstanding merit 
Holly Hill, Hampstead by Christopher Keays ROI
Frank Herring Easel Award - an easel
From Lambeth Bridge by David Walker (open entry)
Oil on canvas 120 x120cm
David consistently produces large and impressive paintings. I imagine his subject matter probably finds a lot of interest amongst art collectors working in the City of London....

The DAS Award - £500 and Bristol Blue Glass Bowl
Age of Elegance by Peter Graham ROI
Peter paints in an emphatically colourful way - very much the type of painting that people will have strong feelings about one way or the other. However there's no question that colourful paintings carry well across large spaces.

The Menena Joy Schwabe Memorial Award - £250
Horseshoe by Clive Burnell
I gather this painting is collecting a lot of very positive comments. You can see it on the mezzanine/bookshop level before the stairs.

The L. Cornelissen & Son Award
- a contemporary version of a Victorian Oil Painter's equipment
The Cocktail Bar, RAC by Roger Dellar ROI RI PS
14 x 18" Acrylic

The Dartington Crystal Chalice Award
In recognition of outstanding service and contribution
Roger Dellar ROI RI PS
I'm loving Roger's new more contemporary approach to framing his work.

The Le Clerc Fowle Medal 
Group of Work by Michael Weller
 It would have been nice to see this group actually hung as a group.

Winsor & Newton Non-Member Award - £150 worth of Winsor & Newton Fine Art Materials
Whitstable Bay by Bruce Williams
This was a small painting with a very impressive sky.

The Artist Magazine Award - a feature in The Artist magazine
Paint Brush by Richard Combes ROI
Paintings of paint brushes pop up in exhibitions at the Mall Galleries with some regularity. They are always very good!

The Dry Red Press Award 
- published as a greeting card with royalties from the sale of the cards going to the artist
Still Life with Anenomes by Linda Alexander AROI 

The art I wanted to take home

My routine when visiting an exhibition is to walk around to start with at some distance from the paintings to see which ones catch my eye and which ones want me to walk over for a closer look. I don't look at labels until the second walk round.

This time the artists who stood out for me - other than Bernadette Timko - were:

Chris Bennett ROI - I loved two of his paintings. 

Oddly his website doesn't seem to reflect recent paintings - although I can see more of his lovely garden paintings on a gallery website. I very liked the use of acrylic in this painting (below) - and the subject and the colour palette.

The Ring Pond, Chatsworth by Chris Bennett ROI
I loved the posture, play of shadows and use of coloured greys in this painting. It's very muted but really caught my eye. It's also a painting by somebody who very obviously paints people a lot.

Looking at Pictures by Chris Bennett ROI
John Sprakes ROI caught my eye by treating acrylic in an unusual way. It's so nice to see people exploring what paint can do.

A small section of 'Hadrian's Wall below Steel Rig'
I'm a big fan of interesting paintings of gardens and enjoyed this one of a vegetable garden by Anna Dennis - from the open entry. It's a largish painting and is hung in the main gallery.

During the Summer by Anna Dennis
Oil, 90 x 100cm
This painting by Dennis Spicer (open entry) was hung in the corner of the North Gallery which is never the best of spots - but really caught my eye every time I passed it. I'm not in the least bit surprised it has sold.

Studio Table 1 by Dennis Spicer
oil, 60 x 50 


  1. Great review about what seems to a fascinating show. Looking forward to follow up pieces, particularly about framing.

  2. I am glad to have recently subscribed to your blog as it is packed with so much useful information and I enjoyed this review on the ROI show (and was taken by suprise at seeing my painting in your post, it made my day! Thank you.) I look forward to reading and learning from your post on framing.

  3. A well balanced review. Thanks for the mention.

  4. A good review, and thanks for the mention


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