Royal Academy Summer Exhibition!

This is the story behind my painting, "Corona Panic in Sutherland Grove, 2020" which is currently appearing in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021, and was part of the BBC2 television documentary about the Summer Exhibition.

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I always go for a walk every morning, and this became even more important during lockdown. In the first lockdown I would go to the local park or Wimbledon Common.  I also discovered a long avenue of plane trees near to my home, which I seldom walked down before.

Photo of Sutherland Grove
Colourful Sutherland Grove.

I became obsessed with photographing sketching and painting this road!

Meanwhile, as the autumn turned into winter the second lockdown began and everything got really scary.

I felt like there were germs all around us.

Every time I went out I felt anxious.

I think part of fibromyalgia is about the mental struggle, and I have definitely struggled with anxiety and depression for many years as part of this chronic pain condition.

Gouache tunnel vision
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Here I am going for a walk at dawn, with my backpack, being watched by ghostly figures who are keeping their distance.

Painting gave me a way to express how I was feeling during this really difficult time. And more than this, it allowed me to take my mind out of the situation around me and concentrate on trying to capture my emotions, and this strange and terrifying moment.

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In this painting, which I made with gouache on paper with pen and acrylic paint highlights, I am the leaping person in the middle of the swirling avenue of trees. The pollarded limbs of the trees block out the sky like wizards' arms.

An idea I am exploring here is the way that pain and anxiety impulses are carried through the body through neurons and with chemical messengers. 

I was also thinking of the images I saw in Crete of figures leaping over bulls.

I read that the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 2021, was going to be on the theme Reclaiming Magic. I was intrigued and found out more about the curator, Yinka Shonibare.

I read about his life and his art, and how he was interested in making the show inclusive: including different forms of art , and work from artists who are marginalised.

I decided to apply!

You can read more about the vision behind this year's exhibition by visiting the Royal Academy website
 Find out more about Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

I was so excited to receive the news that my painting was shortlisted. Then I had to submit my leaping girl to be judged in person by the selection committee. 

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I needed expert help to get her ready for her interview! So I headed to a wonderful shop called Fielders. It is a proper art supply and framing shop. There used to be quite a lot of shops like this but now they are really rare. 

My friends at Fielders did a really good job of framing the painting. Then I needed to add the special labels and tags already for the Royal Academy.


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And then, things got even more interesting and slightly surreal – a BBC television crew invited me to be part of a documentary that they were making about the Summer Exhibition.

I was nervous at first but the director and team were so kind and supportive, they quickly put me at ease.

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I took my painting, to the Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington House, on Piccadilly.  


It gave me the shivers thinking about the possibility that my little leaping girl might hang on the walls where I have seen so many amazing shows.

You can read more about how I felt on that day by reading my blog .

When I got the news that my picture had been accepted I couldn't believe my ears! It was a very emotional moment.

And then… I had the exciting experience of seeing my painting hanging on the wall. It was so nerve wracking. The first time I saw it I was with Kirsty Wark and being filmed by the television crew.

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I joined other artists for a wonderful private viewing of the exhibition. 

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One of my friends sent me this photo on WhatsApp after visiting the exhibition at one of the previews – my painting had been sold before the exhibition even opened to the public!

You can see other paintings I made about Sutherland Grove in my web shop here

On 2nd October, the television programme went out on BBC2. You can watch it on iPlayer. It was a little bit disconcerting seeing myself on the television. I am so grateful to the team who gave me the opportunity to tell my story and talk about my art. And I am immensely proud and grateful to be part of the wonderful Summer Exhibition put together by Yinka Shonibare.

You can find more about this story in my blog

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