On the 10th of December, I had the exciting opportunity to visit the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2020, located just down the road from Savile Row. Due to the current climate with unprecedented challenges and not wanting to miss its 252nd anniversary, the event was postponed to the winter months for the first ever time.
Coordinated by Jane and Louise Wilson, the exhibition supports the exchange of ideas and experiences from any background, shaping cultural conversation to art that we love, hate and smile to. The displays contain over 1,000 pieces of work displayed in 13 rooms ranging from paintings to sculptures to digital art.
Vincent’s Ear by Conrad Atkinson, Shrinking Violet by Ed Mays, Outdoor Minor by Simon Periton
Upon entering Gallery 1, I was surrounded by expressive paintings, textual line drawings put together by Isaac Julien. In the centre of the room stood an installation called Air Kid by Yinka Shonibare. The sculpture is one of 4 in a collection called ‘Earth Kids’, that fights for climate justice illustrating the difficulty of the natural world. Climate change is such a threatening crisis of our time, with sea levels rising, increased temperatures and extinction of many species. It’s important to make people understand the damage and negative effects their actions are having on the planet, a philosophical objective in Isaac Julien’s style of work to make us reflect and visualise.
One of the pieces that intrigued me the most was the Inter-Concreto sculpture designed by David Batchelor, located in the Large Weston Room. The layering of the coloured geometric grids and multidirectional positionings is similar to the abstract way I like to work when undertaking my own multimedia textiles projects. His work looks at how we analyse and react to colour and hues in this current digital age through hypnotic patterns and shapes. These sculptural installations are made with a variation of industrial material scraps as well as recycled or broken domestic items. In this day and age, I believe it is imperative to reuse and upcycle discarded and unwanted objects to reduce the amount of plastic and landfill constantly entering our oceans. Everything has the potential to be made into something with another form or purpose.
There was a common theme amongst some of the galleries that reflected the year we have all lived through, learnt and educated ourselves to a brand-new way of life during a pandemic. Gallery 4 curated by Sonya Boyce, portrayed this theme well with mass paintings, photographs and a video named ‘Twice’ by John Smith, who demonstrates how to wash your hands thoroughly whilst singing Happy Birthday through twice.
The Earth is full of violence by Biggs & Collings, Bringing the past to new horizonsby Athena Anastasiou
Every year there is a room that presents small architectural projects and ideas including works from student designers. The inspiration this year was taken from the constructivists in Eva Jiřičná work, displaying bold colours, large plinths, drawings and miniature models.
Inside Gallery 6, Drawing together by Niall McLaughlin
The exhibition was ticket-based priced at £20 and definitely worth the visit if you are in the area. It is a great way of promoting artists as well as supporting the creative arts industry in these difficult times. It is also available to view online for those who are unable to attend in person.
(Exhibition visits were undertaken within contempary covid guidelines)
Words and images by Jessica Westley