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The Royal West of England Academy of Art is having its 167th annual open exhibition. The exhibition shows well over 600 works from well known and lesser known artists in a huge variety of styles, material and subject matter. The choice is enormous, it's an almost overdose of art, but it's also a fabulous exhibition well worth visiting whether you are buyer, an artist or an art lover.

This article will show some of my favourites in the show. Obviously this means this review is totally subjective. I prefer figurative art and good painting and drawing skills. But I do like abstract art as well, as long as it is not gimmicky and doesn't put concept over execution. There is a lot, a lot, of abstract large art at the RWA, there always is. Many pieces are so big they shout over the smaller more figurative pieces. But hanging a show so varied and so large is no mean task and compromises had to be made, I have no doubt.

You can find images of the show and some of my personal highlights below. I hope they will encourage you to go and visit, or, if you are too far away, provide some inspiration in your day.

Click the images for an enlargement.

My pieces hanging on the left: The Duchess (top) and Repeating Patterns (bottom left)

My two pieces almost have their own little room. In the small space between the main exhibition hall and another space, they hang in all their glory. I am very pleased with how they hung my work and I hope visitors will enjoy seeing them.

The walls on either side of the entrance door are often reserverd for portraiture and figurative work. It goes without saying that these walls are my favourite. There are some excellent pieces here that are a joy to behold.

My favourite wall. Many pieces in the exhibition could not really be appreciated. In the top left corner, for example, hangs a piece by Jo Barber. It is nearly one meter tall and completely done in coloured pencil. I would have loved to have seen that more close up.

Amazing work too by Howard Mason (top middle), Varosha Cornford (top right), a stunning piece in watercolour by Claire Sparkes with spectacular fabric details, more patterns and fabrics by Zi Lang (middle), another beautiful piece by Sparkes and a stunner of a family portrait by Vincent Brown.

Detail of Vincent Brown’s painting

Ian Price’s portrait of Andrew Hardwick RWA, oil.

The wall on the right side of the entrance door with great work by Ian Price and Katie Jones (bottom left two pieces)

The drawings room (black and white room, I call it) is always great. For some reason this room always 'works' because the colour scheme is, obviously, all black and white and there are always some amazing art works. Some rely on skill, some on poetry, some hit both.

Really liked the works by Shelley Tregoning (furthest right pieces)

In some cases photography and hyper realist graphite art was together. It can be hard to see the difference sometimes. That is a compliment to the graphite artist, no doubt, but it also raises some interesting questions - which are for another day, I suppose.


The small works room is always popular, especially with buyers. There are always plenty of red dots to be found and lots of lovely little portraits, still life and more.

Works by Leslie Glenn Damhus (top), PJ Crook (left) and others 

Sky Landscape of the Year 2018 winner (and friend) Jen Gash has a great poetic piece in the exhibition (bottom right)

I thought this year's exhibition was at its usual standard: a large variety of works but, as always, a slight lean towards abstract pieces. As always there are too many which, in my eyes, are gimmicky and empty. Also there are also always a couple of figurative pieces that raises everyone's eyebrow by its lack of skill. But there is also a huge offering of capable, skill ful and poetic works. In such a large and crowded show, it is worth going back a few times. I walked round probably 4 times and still found pieces I had not spotted before. Some are overshadowed by others, some hang too high or low to notice at a first round, but many are worth a second look, for sure! A beautiful and varied show.

RWA

167th Open Exhibition
29 Sept – 1 Dec 19
Adults: £7.95 (includes an 80p donation) £6.95 online
Concessions: £6.75 (includes a 70p donation). Pay on the door
Under 18s/SGS, UoB & UWE students: FREE
RWA Art Pass Holders: FREE Purchase an Art Pass
Friends of the RWA: FREE Join today
National Art Pass holders: 50% discount on ticket price. Pay on the door

Queen’s Road,
Clifton Bristol BS8 1PX
+44 (0)117 973 5129
[email protected]

Opening Times:

Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sunday: 11.00am – 5.00pm
Monday Closed
Click here for Bank Holiday opening info

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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