Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

The dreaded letter from the Royal Academy finally arrived! It was, as I expected, a rejection. My little painting, 'Waiting,' had not been accepted. I must have been among thousands of artists receiving the same letter that day, sharing the same disappointment. I doubt that this open exhibition is as open as they make out, mainly because a large portion of wall space goes to the Royal Academicians, and to established or emerging artists. Year after year, I visit the Summer Show to see the same painters on the walls, and paintings by artists I either know or know of. In my opinion, it's an exclusive club, and to get in is rather like a lottery win! But artists, ever hopeful souls that they are, keep on trying, keep on paying their £25 per work entrance fee. (We don't even get a free ticket to see the exhibition.)

I'm sure I'm not the only artist to feel that it's an uneven playing field. It always will be, when there are established artists all fighting to retain their spaces, or people using their connections and networks. When I go to see the show in June, there'll be work to admire, paintings to wonder, 'How the hell did that get in?' and perhaps one or two surprises. Then next March, the process starts up all over again. I would love to know are there any other artists out there feeling as frustrated?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Striped Coffee Cups

Yesterday was a red-circled date in my diary. It was the date my gallery was returning my paintings. My short reprieve had failed. The manager, Mr P, had kindly offered to drive the 9 canvases back to me from London, and I waited anxiously for the ring on the doorbell.

I'd prepared for his arrival, still hoping in vain to be seen in a good light. I'd scrubbed the striped coffee cups in preparation for our last coffee, I'd screwed the leg back onto the wobbly, mangled old coffee table, so it wouldn't collapse when we put our steaming cups on it. I'd even cleaned the bathroom, paying particular attention to the toilet.

Still feeling rather raw about being dumped by the gallery, I consoled myself with the thought that at least Mr P. would get to see my numerous large canvases, glowing splendidly on the walls. He'd never seen them, not that it would have made any difference as they were too large for the gallery. Surely he would, for the sake of our 2 year association, and out of protocol, drink a last coffee with me? He couldn't be planning to fling the work out of the car windows as he passed along my street?

Mr P. arrived at 11.15am. I wondered why he chose not to park in one of the spaces outside the block of flats, and instead stopped his car at an angle across the drive. 'Thanks so much for delivering them back to me,' I said. He asked, 'Do you want some help inside with these?' I said 'Yes, thanks very much,' but he shoved them up against the nearest wall faster than I could say, 'Aren't you coming in?' As he pushed a form at me to sign for the delivery, I asked 'Don't you want to come in for a coffee?' Sheepishly, he shook his head. I couldn't help myself - I blurted, 'But I was really hoping to show you the large works.' He merely said he was sorry they hadn't been able to sell more of my work. I said, 'You win some, you lose some. Anyway, I've got 3 shows in June.' His eyebrows raised, a look of surprise spread across his face. I wasn't going to end on a negative note!

I waited for a formal goodbye, but he got into his car. The encounter had taken all of 5 minutes. As I carried the works to the side door, I noticed Mr P. sitting in his car, perhaps watching, perhaps working out his homeward route. I waved as he turned the car, and he was gone.
As I struggled with the canvases down the stairs into my basement flat, I felt an untidy medley of emotions. Sadness that I would never see Mr P. and his lovely gallery again. Panic that no one might ever give me another chance to be part of a 'stable' of artists at their gallery. And defiance! I unpacked the works. They looked better than they should for rejects. The positive thing, I told myself was that I had more than enough work for the 3 forthcoming shows.
Now a day later, it's all slipped into perspective. That was not the only gallery, nor are they the yardstick of quality. The art market is a complex thing, even more so in these times of financial crisis. Plus there's the artist's dilemma. Do you make work that follows your vision, hoping it fits the current trends, or do you doctor your work to fit what is wanted? I could do any number of photographic, realist paintings (I used to live from doing portraits in Cyprus), but the lure of composing with colour beckons. I'm not going to adopt an 'I'm a misunderstood artist' stance, just hope that soon I will find a gallery where my work fits.
As for June, I can't wait for the 3 shows. First is my solo show here, in a new space called 'The Big White Wall.' Then there's the 'Not the Royal Academy,' at the Llewellyn Alexander. I had work chosen for that from photos. Finally, I have work going into a group show at the Brick Lane gallery. Will anything sell?
Paintings: 'Sussex Journey,' (oil on board), 'Spring landscape,' (oil on canvas), 'Spring Stripes,' )oil on canvas.