Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: a vision in monochrome

There was a time when I couldn’t understand why anyone would enjoy a London summer. When born-and-bred city types would tell me “there’s nowhere I’d rather spend my summer than London,” I called ‘bullshit’ loud and clear. Can you forgive me? I grew up in Cornwall, the unequivocal sunshine spot for anyone more than a stone’s throw from the Med (psst: if you’re after some summery suggestions for Cornwall, read this post).

Anyway, 2015 is my fifth summer in this fine city and holy hell, I cannot believe I’m typing that. Someone pass me the wrinkle cream pronto, this country girl has lost track of time. Time has made me wiser and more patient – i.e. I am no longer the girl who bursts into tears on the tube because it’s all just TOO BUSY AND HOT – and now, I have grown somewhat fond of the summer months in London. Will I ever bump a paddle at Gwithian Beach in favour of ciders in Hyde Park? No; but this city certainly provides a multitude of welcome alternatives.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

One such pleasantry is the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Uninterrupted for 247 years, it is the largest open exhibition in the world and every edition provides enough artworks for visitors to love, hate, cherish, and sometimes take offence at. And I mean that; there are over 1,000 artworks there. If a wander ’round these rooms doesn’t stir every emotion you’re capable of, go around again.


Every year, there’s a stand out artist for me. Last year, it was Bob and Roberta Smith, with his rambling socio-political commentary paint-scrawled onto canvas. Despite Smith exhibiting again this summer, it was Alan Charlton’s simple Triangle Painting that most affected me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently been working with the talented Evy Jokhova (scroll down to see a video I shot of her), but I feel drawn to angular aesthetics with neutral, near-natural tonality. In a happy turn of events, this stunning piece is for sale! In an unhappy turn of events, it looks to fetch not a penny less than £60,000. Maybe next year.


Serene triangular canvases aside, the freedom of chaos – or should that be the chaos of freedom? – still holds a place in my imaginary-art-collector heart. Fiona Rae, a Royal Academician herself, gets this spot-on with FIGURE 1T.


Lastly – for now, at least; for I plan to make another visit to the Summer Exhibition before it shuts its doors on August 16th – I also loved Tracy Emin’s cute little animal sketches. They’re worlds away from her “look at how monumentally fucked up I am! Look!” approach to art in the 90s, which, as an Emin-hater of yesteryear, was music to my… eyes.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: as colourful as ever, and yet the monochrome submissions stole the show pour moi. Perhaps this imaginary art collector will emerge from trip deux with a splash of colour but for now, I’ll stick with my black and white choices.

Shout out to my pal, the gold Bould, for letting me drag her around art shows for four years now. Check out her blog on all things healthy-and-sometimes-not-so-healthy-living here! 

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