3.02. The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2018

Welcome to my second post this year. This post is about The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2018, which I saw shortly before the Autumn Term started. The Summer Exhibition is always a plentiful source of inspiration, mostly because of the sheer volume of artwork. The huge gallery was chock-full of visually stimulating pieces, and wherever you look, there is an artwork which triggers some kind of response, which is the most important thing about experiencing art!

This post serves to document the pieces that stood out for me, discuss the overall inspiration I felt towards the exhibition, and establish how this will affect my forthcoming Autumn practice.

1. Elfia Bell-Salter’s Tear of a Seahorse V, Oils
2. Fiona Rae’s Melts Into Air, oils
3. Bob & Roberta Smith’s Left Right and Centre People Are Worried, sign writer’s paint on wood panel










4. James Prosek’s A Tyger For William Blake, Oil and acrylic on panel
5. Sir Michael Craig-Martin’s Double Take (Trainer), acrylic on aluminium
6. Ben Johnson’s Dome of the Rock, Façade, acrylics









7. Stephen Farthing’s Fake News: The Trail of Tears, hand-coloured digital print
8. Iryna Hauska’s Body, crochet
From top to bottom; 9. Peter Jones’s Fergus, oils, 10. Celie Byrne’s Katja Mayer, oil on linen, and 11. Johnny Bull’s Uncle Bertie in the Jungle (In His Dreams), acrylic






















12. Bryan Lavelle’s Tipping Point (Light Blue Permanent/Ivory Black) #2, acrylic on board
13. Adam Dant’s Aviary: The Wolseley, sepia ink, gouache and gold leaf
14. The always-beguiling architectural rooms
15. Architectural art fascinates me for its sheer attention to detail, and clear use of mathematics.
















16. David Aston’s Pergamon I, mixed media
17. Cathy de Monchaux’s Refuge, copper wire and mixed media
18. Mat Collishaw’s Gasconade, Burnslow and Gasconade, Beastmode, digital print
19. Katsutoshi Yuasa’s Evergreen, oil based woodcut
20. Nana Shiomi’s A Room of One’s Own – Seasons and A Room of One’s Own – Still Life, water-based woodcut







21. Hugh Hamshaw-Thomas’s Swan (Blue), archival giclée print

Of the 1,300-odd artworks on display, these 21 are the ones that I immediately found most impressive, beautiful, thought-provoking, or hypnotising. Looking at this collection, it is difficult to discern an element they all have in common that drew me to them, perhaps because these works are so varied. The vast majority are paintings and drawings. However, while I certainly find the drawing skill amazing, I don’t think that is the common element, because I find some of the sculptural work more beguiling than some of the drawings. After looking at each of the works more closely, considering media, subject, ideas, form, and context, I realised that these are all successful because they allude to a world, or concept, that is larger than themselves. In other words, they are all more than the sum of their parts. Let’s look at figure 16, David Aston’s Pergamon I. The piece is certainly unusual, but the constituent parts by themselves do not spark wonderment – it is our interpretation and speculation that gives rise to the bigger picture that this piece alludes to. We see the artwork and are forced to imagine a reality in which iPhones are buried and become part of the soil, and we speculate as to whether it is a world in which humans are long gone and our everyday technology is useless and forgotten, or if it’s a world in which smartphones sprout plants. Whatever our interpretation is, this artwork becomes a fragment of an imagined existence much larger than itself. I think that if one really considers the artworks here, the same is true of each of them, making them a really successful collection of works.

So, going forward with my practice, I feel compelled to keep in mind the phrases ‘spark wonderment,’ ‘alluding to a bigger picture,’ and ‘more than the sum of its parts.’ The Summer Exhibition has proven to me that art that fulfils these criteria arouses the strongest reaction in me, and it has given me a short-term goal for my artistic experimentation.

To summarise, for an artwork to excite me, it should be more than the sum of its parts. That is the kind of art I now aim to make. Thank you for reading!


Published by William Fowler

Hello! I'm studying Art and English Literature at the University of Reading, and I'm currently working with art films to investigate philosophical ideas of the 'real.' As always, my aim is to create pieces of art that are more than the sum of their parts.

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