Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Review: Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2022

This exhibition is on for longer than most of the annual exhibitions of the art societies based at the Mall Galleries. The Annual Exhibition 2022 of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters opened at the Mall Galleries on 24th November and closes on 10th December.

This is a review of what I found when I visited in the first week. I've previously written about the prizewinners in Prizewinners at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2022

Annual Exhibition 2022

This exhibition comprises 285 paintings which are hung in the three galleries at the Mall Galleries. (This compares to 304 in 2019 which was the last ROI exhibition I went to and is the second lowest total since 2014)

The first thing is that I've uploaded my photos of the exhibition to my Facebook Page - by gallery - as follows:

Part of the hang in the East Gallery

Part of the West Gallery

I've highlighted paintings I liked and/or was intrigued by through photographs of the  individual paintings.

You will appreciate that I've reviewed such exhibitions many times - although I've missed the last two ROI Annual Exhibitions due the pandemic and shielding prior to surgery. (I got as far as the hospital a year ago today - before being sent home again!)

So I'm splitting this review into two halves
  • what I noticed
  • what I liked.
It's always interesting to do a review a little while after a visit to see if you still think the same as what you noted at the time.....

What I noticed

Themes for my commentary are as follows
  • Groups of artworks by members
  • Changing Times (Theme)
  • Young Artists
  • Small = Affordable?
  • Framing
  • Media
  • Sales
Groups of artworks by Members

I liked the grouping of artwork by members with very distinctive styles. It makes for a more impactful presentation.

Paintings by John Walsom 

Paintings by Trevor Chamberlain
Top: Lazy Summer Day, Richmond
Bottom: Twilight, Millenium Bridge

I liked the way two of Trevor Chamberlain's paintings were of different parts of the River Thames at different times of the day and yet the compositions bounced off one another.

"Changing Times" (Theme)

The theme for this year's exhibition was "Changing Times" which wasn't a requirement but provided scope for a thematic wall, except that.....

The end wall of the West Gallery was devoted to "Changing Times"

....The interpretation of the topic was so very wide that in some ways the wall lacked a unity normally associated with a theme. 

I liked some of the artwork on the "Changing Times" theme - but I do remember thinking that it was quite remarkable how many paintings were not associated with what I'd have thought were some of the very changing times we've just been through in the last two years. While at the same time there was a lot about children being born and growing up.....

I guess the challenge is to find a theme which is stimulating enough to get artists to produce work for the theme and, at the same time, to not make it so wide as to lose a sense of purpose.

Young Artists

Some of the Young Artists in the East Gallery

I liked a lot of the work in the Young Artists section in the East Gallery. I was a bit surprised the fact that work by Young Artists was grouped was 

  • not more clearly signalled on the walls of the Gallery - near to the artwork
  • not highlighted as being particularly relevant to the Young Artist Prizes sponsored by Winsor & Newton
  • not listed separately in the catalogue

The label 'Young Artist' was on every naming label for the artwork on the wall - but it was very easy to miss it - as I did for quite a few minutes until I realised what I was looking at. I think a Young Artist wall or section needs an explanatory text very close by e.g. how young is young and who is eligible

I'm guessing the high turnover of staff at the Mall Galleries in recent times means that some of the ingrained experience about how things have been done in the past has diminished to the point of close to non-existence.

Small = Affordable?

The North Gallery seemed to be very sparsely hung compared to most exhibitions.  It made me think that maybe the selectors were expecting more larger paintings - and were possibly somewhat flummoxed when they found they'd got a lot more smaller / small medium ones. 

Part of North Gallery

Artists from the last major (banking crash) recession will remember that the affordability of art becomes ever more critical if you want to generate a sale from buyers who are not impervious to the cost of living - and one of the ways of doing that is to reduce the size of your paintings to make them more affordable.

It may have been a deliberate decision for another reason - but I was struck by how the ratio on size had shifted since the last ROI exhibition I visited

Personally, I'd have given more space to the larger paintings hung in the West and East Galleries and made (and marketed) the North Gallery as "The Small Works / Affordable Art Gallery" - and made it a 'destination' people want to visit.

The small works wall in the West Gallery


More and more artwork is in neutral wooden frames. I particularly liked what Linda Alexander ROI had done with her group of paintings - using neutral but different colours/tones which suited the subject matter with every frame different but relating well to its neighbour

Black frames now stand out amongst the neutral tones - not always for the right reason!


I must update my tabulated media count across different years of the exhibition!
  • For the most part, in 2022 all paintings used oil
  • I counted just 8 (2.8%) which used acrylic. 
  • It's interesting to see how the support used for an oil painting is now highlighted more


If I remember, I'll be back to look at sales in the exhibition at the weekend. I was spotting good sales of affordable art but less movement in higher priced art and it would be interesting to know if that has changed

What I liked

Here are some of the paintings I liked

I really liked the two paintings by young artist Thomas Golunski - who also won one of the prizes. The appeal lay in the colours, the compositions and the handling of the paint. Very promising.  The name was familiar so I looked him up on my blog and found he'd participated in Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year this year
Thomas Golunski (Instagram | Twitter) | YouTube) - an artist and art teacher based in the West Sussex, working in primarily in Oils and Charcoal.

I very much liked two young artists who won top prizes and whose large paintings hung either end of the East end Wall in the East Gallery
Left: Self Portrait with James by Kayoon Anderson (oil on canvas 100 x 75cm)
Right: An Ordinary Day by Jie Zhuang (oil on linen, 80 x 100cm)

Left: Who said that Ordinary People are not Heroes for Epidemic by Jie Zhuang (oil on linen, 80 x 100cm)
Right: Baby and Grandpa by Kayoon Anderson (oil on canvas 100 x 100cm)

James Decent's painting of Hurtwood appealed to me because of the way he used colour to capture light in the evening. Apparently his inspirations for the handling of paint to indicate light are John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla and William Nicholson and I think he has learned his lessons well! James is the Director of an architectural practice when not painting.

I'm not in the least bit surprised it sold - despite being hung low on the small works wall.

Last light, Hurtwood by James Decent
oil on panel 30 x 40cm (framed) SOLD

The next photo has paintings by Adam Ralston at the top and the bottom (the middle one featured in my past post re prizewinners). I'm a fan of this plein air painter of beaches and the seaside - and it's nice to see him developing a new series which has endless options for repeats in terms of mealtimes and the breakfast table. I also enjoy the puns....

Two paintings by Adam Ralston
(top) Nobody calls me Chicken
(bottom) You're going to need a bigger bowl


2022 Exhibition

Previous Exhibitions

You can find links to my previous reviews of exhibitions below.

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