Monday, March 04, 2024

Review of RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

I visited the Annual Exhibition 2024 of the Royal Society of British Artists last week at the Private View - which became increasingly packed with people as the afternoon became evening. I'll be trying to see if I can go back before it ends.

It's open every day until Saturday 9th March (10am - 5pm) at the Mall Galleries in London.

I LOVE the Catalogue cover. It illustrates perfectly the diverse nature of the artwork in this exhibition It's also much fairer to all those artists who work hard to produce excellent artwork to have so many gracing the front cover. Plus it has a very contemporary look!

Catalogue of the RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

There are 495 artworks in the show - which I think is slightly more than usual. You can view and read the catalogue onlineThe artwork covers
  • paintings and drawings in various different media
  • fine art prints - which are generally of a very high quality and look amazing when hung together on the Print Wall in the East Gallery
  • sculpture which is very diverse in terms of theme, media and construction. I am emphatically not a fan of 
Examples of "below the eyeline" sculpture in this shot
two on very short plinths 
and one sat on the floor - which is very easy to miss entirely

Note to Mall Galleries: Get a LOT more decent sized plinths so we see less sculpture on the floor or very near the floor.

You can also explore the exhibition online and see ALL the artwork in the show as follows:
  • on the Mall Galleries website - where you can list artworks in
    • alphabetical order by artist's surname (or reverse alpha order) - this is the way to view if you want to see all the artworks by one artist in the show.
    • by price - ascending or descending
  • my photos of the show - which I've placed in Facebook Albums as follows
However I was very disappointed at the performance of the website - I got absolutely zero results when entering:
  • the title of a works 
  • the name of an artist from the open entry, it came 
That's just NOT good enough! It also does not promote sales by those who know the artists in the open entry!

Note to Mall Galleries: make sure people can search for titles of ALL the artwork and ALL exhibiting artists on the new website!!!

Plus Mick Davies, President of the Royal Society of British Artists introduces the artwork in the exhibition in the video below. (The "background" music is a bit too strident for my liking!)

I'm going to adopt the same approach I used in 2021 for the first exhibition which reopened the Mall Galleries. The focus is on artwork I liked. It's one which works well with such a diverse set of paintings, drawings, fine art prints and sculpture about diverse subject matter.

Artwork I liked

These aren't going to be the artworks judged best in show. For those you need to read
Award Winners | RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

These are the artworks which appealed to me.

Best Portrait

For me this portrait by Aelfred Hillman had it all. I loved this painting - which demonstrates a great eye for design, brilliant painting of skin tones and an equally wonderful treatment of the natural landscape in terms of both water and vegetation.VERY impressive.

It won the Ronald Morgan Memorial Award - which had not been announced when I was there - and I'm not surprised! Last year he was one of the "Rising Stars" of the RBA and was shortlisted for the RBA Rome Scholarship.

This painting is more sophisticated than the painting at the exhibition last year.

"The Prickle of the Rushes" by Aelfred Hillman
oil, 63 x 63cm framed

I also very much liked this portrait which made me stop and stare. This is by Joshua Donkor one of the "Rising Stars" of the RBA who was shortlisted for the RBA Rome Scholarship in 2023. He is a Ghanaian-British painter, whose work uses portraiture as a tool to subvert monolithic portrayals of Black identity.

(Note: I didn't know this until I came to write this blog post!)

Sankofa by Joshua Donkor 
Oil, 123x103cm

Best Urban Landscape

Palazzio Dario by Austin Cole RBA
Etching with aquatint,
38x21cm (60x43cm framed)

The primary reason for it being the best urban landscape is it's the one which made me very nearly get out my plastic. I'm having a think about it. 

This follows my two failed attempts to do justice to the Palazzo Dario while sat in front of it in Venice! It's got a tilt - and you need to get it just right - as Austin has!

Best Rural Landscape

This painting caught my eye and made me come back to it for a photo on its own. I liked the fact it was about trees and I also like the graphic treatment of the trees. Plus the entirely natural but simplified colour palette. The stripy sky just mesmerised me!

