Best of the West – September 2022

The best art exhibitions coming up in Bristol and the Westcountry – selected by the Friends of the RWA…

Here’s our pick of the best art exhibitions and events happening in and around Bristol and the south west in the month ahead – including a look ahead to upcoming features….


AT THE RWA

Earth: Digging Deep in British Art 1781 – 2022 – until 11 Sept 22

Image: Graham Sutherland OM (1903-1980), Cornish Tin Mine, Emerging Miner, 1943, oil on canvas, 118.1 x 76.2 cm. © Leeds Museums and Galleries © The Estate of Graham Sutherland 

Earth: Digging Deep in British Art 1781-2022 is a major exhibition spanning four centuries of artwork, coming to the RWA this summer

The final instalment of the RWA’s elements series, Earth: Digging Deep in British Art 1781-2022 tackles the most expansive and urgent of subject matters, bringing together important modern, historical and contemporary artworks, co-curated by artist Emma Stibbon RA RWA, art historian Professor Emerita Christiana Payne (Oxford Brookes University) and Nathalie Levi (Head of Programme – Curator of Exhibitions, RWA). It follows The Power of the Sea: Making Waves in British Art 1790-2014 (2014), Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768-2017 (2017) and Fire: Flashes to Ashes in British Art 1692-2019 (2019).

Earth examines how attitudes towards the landscape have evolved over the centuries and how artists’ approaches have changed over time; from the pastoral idylls of the 18th century, through representations of the Romantic Sublime, to present-day confrontations of the climate emergency. Encompassing depictions of the natural world from geological, spiritual, industrial, cultural and scientific perspectives.

This exhibition goes deep beneath the earth, exposes the core materiality of its elements, explores the substance of the surface, climbs dizzying heights and perches perilously on its edges. It bears witness to the earth’s mistreatment and its magnificence, its fullness and its fragility. Earth surveys the representation of our environment across four centuries, inviting us to consider our planet in all its abundance, precarity and preciousness.

Anthony Whishaw at 92: A Force of Nature – until 11 Sept 22

Also showing in the Kenny Gallery is an exhibition exploring Anthony Whishaw RA RWA’s studies of nature, the forces of nature and climate over the past six decades. More info here.

169 Annual Open Exhibition – 8 October 22 to 8 Jan 23

The RWA’s renowned Annual Open Exhibition will be returning for its 169th year with a stunning variety of work from emerging and established artists. More info here.


 

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Compiled by Sue Quirk and Laurel Smart

 

1) JAMES RALPH-MORTON: HOWL

2-24 SEPTEMBER (BY ARRANGEMENT), HOURS, BRISTOL

PREVIEW FRIDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER 6-9PM. OPEN WEEKEND EVENT SAT 3RD & SUN 4TH SEPTEMBER.

Howl is a new collection of work. An exhibition of skulls, birds, portraits, and large shadowy figures, emerging and disappearing into view, creating eerie narratives.

The work is imbued with reactive immediacy of capturing a person at a specific moment in time. Characterful faces form the main terrain in which colours are manoeuvred across the canvas, using a variety of tools and techniques. Winsome, thoughtful, melancholy, and focused; each face expresses the panoply of emotions available to humankind. Often starting with a photo, the final image leaves the photo to become something else entirely, as he uses gestural marks to push and pull individual features into an even deeper truth.

Website.

 

2) PENNIE ELFICK: TALKING TO MYSELF

UNTIL 11 SEPTEMBER, TAUNTON BREWHOUSE, SOMERSET

“I realised some time ago that when I am working I am constantly in conversation with myself, sometime it is a dialogue, sometimes I am weighing up the pros and cons of what I am doing, asking myself about the colour, the shape, the spaces, I wouldn’t like to say that I get answers but it seems to be part of my working process.” 

Elfick is a contemporary abstract artist. Her interest in the natural landscape has been a major source of inspiration. Elfick presents atmospheric compositions of simplified geometric shapes, they express a vocabulary of reductive simple paintings. This show is curated by Close Ltd and heralds three decades of prolific dedication to her art practice, which explores arrangements of horizontal and vertical bands in a range of muted colours using acrylic and oil paints. Characterised by austere lines and grids superimposed upon grounds of contemplative colour, these works elegantly negotiate the confines of structure, space and draughtsmanship. The paintings encourage the viewer to engage in their meditative qualities. She lives and works in Somerset.

 Website.

