Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2015

The most noticeable differences for this year’s Summer Exhibition are:

1. Vibrant colours
Multi-coloured stairs lead to the turquoise Wohl Central Hall. Gallery III is pink, and the Lecture Room blue – a bold move from the usual all-white backdrops, serving to create a bright, summery feel when stepping inside the light, cool RAA on a hot day

2. Sipsmith gin bar
Iced gin drinks are available in Gallery III – a nice touch, adding to this traditional London summer experience – @ £9.00 for a top quality Sipsmith gin and Fever Tree tonic

3. Social media + browse exhibits online
For the first time, you can browse all exhibits online and add your favourites to a ‘My Gallery‘. You can photograph most exhibits (only a few have a ‘no photography’ sign) and are encouraged to engage in social media – share your pictures and thoughts via facebook, twitter and instagram. Free publicity, yes, but also a pleasing indication that this institution can blend tradition (it’s the RA’s 247th Summer Exhibition) with what’s relevant today.


RAA summer exhibition 2015 – my select highlights


Because there’s a ton of multi-media info out there already about this exhibition, I’m simply going to share a few of my favourites.


i. Secretly looks like home?
IMG_2713_174_At the gas rig_ClementinaRd_Gallery1_FAVE
#174 At the gas rig, Clementina Road by R.W.M. Hunt – my fave


That someone was inspired to create this colourful painting from a scene as mundane as a gasworks and a street lamp really draws me to it. There’s nothing of great beauty in the scene and yet there’s something touchingly simple and optimistic – it’s just ‘real life’ – reflected in the painting. The green character is appealingly simple too (East London’s answer to Berlin’s Ampelmann?). I really love it and I can’t stop looking at it.

Bottom line: It’s not just obvious beauty but also the mundane, the everyday life – even the dreary, that can inspire (provoke?) creativity.

And ironically – now I’ve looked up where Clementina Road is (E10) – it turns out that the first flat I tried to buy in London was near here (by the River Lea in the Lee Valley Park).

Perhaps it secretly looks like home?



ii. Hairy corset
IMG_2725_542_Cilice with my own hair_Gallery4_FAVE
#542 Cilice with my own hair by Clancey Gebler Davies


This appeals to me not least because I love corsets/basques but also because I could realistically imagine creating this from my own excess hair and hair balls (I’m constantly moulting).

I wonder how long it took to make?



iii. Looking up through a canopy of trees?
#500 Rainfall by Ermioni Avramidou


I love this because – when I first looked at it – it felt like looking up through a canopy of trees in a wood towards the sky, with daylight filtering through between the leaves. Beautiful.

At first look, K felt something underwater about it – looking up to the water’s surface.



iv. Cranes and construction in white
#530 From Vauxhall Bridge by Andy Finlay


Vauxhall Bridge is just up the road from my previous home of 7 years. I guess I like the white minimalism and that you have to work at it, to focus, and see the image details emerge.



v. Cute
#790 Rabbit by Tracey Emin


Because I’m a sucker for Emin’s animal sketches (even if it’s not as cute as ‘Space Monkey – we have lift off’, from summer exhibition 2009).



vi. Humument
IMG_2768_A Humument_Gallery10
#1111 Humument by Tom Phillips – pen, ink + collage on bookpages.


Tom Phillips’ work in progress since 1966 (continuously revised since 1973) – he bought a second hand book called A Human Document and altered every page using pen, ink and collage techniques to create a completely new version, A Humument (more info here).



vii. Etching featuring King Kebab + Tesco Express
#596 After Escher by Martin Langford


What’s not to like about an Escher style etching featuring a ‘King Kebab’ shop, Tesco Express, and a billboard’s accident insurance ad approved by The Society of Ambulance Chasers?



viii. Border illusion?
IMG_2705_142_Trance Map_in Gallery2
#142 Trance Map by Trevor Sutton


Are the blocks different ‘shades’ of white, or do the pencil borders create that illusion?



ix. Someone’s got a steady hand!
#2 Zobop by Jim Lambie – coloured vinyl tape


A colourfully striking welcome on entering the Royal Academy of Arts.



x. Old bin bags?
#1100 Erebus (man on fire version II) sculpture by Tim Shaw RA


In mixed media (painted foam, polythene and steel). In the blue Lecture Room.


That’s just ten exhibits that stand out to me. It’s an eclectic display with more than 1,100 works of diverse styles and mediums, created by both established and unknown artists (the Summer Exhibition is the world’s oldest open-submission exhibition – with over 12,000 entries this year), comprising paintings, prints, sculptures, architectural models and creations, and photography – a vibrant summer of colour.


~ Summer Exhibition 2015 – select photo highlights
~ Summer Exhibition 2015 – all of my photos
~ Summer Exhibition 2009 – LardButty blogpost, Aug 2009


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