Marie Lenclos is an oil painter who works in South London and mainly paints urban landscapes with lots of very sharp straight lines - so this one is quite a divergence from her normal practice. She came to London to study Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Art in 1995 and has made her life in London ever since.

The Trees, August 23 by Marie Lenclos
Oil on linen, 70x70cm (72x72cm framed)

More trees - I like trees!  I also very much liked this small work (below). Mostly because of the tight cropped composition which is just looking at trees. You don't need any more than that. Trees on their own are very interesting! You just need to know how to look at them!

Autumn by Alison Holt
Freemotion embroidery on painted silk, 18x18cm (35x35cm framed)

Alison Holt is a UK contemporary textile artist with a Fine Art Embroidery BA Hons degree from Goldsmiths College, London. She specialises in freehand machine embroidery. Everytime I see one of her works, I go "Wow" first and then realise yet again it is not a painting, but rather machine embroidery!


Best Interior

More a Warehouse than a Factory
Oil on board, 31x41cm (34x44cm framed)

A small painting with a very unusual perspective from the ceiling looking - made extremely puzzling by how this was achieved given the amount of "stuff" in the room.

I'm assuming somebody's got an iphone on a very long "selfie stick"! ;) 

Best Still Life

Fallen by Michael Corkrey
Oil on canvas
140 x 220cm

I really liked this very large painting a lot and was really surprised that, despite the fact it got a feature spot it didn't get a prize.

Pots and Doodles by Annie Williams RWS RE RBA
Watercolour, 27x36cm (46x54cm framed)

I've been watching Annie Williams RWS RE RBA produce still paintings in watercolour very like this for the last 30+ years and yet they are all different and every time I see one I want to buy it.

She has a very neat "trick" for making them interesting. A collection of excellent ceramics and paper sitting on a reflective surface which she paints with interesting geometric shapes and colours which act as a background. It's a very simple formula with very satisfying results - if you have an eye like mine!

Plus she also keeps her prices very reasonable - which is another reason why she sells so many!

The Precarious Chair by Isobel Scott Malden

Isobel Scott Malden has produced a meticulous painting of a chair on a stair landing. It's very simple and satisfying to look at - for all sorts of reasons - the colour palette, the converging lines either side, the convex mirror to the rear, the curves on the end of the armrests which pick up and mimic the curve of the table and rounded profile of the top of the handrail on the staircase. 

My painting was the first to sell in the show and was awarded Highly Commended by The Philip de Laszlo Foundation.


Best Sculpture

This just grabbed my eye - and I think the eyes of most other people - as they entered the East Gallery. Putting it on a plinth which elevated it really made the most of quality of this piece. The colour is also most arresting!

"Still" by Frippy Jameson
exhibited in resin (which makes it easier to transport)
available for sale in bronze only (lead time of 8-12 weeks in foundry)
Frippy Jameson studied Fine Art Sculpture at Camberwell College of Art and Design and City & Guilds of London Art School where she was awarded the Madame Tussaud Prize for Portraiture. She trained in stone-carving at The Portland Sculpture Trust, Tout Quarry and with traditional stone carvers of Mahabalipuram, Southern India.

I also very much liked virtually  all the fine art prints in the exhibition. The Prints Wall in the East Gallery is outstanding. You can see more of them at the beginning of my East gallery album.

The Prints Wall in the East Gallery

I was also very taken with the pets corner in the West Gallery (see below). That dog with the pink hat just makes me smile!

Pets Corner - where people lingered long....

I'm also going to repeat something I said in last year's review of this exhibition.

It needs saying AGAIN!
NOTE: I tried to look up a number of artists exhibiting in the exhibition - both members and non-members using the Artist Explorer facility on the Mall Galleries website. I got ZERO RESULTS for all queries. The only way I could access pages for member artists was via Google! I'd suggest the database webware facility is seriously dysfunctional at present - and not meriting a tab on the top menu.

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