Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: 206th Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours

As usual I very much RECOMMEND a visit to the Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours at the Mall Galleries which continues until 21 April 2018.

Main Gallery
I've been getting queries sent to me asking about my review post! I was late getting to the exhibition due to prior commitments and a period of complete immobility so had been following online. However I finally got there last Friday and the exhibition did not disappoint. Indeed it's head and shoulders above last year's exhibition of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Threadneedle Gallery
North Gallery
I've also been getting comments from people saying they think it's the best one they've seen and that RI exhibitions have been getting better and better in recent times.

A very busy exhibition
The exhibition has been extremely well attended. That seems to be because of two things:
  • the RI has been making much better use of social media this year both beforehand and during the exhibition to show what's on display at the show and what's happening in the exhibition
  • there's a very extensive range of events and demonstrations during the course of the exhibition
Oddly, the website lacks a proper page for the exhibition and had no note of the events online. All the exhibition information is on the Mall Galleries website - including 
Anne McCormack demonstrating her curious technique on Friday
- watercolour on gesso with lots of gum arabic

Exhibition Metrics for 2017

This is a summary of the exhibition metrics for the annual exhibition in 2018

The exhibition includes 
  • 407 paintings by members and non-members were hung across the three galleries (405 if you discount the two paintings by HRH The Prince of Wales)
  • by 151 artists from 12 countries
  • 163 of works (40%) by 100 (66%) non-member artists were selected and hung in the exhibition.
  • 50 Members: averaged 4.88 works hung
  • 100 'Open' artists: averaged 1.63 works hung - although this included the people who were Candidates for Membership where the number of works hung varied between 2 and 4 paintings (I'm going to do a seperate post about Candidates to assist those wanting to see the level of work by those applying for full membership)
  • a lot of new sponsorship - and new prizes - you can see some of the Prizewinners below
Two interesting things to note are:
  • a new hardback book by the RI called "Then and Now" which provides an insight into the history of the RI and profiling its current members will be published in approx. 12 months time
  • the Victoria and Albert Museum have agreed to preserve the extensive collection of archive material from the foundation of the RI.

Other things I noticed

The prices seemed a lot more sensible than some of those in recent exhibitions I've seen at the Mall Galleries.

I gather research is done about those who might be selected for exhibition. Those submitted via the Open Entry with very silly prices but no obvious track record may have "deselected themselves". It's certainly the practice of one exhibition held at the Mall Galleries to require artists to adjust prices down to something more sensible unless they have evidence they sell regularly at that level.

The two medium sized paintings which had achieved the top priced sale as at last Friday were both under £2,000 - most sales were some way below this. Neither was by a member of the RI

Old as the Sea by Felicity Flutter
watercolour and graphite, (£1,850 sold)
I find it very disappointing to see paintings in acrylic in this exhibition which look like they are oils.

So far as I am concerned the rule should be that:
  • acrylic entered in watercolour exhibitions need to look like watercolours and demonstrate evidence of water (witness the fact that the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibitions is NOT using the "acrylic that looked like oils" which won the competition in 2017 for its marketing of the Call for Entries this year!)
  • acrylic entered in exhibitions by oil painters needs to look like oils i.e. if you want the flexibility to demonstrate what acrylic can do then enter it in an exhibition NOT associated with a traditional water colour media.
Fortunately there are very few such paintings in this exhibition and those that are, are typically by members. Works in acrylic selected for the exhibition typically looked as if water had been used at some stage.

For that reason I would very much recommend this exhibition as worthy of the attention of the watercolour painter who is happy to create paintings using water. 
  • It's by far the biggest watercolour exhibition and consequently is very busy with a lot of visitors.
  • Sales are respectable
  • the society does not practice segregation i.e. it mixes the members and non members work throughout the exhibition - and it looks a better exhibition for that.

Some of the Prizewinners

You can see all the prizewinners - and much better photos than mine (I realised too late that I had a smear on my lens!) in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Prizes & Awards album on the Mall Galleries Facebook Page. (The RI need to make sure they have the same images on their website for those who choose not to use Facebook!)

The most "look at me" large painting in the show is a night view of several sheets of paper from the top of the Shard. It won the Cass Arts prize and has already generated an interview with the artist Sarah Wimperis (who is a friend of mine) on the Cass Arts Blog. See Artist Interview: Sarah Wimperis wins the Cass Art Watercolour Prize at the RI Annual Exhibition in which she highlights why the RI is very special to her 

As Rosa Sepple, the President of the RI told me it was a painting which could have anchored any of the walls in any of the galleries in the exhibition. Exhibitions need "look at me" paintings!  Interestingly, back in 2011, Sarah anchored the feature wall in the North Gallery during the 199th RI Annual Exhibition with a large watercolour painting of a garden.

Cass Arts Prize - Sarah Wimperis
One Hundred to One from The Shard
watercolour and gouache
The Debra Manifold Memorial Award - Tianya Zhou 
Tibetan Old Amah 
I loved the four very skillful paintings of Tibetans by Tianya Zhou - one of which won  an award. More about these in my post about Candidates. He's very obviously an outstanding painter using traditional watercolours.

The Windsor & Newton Prize - Mark Elsmore
Multi Storey
Mark Elsmore won the new £3,000 Windsor and Newton prize.  He is based in the Potteries in Staffordshire. His work has been selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibitions on sixteen occasions, winning first prize in 2012.  This year he has been selected as a Candidate for Membership - and I'll show you more of his work in another post.

The Megan Fitzoliver Award - Harry Price RI
Below the Falls
Harry Price RI won the Megan Fitzoliver Award which is awarded to a Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours member whose work inspires a connection with the natural world.

Deborah Walker RI also continues to impress with her large watercolour paintings - and paintings with words in them. One of these 'anchored' the end wall in the Main Gallery. I chatted with fellow visitors whether her large and impressive painting of Westminster Bridge was painted before or after the terrorist attack last year

Paintings by Deborah Walker RI, Chris Forsey RI and Colin Kent RI
I loved thepantings of four RI members which are quite a contrast
Paintings by Bob Rudd RI

Paintings by Ian Sidaway RI
Paintings by Lilias August RI

Paintings by Sue Read RI
Admission to the Exhibition is £4, £3 concessions, 50% off with National Art Pass, Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, Friends of the RI and under 18s

ARCHIVE: RI Annual Exhibition 2007-2018

The purpose of this video isn't to give you an in-depth view of all the paintings so much as to give you:
  • an idea of the overall size of the exhibition
  • a notion of how big the paintings are that get selected via the open entry
  • a view of the paintings that were selected this year
This exhibition has always been very popular with the provincial art societies whose members arrive in droves - on coaches!

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