#4 A Visit to The Royal Academy Of Arts
Today, I took my painting, 'Where I Live: Corona Panic in Sutherland Grove' to the Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington House, on Piccadilly. The painting will be looked at in person rather than from a digital picture by the selection committee for the Summer Exhibition.
It gives me the shivers just thinking about the possibility that my little leaping girl might hang on the walls where I have seen so many amazing shows.
My first memory of the Royal Academy is visiting an exhibition of Chinese Jade in the 1970s. I was 12 years old. I was fortunate that my parents made time to take me and my younger sister to visit galleries and museums when we were young, despite the fact that our little brother was what they called in those days "disturbed" and therefore couldn't be taken into such institutions because he would scream the place down.
My childhood experience of growing up in a house with pictures always around me, and being encouraged to paint and draw and do lots of crafts, left me with an appetite for the visual arts. So, whenever I could, in an easy-going leisurely sort of way, I would see an exhibition or visit an artist's home. I never thought very much about this beyond the pleasure of the visit and how it informed my general view of the world. I never imagine for one moment that I would create work myself. And I still don't know quite how that has happened.
But back to the Royal Academy! I remember with particular delight the exhibition of Matisse and his materials in 2005. Matisse is one of my favourite painters and in 2016 I visited the superb Painting the Garden exhibition, subtitled Monet to Matisse. I kept the catalogue to show to my mum who was a passionate gardener, and I was sorry that she was too weak and ill (although we didn't know it at the time) to attempt an exhibition in London.
Another of my favourite memories of the Royal Academy is Bronzes in 2012. I think I visited it twice because I have always loved sculpture, from making sand people with seaweed bikinis on the beach to falling in love with Donatello's David, seen in Florence on my first visit to Italy in my early 20s.
I can’t properly put into words what it would mean to me to be accepted for the Summer Exhibition. I’ll let you know if it happens but for now I must wait until 4th September when the decision is announced.
#3:Starstruck at the Hockney exhibition
The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020
So here I am at the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, and experiencing a thrill of pure delight.
Three years ago, when I first started using my iPad to make art, people said, “oh, like David Hockney.” I was so ignorant, so not part of the cognoscenti, that I didn’t even know that David Hockney was creating work with an iPad. Of course, I immediately sought out his pictures online and was enchanted. I planned a trip to Saltaire. Then Covid happened.
So, when I heard that there was to be a new exhibition at the Royal Academy, I booked my ticket straightaway. I was expecting to be wowed. But, this is so much more compelling than I could have imagined. The pictures, which are a regular size, and simply framed, burst with colour and joy. All around me are trees, bare, in bud and heavy with blossom. Fields. Clouds. Flowers. Rain! Here, I find the subjects which I love best, both as a viewer and a painter. Bright uncompromising colours and simplicity of line and form create work which is at once utterly recognisable as real and at the same time hyper-real.
To see these glorious pictures at a large scale and collected together is overwhelming. From a distance they look smooth, but up close I can see the painter’s marks. I find a rawness, a simple confidence that is wonderful. Nature is not tidy – particularly trees! The catalogue, which of course I had to buy, points out that Hockney is a master of drawing.
Perhaps because I discovered the technique for myself rather than hearing about it as being a respectable thing to do, I feel a kinship with this beautiful work. Of course, David Hockney is infinitely better at it than me, but staring at the clouds in different colours, I feel a resonance with my own attempts.
Often people sneer at iPad art, dismissing it as the preserve of superheroes and gooey-eyed manga characters. Surely this inspiring collection will put an end to all that.
Thank you, David Hockney! Thank you, Royal Academy!
An example of my iPad work
#2:Sussex Art Fair, 2021
With fellow exhibitor Adele Riley – check out her lovely work
#1: A Bit about Me
This is based on an interview with Fraser Renton of Sussex Art Fairs
Where did it all begin?
Three years ago, I began painting to escape the disabling pain and misery of a condition called fibromyalgia. What started as a hobby quickly became an obsession. Shortly after I had started, I went on a pain management course at my local hospital, St George's in South London. They encouraged me to have confidence in my art. It is no exaggeration to say that course changed my life.
When I started to sell my work, I jotted down a mission for myself: “in a world where there is so much anger and sadness, I try to seek out beauty in everyday things. I share what I’ve captured with the aim of making people smile… And to promote a conversation about pain, truth, and beauty.”
Do you have any formal training?
I have no formal training and identify as an outsider artist. I credit my father, an émigré designer, and his father, a celebrated Hungarian watercolourist, as my teachers. Although I never knew my Hungarian grandfather, he was present throughout my growing up through his many paintings.
From who or where do you draw inspiration for your work?
My subject is the beauty of nature as I find it in my everyday life in suburban London and rural Suffolk. I am preoccupied by the relationship between material structure, such as the neurotransmitters in our bodies, and emotional states. There are a few recurring motifs in my painting. First, the path, which represents my journey from being marginalised to being an artist selling my own work. Second, the boundaries between water and land. These interest me because they are neither one thing nor another. The chronic pain sufferer often looks well while feeling terrible so is neither one thing nor another. Third, the tenacity of trees. I am fascinated by trees in all their varied forms from majestic cedars that stand beside tower blocks that they predate, the relic of a previous land-use to the scraggly buddleia bushes that sprout beside railways and from roofs.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would describe my artistic style as neoexpressionist. Or maybe naïve. I'm not very good at classifications. I think there's an innocence to it, and also a joy which resonates with people.
What techniques do you used to create art?
I love experimenting with different media and techniques, combining new and traditional methods. I started painting by doodling on my iPad. I often interleave photography and digital art in a way that enables me to explore the relationship between the physical world and emotions, for example, I found a piece of fabric from the 1970s while clearing out my mother's house after her death. The colours were so evocative of spring flowers that I used it as the background to a picture of daffodils.
I like to play around with different styles and ideas rather than feeling constrained to paint consistently in a particular style. This can be a bit confusing, I guess, when you see a stylised almost abstract digital artwork beside an acrylic landscape on canvas. The unifying principle is my particular quirky take on the world.
Which projects are you really excited about for 2021?
In terms of my plans for 2021, the most important event in my calendar is the Sussex Art Fair in July. I am thinking about how to curate the pictures I bring to the exhibition in order to create a consistent and meaningful experience for visitors.
I have just set up my own website and I’m really excited to find out where it will take me. It feels like a big step towards being a ‘serious’ artist. One of my challenges is to be serious about my work without taking myself too seriously, and to honour my original mission – to make people happy through art.