Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The RA Summer Exhibition

It’s the longest running open art show, and the most diplomatic one at that. The Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition, where works by unknown artists sit cheek by jowl with the industries most famed. First time exhibiters (and jotta members) JocJonJosch take us on a tour of the hallowed halls.
Their two photographs have commanded fine spots in the photography section of the Summer Exhibition. At eye level, they are arresting and dynamic, holding their own in a sea of prints.

“Seeing the work up there on the Royal Academy walls was special,” says Joc Marchington, one part of the team. “We'd been really lucky to have both pictures hung at eye level rather than at the top of the wall, it makes a big difference.”

Not bad for a first effort (JocJonJosch are one of 225 first timers) and considering the Royal Academy receive in the region of 10,000 submissions with space for only 1,000.

“We submitted our pieces at the beginning of April, carried these big 1.5 metre by 1 metre frames on the tube and our backs to the RA,” reveals Marchington. “We got there pretty early so the queues weren't too bad and even got interviewed and our pictures taken by the BBC. Afterwards we fantasised about which photograph might get in and all the awards, fame and fortune! Of course none of that's happened but it's an amazing opportunity for us.”

Perhaps they shouldn’t speak too soon. The Summer Exhibition has a reputation for helping to launch the careers of great artists and alumni include Constable, Millet and Turner.

The show has run every year since 1769 and each summer becomes the highlight of the UK art calendar. Despite this year’s theme ‘Making Space’ lightly lassoing the collection (you can see the idea playing on JocJonJosch’s imagery) when it comes to style, genre or medium, anything goes, from the most contemporary of art to traditional; from monolithic sculpture (by the likes of Hirst and Caro) to minute architecture, with print, film and everything in between.

The view from the gallery’s central atrium is an arresting one. From one angle, David Mach‘s Predator (a photorealistic wildlife shot made up, upon closer inspection, from collaged Botticelli postcards) glowers in the distance, flanked by sculptures in stone and limewood. Spin on your step and Cy Twombly’s 7.5 metre wide contribution commands your vision; a largely turquoise affair with the artist’s idiosyncratic italic scrawl and paint explosions. A Tracey Emin sits to its right, while contributions from lesser-known artists share the same space. A successful stab at socialism in the art stakes.

A wander round the vast space sees the pattern continue, with the print room equally varied; an Aladdin’s cave of etchings and illustrations stacked chaotically on top of each other so that each inspection reveals something new. A tiny Louise Bourgeois sketch may go unnoticed were it not for the scrawled initial in the corner and similarly works by Emin and Paula Rego lie anonymously with the masses.

It is a jumble sale of an art exhibition, with rare gems waiting to be unearthed with every second glance. And, with no labels announcing household names or otherwise, it allows you for once to look objectively at all that you behold.

“It's really pleasing to feel that people appreciate our work,” Marchington agrees. “You know that it's not just us. I think our family and friends might actually believe us now when we say that we're working!”

See JocJonJosch appear on BBC's The One Show discussing their work at the exhibition.

For more information on the creative team visit their website or see here for our very own interview

For more information on the Summer Exhibition 2009 click here

By Imogen Eveson

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