Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2012
Since the Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768; it has been the last word in variety and innovation, with current members including David Hockney, Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor. The annual Summer Exhibition is the largest open-submissions art exhibition in the world and features 1,400 works in all styles, disciplines and media from painting, print-making and sculpture, to architecture, photography and film.
This year, co-ordinator Tess Jaray has chosen to fill Gallery III, the largest and most grandiose space, with smaller scale pieces. These are arranged across the room in a wave-like composition, which is intended (and certainly succeeds) in creating a sense of energy and movement within the space. Jaray wanted to acknowledge the current focus in many galleries of filling space with monumentally large scale paintings – in fact, the space has only recently been cleared of the massive Hockney’s on display during A Bigger Picture.
The beautifully ordered chaos of the room is truly exciting – visitors could easily spend hours in this one room. Jaray wanted to utilise the wave shaped arrangement to mimic the bursts of creativity combined with deeply focused concentration that often comes with creating works on a small scale. Many of the pieces in this room are painstakingly detailed, such as Francesca Lowe’s intricate pencil and ink; Love and Martin Grover’s photographic realism in Piece of My Heart, to name only two of the 448 works in this hall. Many of these works have price-tags entirely manageable for the general public – you might even find yourself owning your favourite piece, so allow plenty of time to look closely.
With the Olympics looming over London, a number of the pieces in this year’s Summer Exhibition seem to focus on one of two things: the relationship between architecture and art (and the blurring of boundaries between them), and concepts of human involvement on landscapes. Room IV deals directly with the complex interconnectivity of art and architecture, displaying a number of architectural sketches which could easily have been placed in the adjacent room beside landscape acrylics. Numerous architectural models in the centre of the room show the interdisciplinary nature of architecture and sculpture, flaunting incredibly flamboyant and elaborate designs, in particular Karl Singporewala’s Dial M for Monument, a complex star/snowflake construction made from a laser-cut handmade cotton rag.
Room I shifts an architectural focus towards the effect of human involvement within a space, with a careful and deliberate slide across the room from more natural landscape paintings to urbanised photographic collages and aerial sketches. A number of particularly interesting and playful pieces, such as Adam Dant’s The Library of Dr London, look at the relationship between bodies within a city and the city itself, exploring concepts of the city as a living being – animated by its citizens.
This year the Exhibition has, for the first time, dedicated a screening room to a single film-maker. Jayne Parker’s Trilogy: Kettle’s Yard in the Small Weston Room is shown beside the black and white print, Self Portrait 2. The print, slightly reminiscent of Man Ray’s iconic Le Violin d’Ingres and the film together explore concepts of the artistry of sound, moulding concepts of sound as sculptural and deeply related to physicality, both in its production and reception.
In addition, The Charles Wollaston Award for ‘The Most Distinguished Work’ in the Summer Exhibition will be announced on The Culture Show, BBC2, on 15thJune. The £25,000 prize is one of the most coveted, distinguishing and significant prizes awarded for art in the U.K. The shortlist for this year’s prize is:
Tim Head – Libra
Anselm Kiefer – Samson
Sean Scully – Doric Grey
David Nash – Hump with a Hole
The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2012 is at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD, from 4th June until 12th August 2012. With the additional influx of tourism to the city this summer, it’s a good idea to book tickets ahead of time, and you can do this here.