 

3) ALEX LOWERY: PICTURING

UNTIL 11 SEPTEMBER, SLADERS YARD, WEST BAY, DORSET

Alex Lowery’s most recent paintings seem to express a feeling of release, of going to new places and looking with new eyes at familiar places. In his confident, thrilling paintings of West Bay and Portland, he has long been an expert at transforming the local and everyday into something universal and heart-stopping. Here Alex Lowery expands his range with paintings of new and diverse subject matter from London’s Barbican Centre to the Orkney Islands.

Large-scale charcoal drawings and studies in gouache have influenced the way he is painting, bringing a looser more fluid style. Areas of greater detail than we have seen before contrast with intense planes of colour and texture, the paint varying from translucent to opaque, as the raking light shifts the shadows and lights up unexpected angles.

Website.

 

4) NAOMI MUNUO: CHANGING FACES

15 SEPTEMBER – 8 OCTOBER, THAT ART GALLERY, BRISTOL

Naomi’s work is representational – still life, interiors and figure. Within her works on paper, she draws on elements of the unexpected and accidental to give her work, life and freedom, using a range of media. In her current work she is focussing on acrylic painting on canvas.

Naomi’s work is of the mid-century style inspired by the modern masters, her family and her interior surroundings. Naomi sets up still life scenes with objects and artefacts from around her house. Her figures have a sculptural element to them. She grew up surrounded by her father’s sculptures and her mother’s collections of vintage ceramic ornaments, fabrics and colourful abstract paintings. Since leaving the family home many years ago she has set out to establish collections like this in her own home and studio, and they are a constant source of inspiration for her. Colour, composition, contrast, narrative, motif and mark making are important elements in Naomi’s work.

Website.

 

5) MATTHEW HAYWARD: INTERVENTION

UNTIL 17 SEPTEMBER: GUGGLETON FARM ARTS, STALBRIDGE, DORSET

This exhibition addresses conflict, ranging from protest against injustice to invasions with their devastating consequences. “War has awful consequences, whether begun with high hopes for changing the world for the better or with the basest motives. However, there are still, in the words of Primo Levi, “moments of reprieve” – for instance, when a soldier saves a child, or a refugee is rescued from the sea. The work does not make a judgement: rather it communicates disturbance, agitation and passion”

Website.

 

6) FOREST: WAKE THIS GROUND: GROUP EXHIBITION

UNTIL 2 OCTOBER, ARNOLFINI, BRISTOL

A major group exhibition including artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers from across the globe: Rodrigo Arteaga, Mark Garry, Alma Heikkilä, Eva Jospin, Jumana Manna, Zakiya Mckenzie, David Nash, Maria Nepomuceno, John Newling, Rose Nguyen, Ben Rivers, Ai Weiwei, and Hildegard Westerkamp.

With works that recycle, reuse and repurpose resources, we will be discovering the forests’ ancient rhythms, as well as exploring stories, myths, and folktales, passed down between people over centuries. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme that includes live performance, film, family events and creative workshops we will be inviting you to share and create your own ‘forest tales’ and to very gently encourage us all to take a look at the impact the changing climate has on nature and the world around us.

Website.

 

7) MARY FEDDEN: SIMPLE PLEASURES

UNTIL 16 OCTOBER, VICTORIA ART GALLERY, BATH

Fedden (1915-2012) is well known as a colourist who celebrated her favourite places, things and people in joyous compositions that delight the eye as much as the mind. This exhibition explores her life and work, from her childhood and young adulthood in Bristol, to her marriage with fellow artist Julian Trevelyan and their decades working in adjoining studios at Durham Wharf on the Thames.

Over 110 paintings and works on paper are featured, covering all periods of Fedden’s career, drawn from both private and public collections across the UK, including Tate and the Government Art Collection. The exhibition will shed new light on the artist’s working practices by including her easel and some of her favourite still life objects in the installation – the simple things that inspired her. We will also explore the development of her sensibility for bright colours via graphic panels and a well-illustrated catalogue.

Website.


 

LAST CHANCE TO SEE

  • UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER: GEORGE SHAW: THE LOCAL A new presentation of work by Turner Prize-nominated artist George Shaw, ​‘The Local’ explores the themes of isolation, loss and belonging. THE BOX, PLYMOUTH. https://www.theboxplymouth.com/
  • UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER: BETTER DAYS BY INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS/FRIENDS A diverse selection of paintings, prints and drawings connected by friendship and a shared desire to communicate love of and concern for the natural world. HARBOUR HOUSE, KINGSBRIDGE, DEVON https://www.harbourhouse.org.uk/g22-dh.shtml

WATCH OUT FOR

If you would like an exhibition or artist to be listed please email laurel.smart@blueyonder.co.uk for consideration.


 
The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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