Vivienne Kennedy reviews Drawn and Drawing On, two exhibitions that she viewed at the RWA in Bristol on Tuesday 24 March
Yesterday evening I visited Bristol's RWA in Queen's Road for my first look at Drawn and Drawing On, two exhibitions that opened on Saturday 21 March, both running until 07 June.
Until three years ago I had never visited the RWA, if I'm honest the building's imposing exterior, big wooden doors, and the words Royal and Academy in its name, put me off - I thought it wasn't somewhere for the likes of me.
Then I was invited to interview wildlife artist David Shepherd and multi-talented rock musician/astronomer/astro-physicist and stereoscopic photography enthusiast Brian May, both of whom exhibited at the RWA in the early months of 2012. I visited the gallery to see their work and haven't missed an exhibition since. It very quickly became one of my favourite places in Bristol, I've yet to be disappointed by any show I've seen there and the two new exhibitions have done nothing to change that.
Drawn is an open submission exhibition, designed to raise the profile of drawing as both an autonomous discipline and an interdisciplinary tool. The artists that submitted work include illustrators, videographers, sculptors, printers, embroiderers, typographers, animators and architects and the final selection is both interesting and diverse.
There were pieces that I loved and would like on my walls; there were works that weren't to my personal taste, but that I appreciated; and there were just one or two items that made me ask, for one reason or another, "really?"
Particular favourites included a mixed media on canvas piece entitled A Child's Eye View by Janet Lynch; Eighteen Thousand Holes...Approximately by Jilly Morris, formed of ink, hand-drilled holes and wax on paper; Sea Mark, by Tania Kovats, the exhibition's invited artist; and Winter, an etching by Sylvia Duncan. I could list many more, but my overall favourite, and that of the friend accompanying me, was Fran Norton's Mother and Child (16 years), although neither of us, when we thought about it later, could really understand how this clever piece of printed phototex paper came to be categorised as "Drawn" - did that matter? Not one bit.
If I had one criticism of this exhibition, and it's a minor point, it would be that a couple of works on the left of the room (from the entrance) were hung a little too high to be seen properly.
Drawing On, the second exhibition, turns the spotlight on Modern British Art, showcasing more than 55 works from The Ingram Collection. The featured artists include Elizabeth Frink, Henry Moore, John Nash, and Stanley Spencer.
Again, it's difficult to pick my favourites, but I was drawn to the work of Edward Burra, particularly a watercolour and pencil piece entitled Hop Pickers Who've Lost Their Mothers; Dame Barbara Hepworth's Fenestration of the Ear (The Microscope), one of a series of works created in the 1940s, illustrating surgeons at work in Post-War Britain's operating theatres; On The Shore by Mary Fedden; and Costerwoman by Ceri Richards. The piece I kept returning to was Bleak November, an ink, watercolour and gouache image, created between 1955 and 1956 by Alan Reynolds, who died in 2014 at the age of 88.
For those inspired by the exhibitions there is an opportunity to get creative in The Drawing Lab, a space designed to encourage interaction and participation where resident artists can be found at work and where workshops and drawing games will be taking place. Visitors will also find cards featuring a series of challenges relating to drawing.
The exhibitions will be displayed until 07 June. Opening hours will be extended until 8.30PM on Tuesdays from 21 April and there are a number of events taking place, including a flag making workshop, a creative gym, and artists' professional development sessions.
If, like me, you enjoy looking at art but something has stopped you from visiting the RWA before, think about making this exhibition the one that changes that; it really is a very special place and one of Bristol's biggest cultural assets.