What it feels like to be in the RA Summer Exhibition

What it feels like to be in the RA Summer Exhibition

Being accepted into the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition is seen by many artists as an indication that you have ‘made it’ in the art world. Here, five friends of Hole & Corner explain what it’s like…

 

Nik Ramage

Where were you when you heard you’d been accepted into the RA Summer Exhibition?

We were driving to Norfolk for a half-term break – I was very pleased and still am!

What was the application process like?

The application process is highly organised. If you get through the digital submission stage (attracting about 20,000 submissions) there is a long short-list (1,500) of works that they want to see in the flesh. So, Piccadilly is filled with artists with work under their arm and Burlington Gardens with vans with art onboard. Notification is all by e-mail with nice bits and pieces in the post at both stages.

Can you explain a little about your piece?

My piece is called Flag Waver and it is a rusty machine, made from scrap, that (unsurprisingly) waves the Union Jack. The flag is a bit marked and scrappy too.

There are some aspects of Britishness I am proud of and some that I am not. I wanted Flag Waver to have a similar ambivalence. I made it right at the start of 2016 and in June of that year, we had the EU referendum. I haven’t felt a political decision in the pit of my stomach before.

Flag Waver hasn’t changed since I made it, but Britain’s national identity and relationship with the rest of the world has, and it continues to change.

I haven’t experienced the world shifting around a piece of work before – but then I haven’t invoked such a loaded concept as nationhood before!

 

 

Do you think the fact that Grayson Perry curated the show helped to broaden the scope of work into areas that aren’t usually celebrated?

Yes, he has a pleasingly un-pompous approach, both to mediums and to the whole business of art. He has brought a lot of energy to the show. It’s refreshing for a curator not to feel that fun might diminish the seriousness of something.

What does it mean for you professionally?

It’s a great vote of confidence. There does seem to be a good atmosphere around this exhibition (Mr Perry, new building, 250th year…), so it’s great to be a part of that. How nice to go from liking the sound of ‘The Room of Fun’ to having work in it!

What are you working on next?

In October, I’m taking part in the ‘Candidates Exhibition’ at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, from which new artists will be invited to join the Academy. I want to make some new work for that, which will fit in the space available.

What was your favourite piece at the show?

One Grain of Rice by Tim Lewis, in the West Sackler Gallery. It’s an interactive machine: you turn a little handle that makes a pair of chopsticks pick out a grain of rice from a bowl of dry rice and drop it on to a small chess board. It makes reference to the legend of the king and the sage who won a game of chess against him, having asked for his prize to be a grain of rice placed on the first square of the board, two on the second, four on the third etc – and the resulting power of exponential growth.

nikramage.com

 

Jon Cardwell

Where were you when you heard you’d been accepted into the RA Summer Exhibition?

When I first heard I’d been accepted, I was having lunch in a cafe with my girlfriend. I had my phone on the table and I saw the email come in as I was mid-sentence, I think my girlfriend thought something was wrong as I just stopped talking! Needless to say, I was really pleased and the lunch turned into more of a celebration.

What was the application process like? How are you notified?

You initially submit an image of your work online and then wait to be notified. After I received the notification that I was through to the second round, I then had to physically take my work down to Burlington House to have it in for the second round of judging.

Can you explain a little about your piece?

My photograph Skiers 2 was taken on The Hintertux Glacier, Austria in November 2017. The skiers depicted are, I think, part of a youth team. I photographed them at the top of the mountain, about to set off on a training run. The weather was pretty bad at the top of the mountain, with constant snow flurries. This however made the light really beautiful. I only had enough time to take one frame and then they were gone.

 

 

Do you think the fact that Grayson Perry curated the show helped to broaden the scope of work into areas that aren’t usually celebrated?

From the work, I think you can definitely see he curated the show and I think probably, yes it has broadened the scope of the work. I don’t think I have seen knitted work or spray paint art at the Summer Exhibition before. He has done a great job, the show feels fun and interesting.

What does it mean for you professionally?

Like a lot of these things, you never really know what will come of it at the time and often opportunities present themselves in places and times you never expected. Personally, I’m just delighted to have been in the show and happy that my mum can come and see it!

What are you working on next?

I’m working on an ongoing project in Beirut as well as a number of commercial commissions.

joncardwell.com

Tom Broadbent

Where were you when you heard you’d been accepted into the RA Summer Exhibition?

I was at home, I remembered to check my email as the decision was supposed to come in on Saturday afternoon, the 26th of May. I just read, ‘We are delighted to inform you…’ in the preview of the email on my phone and my reaction was ecstatic as I recall. It was my third attempt in three years at entering a piece from that series, At Home With The Furries, and I’d promised myself that if I didn’t get in this year that would be it. So third time lucky!

What was the application process like?

It’s really simple, firstly you enter a digital image of the work. If that’s selected for the second round, you then have to enter the framed photograph and drop it off at the Royal Academy, then fingers crossed. I’d been shortlisted (but no cigar!) a couple of years ago with a photo of red dragon preparing lunch, so I was maybe a little bit laissez-faire about it, as in hopeful but not putting the house on the decision, so to speak.

Can you explain a little about your piece?

