RA summer exhibition: plus ca change

PLUS CA CHANGE: In The Jackdaw 10, over ten years ago, anonymous artist ‘Trimmer’ responded to the inclusion of guests of the young British artists who are now, coincidentally, themselves nearly all Royal Academicians:

Effectively, a whole generation of painters has been erased from the art scene, precisely because they hold some principles and adhere to some form of expression and development within their work that is not bounded by fashion.

As a practicing artist, with work in both private and public collections and a long track record of exhibiting and selling work (since 1985), it is with some trepidation that each year I, like many others, enter works for the RA Summer Show. For many artists this is a good opportunity 301 Moved Permanently not only to sell but also to reach a wider audience.

Over the years I have sold a number of works through the Summer Exhibition and these sales have led to further sales, via word of mouth.  This summer [2001], although all three of my works were not included in The Beard’s  [Peter Blake’s] show, I still have a number of outstanding appointments at the studio with people who want to purchase paintings, precisely because they have seen my work in previous Summer Shows.

Before making the following rant and in order to check that the works I submitted this year were of a high standard, I deliberately entered works that were made at the same point in time as the last selection of works I entered for the Summer

301 Moved Permanently

Exhibition. According to my own criteria, the works I entered this year were of an equal standard to works previously selected, shown and sold. So, we know in my case, the paintings submitted were very good. This is not only my rating but, more importantly, the rating of previous selectors of the exhibition.

However, I know my works were graded as either doubtful or rejected by the selector(s), I, like many others get to turn nasty. This year’s show displays a total disregard, almost a contempt for artists who do not enjoy privileged connections. The


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decision to include the YBA crowd in the show may have annoyed many RAs, but not half as much as it annoys artists like myself. I now realise that I do not fall into any of the following categories:

a) I know someone on the selection panel.

b) I am an elected RA.

c) My work is included because it could raise the profile of the show and increase media coverage.

d) I live in LA and did my best work many years ago.

e) I am an RA student or an ex-RA student.

f) I am an ex-RA student/RA student who is helping to hang the show.

g) I have made a small painting in a kitsch style of Princess Diana, or Trevor Brooking, and been lucky to have this work selected for novelty reasons.

There is now no alternative to painters working in a free sense, to show their work. Painting is in fact dead. Effectively, a whole generation of painters has been erased from the art scene, precisely because they hold some principles and adhere to some form of expression and development within their work which is not bounded by fashion.

The main cause for this sad state of affairs is the refusal of those in the art world who were nurtured in the 1960s to relinquish control of the precious academy, their mortgage-funding jobs in art schools and their dedication to not walking the line. All very English and boring but nevertheless true and influential in the most debilitating way upon the careers of younger artists, or even established artists who walk a different line.

One of the most fundamental principles with regard to education, is the transmission of information/knowledge from one generation to another, so that ideas can progress and develop in a rational way. When this process is interrupted, as it has been in UK art schools for the last twenty years, we are left with the current situation, where a group of isolated elders desperately seek credibility among the YBAs, who, to be frank, laugh in their faces.

The idea that Pop Art still has influence in the art world may seem ludicrous, but the same painter, The Beard [Peter Blake], who headed the selection committee for this year’s summer show simultaneously has two paintings hung at Tate Britain. The notion that these two facts are unrelated is not tenable.

Corruption/collusion/conspiracy is nothing new but it is very depressing and ultimately wrong.

David Lee

The Jackdaw Sept-Oct 2011

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