Zebras, cracked eggs & Simon…A day with the RAA

 

Michael Craig-Martin’s 2005 ‘eyetest’

Michael Craig-Martin’s 2005 ‘eyetest’

After catching glimpses of reviews online and in the papers, I decided a trip to The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition should be on my to do list – much in the usual fashion of my skimming over something and then doing it without reading or knowing much about it. So, it could have obviously gone either way. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Running from 9th June to 17th August at Burlington house Piccadilly, I can strongly vouch for an afternoon spent at the RAA. On first glance of what appears to be an eclectic collection of paintings hung from ceiling to floor, it really is a spectacle not to be missed. Throughout twelve rooms, you’ll discover everything from a Tokyo sunset of neon mobile phones, light bulbs and gadgets to shocking images of a woman and the photographic tale of her withdrawal bleed. Heed the warnings at this over 18’s section of the exhibition; even I wasn’t quite expecting to see a woman being rather more intimately involved than she should be with nothing less than a Zebra.

For those not quite ready for an education that evokes the words ‘Is that really art?’, there are plenty of impressive paintings and studies of everything from still life to self-portraits. Particular favourites of mine; ‘Lust’ and ‘Death’ by the The RAA Charles Wollaston Award nominated artist, Michael Craig-Martin. Craig-Martin uses an acrylic, interconnecting tramline of life in his piece simply entitled ‘Death’. You might, like me, be drawn in to inspect exactly how he has applied neon pieces of what appears to be tape, layered over and cut back into aluminum. Just make sure you step back to decipher the hidden message. Clue’s in the title. 

In the same vast room, a giant canvas engulfs your attention and pulls you under water. Unfortunately, the artist of this piece escapes me but it is so vibrant in it’s portrayal of an underwater clearing, you really feel right in there with the six foot fish. On such an enormous scale and painted with such attention to detail, this painting of oversized aquatic life deserves a special commendation – I can only wish I had a lounge big enough (and a wallet to match) to own it. 

Next door, ‘Red road arteries’ hit a home note as artist Susan Stockwell pieces together Tooting Bec road and other parts of south London in the deceptive form of living arteries. A reminder to me that home really is where the heart is and mine being fixed in the south west (despite being a traitor on the west side).

Worth a mention simply for its entertainment of a good friend is ‘Happy Biscuits’ by Robin Lee-Hall. Anything that displays jammy dodgers and smiley face biscuits stacked on an ever so English gingham tablecloth gets my vote if it makes a friend, foe or enemy chuckle like a child. 

Keep walking…you’ll discover Jeff Koons ‘Cracking egg’ – there’s no way you can miss it; it’s 4ft high and a subtle electric blue. Koons obsession with all things splitting continues with this stainless steel egg and its slick metallic inside (you can still see his split floor – now sealed – at the Tate Modern). Impressively installed, ‘Cracking egg’ reflects the decadent ceiling of Burlington house on its shiny coating and jagged edges to offer a squewed reflection in distorted proportions. 

Last but not least, it would be unfair of me not to mention the plentitude of naked men in the exhibition. No, sadly not real, but artists impressions that were quickly nicknamed ‘Simon’. I can’t take the credit for this one; this is the work one ‘artist’ accompanying me on a cultural afternoon, paying more attention to how many orange dots a picture had…as opposed to the thought process and manual labour asserted by members of the RAA. 

If you’re not aware of the RAA, even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as fond of anything creative, I would definitely recommend investing some quality time at Burlington House – possibly the best collection of contemporary art and a bit of nudity thrown in for free.

 

'Death' by Micheal Craig-Martin

'Death' by Micheal Craig-Martin

 

‘South London Arteries’ by Susan Stockwell

‘South London Arteries’ by Susan Stockwell

 

Robin Lee-Hall’s ‘Happy Biscuits’

Robin Lee-Hall’s ‘Happy Biscuits’

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