It’s called Syrrus, a fox and Lupestripe, a wolf having a barbecue in Leeds –  from my series At Home With The Furries – a 10-year photography project about a subculture called the furries, essentially people who identify and sometimes dress as animal characters that they’ve created. The project looks at furries in the UK. The photograph was taken in September last year in Leeds. I’ve known Lupestripe for nearly as long as I’ve been working on the project and in fact, there’s a book of the project coming out in September.

 

 

Do you think the fact that Grayson Perry curated the show helped to broaden the scope of work into areas that aren’t usually celebrated?

Certainly, there’s more photography in the Summer Exhibition than I can ever recall seeing. Possibly the RA wanted to blow off the cobwebs for the 250th edition. There’s a real sense of fun and mischief about the exhibition this year, which is good to see.

What does it mean for you professionally?

It’s massive, I’m very pleased to see the furry project showcased in this space surrounded by incredible work by artists I respect. Plus the fact that the picture was personally selected by Grayson Perry for his room is a special feeling. There’s a couple of great things that have come out of it so far: one, it gives me the confidence to continue with the direction I feel I’m heading in with my work; and the other is that the furry community has responded so positively to the work being in the Royal Academy (I mean why wouldn’t they…!) Over the weekend I met up with Lupestripe and his partner, Wolfie, at the Royal Academy to see the work up, it was a pretty special day. Plus with the book coming out, it could not be better timing.

What are you working on next?

A project about mermaids, which I’m very excited about…

What was your favourite piece at the show?

Two: Debbie Lawson’s Red Bear ( which is a bear coming out of a piece of carpet) and Heloise Bergman’s photograph Brick Lane Girl.

tombroadbent.com

 

Patrick Whitaker & Keir Malem (Whitaker Malem)

Can you explain a little about your piece?

Allen Jones has three pieces at this year’s show: Eyes Front, Stepping Out and Move It. The digital ‘hatstand’ piece (Stepping Out) is his re-imagining of a 1969 sculpture (the edition of which we completed with him about 20 years ago). It is made via a scan of his original sculpture.

Our connection with Allen is an ongoing collaboration – and in this case, we are really just historical fabricators! We have worked for 20-odd years with Allen and have had a few of the pieces we’ve worked on with him in the summer show over the years.

The first leather-covered sculpture we made for Allen (Waiting in Leather) was exhibited at the RA Summer Show 2001 and subsequently acquired by the artist Gary Hume. This was created after our suggestion to Allen (we had been selling a line of leather-covered torsos via Adel Rootstein for a number of years, using the same technique).

Allen is a Royal Academician himself – and had a major retrospective of his work there about four years ago – he always has at least one piece in the Summer Show.

What does it mean for you professionally?

It’s always great to see art you have worked on in the RA – Waiting in Leather was exhibited on a second occasion at the RA in a beautiful small room opposite Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer of Fourteen so that was a real thrill..! And we had quite a few pieces we have worked on in Allen’s blockbuster RA retrospective in 2014.

We hope to have our work as just Whitaker Malem exhibited at the RA Summer Show sooner rather than later – but are very proud and happy to be a part of Allen’s art – and him to a degree be a part of ours. His approach, methodology and style is a great fit with ours and we treasure our working relationship with him.

whitakermalem.co.uk

 

James Joyce

Where were you when you heard you’d been accepted into the RA Summer Exhibition?

I was at home because the notification date fell on a Saturday. Can’t remember what I was doing, but I was hitting the refresh button on my email more than usual for a Saturday! I’d describe my reaction as ‘contained excitement’.

What was the application process like?

If you get through to the second stage of judging you get asked to bring the actual piece into the RA on a specific date to be scrutinised by the esteemed panel of Royal Academicians – if it gets through this round then you’re in the show. I received an email titled ‘Notification of Status’ which sounds ominous…!

Can you explain a little about your piece?

It’s titled It Would be Funny if it Wasn’t True and it’s a circular painting which contains the features of a clown’s face that have fallen to the bottom of the frame. This is an ongoing series of works and I’ve done quite a few different versions along the theme. For these paintings I use household gloss paint on wood panel, the piece measures 130cm in diameter.

 

 

Do you think the fact that Grayson Perry curated the show helped to broaden the scope of work into areas that aren’t usually celebrated?

I do think it broadened it and democratised it a bit, I think Grayson’s exuberant personality and his sense of fun come through in the show. There’s also a political theme in one part of the gallery which feels very current and creates a charge. There are of course works in there that people will hate, but there’s a lot to like and it’s impressive to see the diversity of talent by both famous artists and unknowns.

What does it mean for you professionally?

I’m not really sure, it sounds good – obviously, it’s great to have exhibited at the Royal Academy, it gets seen by thousands of people, both in the art world and the general public, so I think it definitely has a positive effect. I’ve also sold the work in the show so that’s another bonus.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just made a small artwork for Imago Mundi, which is the collection of works commissioned and collected by Luciano Benetton. The aim of the Imago Mundi is to create collections from all the countries in the world. I’m one of 140 artists invited to contribute to the UK collection, other artists include Martin Creed, Yinka Shonibare and Richard Long. There will be an exhibition of the works later this year.

What was your favourite piece at the show?

There is a huge piece as you enter the first gallery titled Royal Valkyrie, by Joana Vasconcelos. It’s very impressive.

jamesjoyce.co.uk

 

The Summer Exhibition is at the Royal Academy until 19 August 2018

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