Art: Remembering Exhibitions, Royal West Academy

Remembering Exhibitions | Photo: RWA

"An exhibition marks a moment. It can define a movement, highlight an artist or characterise an institution."
– Dr. Janette Kerr, President, RWA

In collaboration with students from Bristol University, the Royal West of England Academy is currently displaying interesting snapshots into its long exhibition history. A special showcase of key works from the Academy's permanent collections, as well as catalogues and posters from past events, reflect that a diverse range of styles from a wide period of art history have filtered through the academy over time.

It is nice to descend the flight of stairs into the RWA's basement to see rows of posters for past exhibitions adorning the walls. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia and – for me at least – envy at not having been born when the opportunity to see them was presented!

In the following rooms, three strands of exhibition history are systematically explored.  The RWA Annual Exhibition, featuring works by past RWA presidents; International Modernism, which looks at the legacy of Roger Fry's 1910 exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists (which Virginia Woolf claimed to have been so significant as to have 'changed the human character'); and finally, Landscape and Regionalism, which incorporates a range of periods, styles and techniques and reflects regional aspects of RWA shows.

Highlights were Bernard Dunstan's impressionistic works; Bedroom with Oil Lamps hosting a universe of atmosphere, and The Bathroom evoking Degas's watched nudes. I also loved Methuen's works, similarly impressionistic and atmospheric. Michael Porter's Edge of the Field is simply stunning – it has vivid colours and beautiful textures – and I loved Camilla Nock's abstract canvasses for Conversation with Myself – soft visualisations of a Joyceian stream of consciousness perhaps.

This is a well-curated and nicely-paced exhibition that I would recommend before it finishes next Wednesday. It is a brilliant collection of periods and revisitations to certain styles, and documents well the influence that exhibitions can have on the direction of art.

Severn Beach in the 1930s, oil on board | Lord Paul Ayshford Methuen
Caribbean Grey Day, oil on canvas | Alethea Garstin

Bedroom With Oil Lamps, oil on canvas | Bernard Dunstan

Floyd Patterson, oil on board | Bernard Dunstan

Café au Lait, oil on canvas | Bernard Dunstan

Gwavas Lake, mixed media | Michael Porter
Edge of the Field, acrylic and oil on paper | Michael Porter
Girl in a Long Green Dress, painted resin | James Butler

Remembering Exhibitions is free and runs until 19th June.


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