Sunday, 21 June 2009


Dark Water, Cumbria, one of three works exhibited at the RBSA Prize Exhibition

Last Thursday I went with Mum to see the Prize Show at the RBSA, where I have been lucky enough to have 3 pictures accepted for this exhibition. This is the first time Mum has come with me to see my pictures exhibited at the RBSA and I think she enjoyed the show. It’s a nice selection this year, mostly figurative work, all of good quality or better than good, plenty landscape and a little abstract work too. There is also a small selection of sculpture, and a few interesting constructions, the one I really liked was a mixed media piece called ‘Necklace I “Treasured”’ by Kathryn Pettitt (ARBSA), a long chain of mermaids purse shaped purses made in some kind of embroidery, each containing some token, it hung from the ceiling like a fishing net full of interesting mementoes dredged up from the sea bed. What appeared to be 3 small landscapes on the upper floor were actually embroidered pieces, immaculate things which I enjoyed looking at (by Jacque Wakely). There were many pieces that caught my eye, and I wish the RBSA could produce an illustrated catalogue, as it’s difficult to remember what was by whom. Two immense pieces that immediately got my attention were pastel drawings of disembodied heads rendered very slickly indeed on what looked like some kind of coarse pastel paper mounted on stretchers. These were ‘Nathalie’ and ‘Big Issue – Colmore Row’ by Oliver Jones. Each piece was framed in a Perspex box. They had an eerie impact, as well as being obviously virtuouso performances. Another piece I was attracted to, though it was on a much smaller scale, was an intricate and moody pen and ink drawing of what seemed to be a nocturnal scene, ‘Woodland & Water’ by Richard Dunne. I remember seeing work by this artist before, I particularly like finding pen and ink work as I specialise in that area myself, and you don’t very often come across pen and ink on a gallery wall. This piece held its own very well amongst the paintings, prints and drawings, it had a pretty hefty presence, and made my own pen and ink drawings seem much less substantial than I had believed them to be.

One other piece that sticks in my memory is a tiny work, maybe one of the smallest exhibited, it’s in the upstairs gallery in the far corner next to a window. ‘Silver Spoon’ by Deborah Pennack is a simple little still life of a spoon, and in the bowl is a tiny face. The self-portrait of the artist perhaps? The spoon and the gigantic faces were my favourite pieces in retrospect, though also memorable, and extremely impressive, were 3 paintings by John Shakespeare (RBSA). Two of these paintings are actually of the handing in day of works, presumably for one of the RBSAs several annual open exhibitions. It’s a familiar scene and a little startling to see such a familiar scene frozen into art on the gallery walls.

The RBSA gallery, which is in Brook Street on the fringes of the jewellery quarter at the top of Newhall Street, is about 15 minutes steady walk from New Street Station. It’s a shame I don’t get to go there more often because it’s a nice space, with the main galleries on two upper floors, while on the ground floor are smaller exhibitions of crafts and arts and a little cafĂ©. Many years ago, when I was a student, the RBSA had its exhibiting space in New Street, a long corridor shaped gallery, narrow, dingy and smelling permanently of fry ups and cigar smoke. I used to go there when I was a student and often felt a little superior to the badly displayed work on the tatty yellowing walls. Today’s RBSA is light years away from that old space. And the selection for this open exhibition is of a very high standard. I’m proud to have my work exhibited here.

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