Friday 16 March 2012

Royal Institute Of Painters In Watercolours 2012

The RI is currently holding it's 200th exhibition at the Mall Galleries. You have until the 25th March to see it and if like me you're a big fan of water based mediums and you live in the UK then there is no excuse.

The exhibition contains 366 works which are, as expected, all of a very high standard. I visited the show yesterday en route to picking my artwork up from the RWS. The Mall Galleries were heaving, there was a considerable crowd around Chris Forsey and Anne McCormack as they demonstrated they're process and a lesser gathering at the makeshift cafe in the corner. In fact I had a bit of a moment when I had to cut into the 'tea & cake' queue in order to see the paintings hung behind it. I was given a few disgruntled looks but they quickly turned to relief as I moved on to the next painting instead of jumping in and stealing the last macaroon.

Some of the highlights for me were:

Victoria Station by Eva Tomkins (above). It might be small but the composition is epic. Eva manages to show a full panorama of the station, keep perspective in check, control her palette and have it nicely populated all at the same time. I wonder if she is planning a large scale version?

Proms Schubert by Geoffrey Wynne (above). Superb composition and choice of angle which for me gave the painting a crowded and energetic feel. The colour and light handling was subdued but effective, however I felt Geoffrey had missed a trick in not showing facial features. He could have created a narrative through the various characters in the orchestra but that's the illustrator in me picking fault.

Embankment Appointment by Mark Elsmore. Arguably my favourite, Mark has created a watercolour so different and well executed that I just had to go back for a second look. Before you ask, no I haven't got the shakes, the painting is deliberately blurred like a rushed photo. A very nice touch that gives energy to what could otherwise be a depressing composition. The man on his phone looks suitably engrossed in his conversation, perhaps he's late for an appointment, did he get a taxi and what convinced him a pink tie on a black shirt looks good? These are all part of the urban narrative Mark has reveled in and I love it!

As you can see the show is well worth a visit, my only slight grumble would be some of the dated stylistic approaches I found. Not many but enough to make me think of children's book covers from the 1970s. In a way this is to be expected, most artists have to be in the watercolour game for a time before they are accepted as members unless of course you are the son of the patron.

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