Plinth at the RA Summer Exhibition 2016
Plinth at the RA Summer Exhibition 2016

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Plinth at the RA Summer Exhibition 2016

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The Royal Academy’s summer exhibition is, this year, co-ordinated by Richard Wilson, RA. Wilson is one of Plinth’s favourite artists: in 2015, we worked together to produce his limited edition ‘Still Life Jug’ as part of our first series made in collaboration with Ikon Gallery.

Wilson has curated more than 1000 pieces, all on display on the first floor of the Royal Academy. There’s a frantic energy which comes from having so much work on each wall, and more than a casual attempt at harmony would prove futile. Different styles, colour palettes and mediums jostle for attention, more a hubbub that a polite discussion, from canvases variously 8 feet and 5 inches square. Video art, models and sculptures rise and fall in the sea of the exhibition.

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'The Stowaway', Paul Fenner at the RA Summer Exhibition

Some pieces are from established artists – we saw work from Julian Opie, Tess Jaray, Tracey Emin and Lisa Milroy, for instance – but much of the joy comes from discovering new work nestled amongst that from the big names...

In the tradition of the summer show, some pieces are from established artists – we saw work from Julian Opie, Tess Jaray, Tracey Emin and Lisa Milroy, for instance – but much of the joy comes from discovering new work nestled amongst that from the big names. Here follow some of our favourite finds...

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'Marie Antoinette, The Queen's Hamlet', Pierre et Giles at the RA Summer Exhibition

‘Büsi’, by Peter Fischli David Weiss, greets you in the first room of the exhibition. Sweet, playful – and oddly compelling, considering the subject matter – the face of a cat fills the screen, moving rhythmically as it laps milk from a saucer. Its presentation on an old-fashioned, glass-screened television underlines the mundaneity and homeliness of the film’s subject matter.

The shadows created by the depth of material add a third dimension and new tones of grey to those in the paint of the piece, and both blur and accentuate the figure of the pill packet.

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‘Büsi’, Peter Fischli David Weiss at the RA Summer Exhibition

The texture of the thickly-layered paint negates the implied absence in ‘Packs Pills Used’ by Alex Hanna. The shadows created by the depth of material add a third dimension and new tones of grey to those in the paint of the piece, and both blur and accentuate the figure of the pill packet – spent, past, necessarily associated with illness, and (depending on what the pills might have been taken for) inducing the fug of sickness, fever or low-grade hallucination in the viewer themselves.

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‘Packs Pills Used’, Alex Hanna at the RA Summer Exhibition

‘401.85 Parts Per Million’, by Emma Tod, offers a little snatch of sky in the vast, opulent interior of the Royal Academy’s fourth gallery. Hung above ‘Toy Caravan’ by Comhghall Casey, the two small canvases share a little smile as one grounds the other.

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‘401.85 Parts Per Million’, Emma Tod, and ‘Toy Caravan’, Comhghall Casey, at the RA Summer Exhibition

Joe Tilson’s ‘The Stones of Venice Santa Maria Dei Miracoli’ is touchingly redolent of folk art. The patterns behind the church are reminiscent of mosaic tiles and and invoke craftsmanship, throwing into question the relationship between artist and artisan.

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‘The Stones of Venice Santa Maria Dei Miracoli’, Joe Tilson RA at the RA Summer Exhibition

One of my favourite pieces was one of the smallest.

One of my favourite pieces was one of the smallest. ‘Jane Doe’, by Geraldine Swayne, is enamel on aluminium, and 6 inches by 4 at a push. Swayne’s colour palette is muted but naturalistic, and captures the cold light of what could be the sun rising as a party dwindles, and you find yourself with someone special away from the rest of the group. ‘Jane’ looks pensive, and all too human. It’s as rare as ever to find something which catches you on an emotional level as well as a formal one, and just as difficult to justify why that might be.

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‘Jane Doe’, Geraldine Swayne at the RA Summer Exhibition

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