The RA Summer Exhibition is here again! As reliable a sign of summer as Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and Glasto, it’s been held every year since 1769 and is open to ‘all artists of distinguished merit’ – in other words, anybody at all, so long as their work is good enough. This year over a thousand works in all styles and media made the grade and they’re all (or nearly all) for sale. Here’s my personal pick of the best – along with a quick introduction to the five Japanese artists in the show.
The first work you see when you arrive, before you even enter the Royal Academy, is El Anatsui’s TSIATSIA – searching for connection. Made from aluminium from bottle-tops, printing plates and roofing sheets, and copper wire, it’s spread across the front of the building giving an interesting new backdrop to the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
There’s another big beast waiting just inside the exhibition entrance – Anthony Caro’s Shadows, a towering barrier of rust-red steel, an exhilarating start to the show.
I’m a long-term fan of Julian Opie so his portrait Maria Teresa 1 in inkjet on canvas was tempting but, alas, a bit out of my range at £42,000.
I also liked this Mies Chair by Michael Craig-Martin in acrylic on aluminium.
And I was particularly pleased to see that Celia Paul had been awarded the Sunny Dupree Family Award for a Woman Artist for for this uncompromising portrait in oils, Annella, available for £20,000.
But the Summer Exhibition isn’t all about the established artists – here are some of the less well known names that caught my eye.
Play by Teresa Lawler (oil and pencil on board £1,400) because of its intense luminosity.
Grand Tour in search of Soane (After Gandy) by Emily Allchurch (transparency on LED lightbox £9,800) – wonderfully detailed.
Sudden Rain in Mombasa by Mohammed Abdullah Ariba Khan (acrylic £1,400) – fun picture, lovely frame.
So now for the Japanese artists – five in all, or four and a half to be precise. (One is half English). I was pleased to see two works by the ceramicist Ikuko Iwamoto because I’ve already seen and liked her work at the London Design Festival last year. She’s based in Clerkenwell and you can visit her studio if you make an appointment.
Fragment and Acrobatics (porcelain, wood and glass, £300 and £420 respectively).
I was also impressed by Yoshimi Kihara’s sculpture, Summer of 2012 (newspaper, kakishibu, sumi ink and paints, £4,000). Part of the fun is knowing that old news stories are hidden inside the paper she uses and turns into something quite different.
Miyako Narita is a photographer of the mundane seeking a connection between past present. The photo is titled Dipper (digital print, edition of twenty, £300 each)
Nana Shiomi is a printmaker, using the traditional methods of Japanese ukiyo woodblock printmaking, to which she adds her own experiments with new techniques and new materials. She has two prints in the show: Three Stages of my Life (woodcut, edition of thirty, £850 each) on the left and Garan-do, Autumn (woodcut, edition of thirty, £850 each) on the right.
Lisa Takahashi is a Japanese/English artist. She specialises in drawing the English countryside. Tour de Force (linocut, edition of fifty, £165 each).
But the work that got my ultimate accolade, the “I want to take this home’ award is this one – Inebriate Owl by Ivor Abrahams (enamel on steel, £7,500).
The Summer Exhibition is sponsored by Insight Investment. It opens to the public on 10th June and continues until 18 August. Tickets are £10. For full details see the Royal Academy website.