Thursday - 18 December 2014

Good, bad or ugly – it’s all white on the night

15 June 2004Written by ATG Reporter

WOW! The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is really different this year. Well, the colour scheme is, anyway.

Instructions from David Hockney means that the colour of all but a couple of the 14 gallery walls are an unaccustomed, muted stone colour instead of the usual white. Motivated by a desire to give a visual unity to the exhibits, the 66-year-old artist said: "White makes you see all the edges of everything. If you tone that down, the edges are softened."

As for the pictures, it's pretty well the same menu as in recent years and all the populist academicians are, of course, much in evidence.

There's Ken Howard's (b. 1932) obligatory studio interior with draped model (La Friulana in Cornovagua, £33,000) and Venetian scenes (The Fish Market, Venice and Snow in Venice, each priced at £22,000 and Wet Reflection, Venice 04, £12,000), although he also demonstrates his versatility by hanging a large oil of a rugby match.

Mary Fedden (b. 1915) proffers her ever-popular simplified forms via the oils Sleeping Cat (£20,000), Black Chair (£20,000), and the pencil drawings Tresco and Cat and Lilies (£8000 each). Fred Cuming (b. 1930) presents five of his blue imbued compositions (£12,500 each), all of which, particularly Cutty Sark, are worthy of note, as are Dame Elizabeth Blackadder's (b. 1931) flower studies and still lifes (£4500-15,000).

As always, this is a show of 'the good, the bad and the ugly'. A number of exhibits really grabbed my attention.

John Patrick Humphrey's Portrait of Leonard McComb, RA (£11,750), a highly detailed, but slightly disconcerting, piece made of glass fibre, and meticulously painted in acrylics, possesses an awesome likeness of the man given that the head is modelled on a pronounced, elongated form.

David Remfry's (b. 1942) sizeable watercolour Havana (£24,000), is an impressive depiction of dancers in which much use is made of the white of the paper.

Two of the other eye-catchers were a vivacious, Turneresque watercolour Resurrection, Sunrise (£8000) by Leslie Worth (b. 1923) and, by complete contrast, there is Deadweight X (Memnon), 1991, a large expanse of dense, roughly textured black on a white paper ground by American Richard Serra (b. 1939) which is one of the nominations for the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award.

Also worth a visit is Gallery VI, which includes doodles by non-artists such as Sir Clive Woodward's drawing of team tactics for the Six Nations Italy v England game on February 15 2004. There's something refreshing and cutting-edge about some of the images which, given that they were not created as works of art, is rather poignant.

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ATG Reporter

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