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The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition recently celebrated its 250th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 10:41 25 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 25 July 2018

Main Hall (Photo by Tinx Newton)

Main Hall (Photo by Tinx Newton)


The Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition is bigger and bouncier than ever. Ablaze with colour, and reeling in the style of its charismatic curator, Grayson Perry RA, 2018 will certainly be a year to remember.

Artists from across Surrey are well represented in the exhibition with some exciting works in all mediums. Ackroyd & Harvey, whom we have featured in recent editions of Surrey Life, have two archival digital prints included and Basil Beattie from Mitcham has four paintings from his ‘ladder’ series.

Other Surrey artists accepted in this year’s RA show are Lin Cheung, Richard Kolker, Fred Robeson, Jennie Jewitt-Harris, Holli Mae Johnson, Nicholas Merrick, Sara Jayne Harris, Linda Sofie Jansson, Susan Williams and Alexandra Searle.

Perry chose ‘Art Made Now’ as the theme, and newcomers were strongly encouraged to submit work to hang alongside some of the most renowned artists we know today. A record 20,000 submission were made, shortlisted to around 4,000 then being chopped to the final 1,350. Perry made no bones about the selection process in his curator’s tour.

“The final stage is frantic, we have hung 1500 artworks in about 10 days. At the start of the whole process, we are quite nice, saying we quite like this and that and maybe include it, but by the final cut we have to be very decisive,” he said.

As in some previous years, (Michael Craig-Martin’s pink in 2015, the RA has embraced background colour. Room lll, the main gallery, is painted bright yellow, a colour Perry admits he would love in his own home. He is dressed to match the room on press day, splendid in bright yellow ‘clown’ costume with brilliant green platform shoes and purple hair. He has curator this room with humour, placing a realistic painting of Nigel Farage by David Griffiths mid-room, surrounding him with abstract art and a massive Pink Panther (by Olga Lomaka). “People take art too seriously.” he says, “and there is a lot of politics sloshing about in art at the moment”.

In this room humour abounds such as Banksy’s Ukip poster from the EU referendum where he replaces “Leave” with “Love”, a horse on a piano, the Queen in Grason Perry’s coat - it is a refreshing approach to art today.

Moving in to Room lV curator Humphrey Ocean RA gives us ‘visual respite’ after the vibrant work in Room lll a wooden model of a body with plaster organs popping out is by Harry Hill, while his illustrator wife Magda Archer has a piece called “Don’t talk to me about art”. “It’s all nepotism” laughs Perry, but art by the famous appeals to visitors to this all inclusive show.

Perry sweeps into Room V, a room full of fascinating work curated by David Mach RA. It focuses on 2D work with walls covered in silver foil. Working alongside Perry, Mach sensed his competitive spirit and a desire to bring out humour. “How can you compete?” he asked, but he succeeds here in bringing together works such as Rufus 3RD and Gnasher (by Timothy Hewitt) - 2 splendid dogs assembled from jewels, nails, buttons and coiled springs, and Red Bear, a huge carpet artwork (Debbie Lawson).

Room Vl is all about architecture, and in the RA250’s witty approach, we are signposted there by a large yellow and black industrial sign reading Unaffordable Housing. Room Vll is curated by Phyllida Barlow RA, and includes plenty of work by fellow Royal Academician’s; David Nash, David Mach, Lisa Gilroy, Bill Woodrow, Richard Wilson, and a work called Open Perch by Anthony Gormley. Perry, who is predominantly a textile artist and ceramicist, looks up at another bronze work and can’t resit a dig. “Make something in bronze and it’s instant art’ he quips.

In Room Vlll we see one of Perry’s own works, a lovely ceramic called Stupid White Thing. “Isn’t it wonderful?” he says. “It would look lovely in your sitting room.” His humour continues, but now and then he pauses quietly at a work he loves. A knitted Marlborough packet and full pack of cement fascinates him. “Art takes itself too seriously” he says.

There are two final couple of rooms with a real mix of work, and by now my mind is slightly boggling with the incredible variety of styles, colours, shapes and sizes in this exhibition. More than I ever I feel the need to return for a second visit. A little blow of my own trumpet, an oil painting of mine got shortlisted this year and, having never submitted a work before, I can now truly say that everyone has a chance of getting their work hung on the walls of the wonderful Royal Academy, recently refurbished and with 70% more exhibition space than ever.

If this years Summer Exhibition is ‘Art Made Now’ the future is very exciting indeed. Throw off the shackles of conforming, and be as inventive as you dare. This is a truly liberating exhibition that shows how established artists and the ‘unknowns’ can hang side by side - they are all expressing ideas, beliefs and feelings through their art and Grayson Perry, with his band of helpers, has captured this with outrageous splendour in RA250.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition runs until August 19 2018. 020 7300 8090;

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