Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

August 24, 2014

The Royal Academy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob Adams @ 12:01 pm

The first time for visiting this in many a year. I went several times in the 70’s and 80’s but not often since. I had expected bad but not this bad. There were all the various ways people imagine they can be original on show. Every style that meets official approval in fact. So a smorgasbord of painting styles from 1915 onwards. There was nothing at all that could not have been done in 1950. What struck me was how poor the renditions of these various styles was. None of them really got close to the earlier works that inspired them. There were expressionists that were just clumsy and not very expressive. Abstracts with no sense of balance or depth, I excuse Mr Scully here.  The winner of the main prize was a photograph printed very large. It was big, it was red and it was hung in a prominent position. This is all that the judges noticed it would seem. The last dregs of the old school were ghettoised into a small corner, Fred Cumins, Ken Howard and Bernard Dunstan, along with Norman Ackroyd almost the last sign of skill on show. We have to let off the Architect’s model makers who were skilled but uncredited.

The work by some luminaries was weak beyond belief Martin Creed, he of the Turner prize light bulb, had had a neon sign made that said, “ARSEHOLES”. Not even new he had made it years ago and just dragged it out of the cupboard. People were entirely unshocked by it, indeed seemed not to notice it at all. I was appalled at the sheer cack-handedness of most of the work. There was a rather good abstract arrangement of turning white squares, but the flat grey framing had been toshed as if with house paint. IE the artist had tried to get it perfect but failed due to technical inability.

I want to be shocked by the Summer show, I want things I can really hate as well as like and admire. However rooms and rooms full of tired, uninspired, inept and overworked regurgitations of historical styles and ideas from the first half of the 20th century don’t really cut any kind of mustard. It was just mountainously dull, not even interestingly bad. There were only 20 or so works that inspired any kind of emotion in me at all.

The other thing that stood out was how unsophisticated for the most part the use of colour was. Many had plainly just squeezed out the given tube colour and either added black or white. This had the unexpected effect of making Sean Scully’s big abstract in blacks and dull browns a real attention grabber. The other strand was of course to eschew colour and just be monochrome or mono-hued.

So who’s fault is this? Well in my opinion it is the selectors. The Royal Academy has been entirely taken over by the clique that controls the Tate and the art schools. In other words the establishment. Never in any age has the gate for what is worth hanging on a wall been narrower in intellectual breadth. Never has the gate ever been so well defended that anything that does not fit the gospel of the modern and contemporary could possibly make it through. When everything on the walls tries to scream “Me me me!” the result is just tedium. Truly the this institution has come to fit its name and has become the worst kind of frozen in time academic desert.

Will it change? It is hard to see how, the official art machine has complete control, it cries “Revolution!” whilst battling to to maintain the status quo.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, a few paintings and drawings.


Warrior, portsmouth, hard, watercolour

This is the Warrior seen from the Hard in Portsmouth. I added some figures attending to the fishing boat after this  was scanned. 1/2 sheet watercolour.


Teifi, Cardigan, wales, watercolour

A view down the river Teifi near Cardigan. I painted the original oil years ago in the drizzle, but I remember thinking at the time that this would make a good watercolour. 8in by 12in.


Newport bay, Parrog, Wales, watercolour

This is Newport Bay and the Parrog in Pembrokeshire. A dramatic day of fierce squalls which soaked me several times in the day. This was accepted for the RSMA show this year.


Mortlake, Wapping group, thames, london, watercolour

A view of Mortlake on the Thames. A grand day out painting with the Wapping group.


Barnes, Thames, london, watercolour

Another from the same day, this is the path by the river at Barnes.


Barnes, London, pen drawing

Last one from Barnes, a little bit hasty but I was perched uncomfortably on a very hard wall!


Saatchi Gallery, chelsea, London, pen drawing

Another pen sketch done a few weeks previously, this is the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea… no chance of my efforts ever gracing the inside!


Three Mills, London

A day with the Brass Monkeys. I don’t quite know why I settled on this, it falls firmly into the “Dull but worthy” category! It is Three Mills on the river Lee.


Three mills, River Lee, London


Second on from the Three Mills. Very interesting area where rivers canals, paths, railways and roads collide.

Richmond, Thames, Surrey

A very quick oil sketch done on a day out with the Brass Monkeys. Dull light is always a challenge, I tried to not get too specific, I must work harder on my figures some are getting to generic and clumsy. 8in by 10in oils.


Richmond, oil painting, Brass Monkeys

Second one from Richmond This may well become a larger studio picture, I did think of taking this sketch further but think it is best left. 10in by 16in oils.


Oare, Kent, Wapping Group, oil painting, boats

Another day out with the Wappers. This is Oare Creek. Super skies so I made that the main event of this picture. Oils 8in by 14in.


  1. I love those boats. The blog is fantastic, I’m always happy when I see an update.

    Comment by Marc Miran — August 24, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  2. Fabulous work as usual Robb, impressive watercolours.

    Comment by Doug — August 24, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

  3. Hello Rob,I read your excoriating account of the Summer Exhibition and I had much the same reaction myself.I am RA Friend so I usually visit the shownseveral times each summer. Itbseems to me that many interesting artists have given up making an entry. The selection seems to be moving toward the conceptual variety meaning minimal or non visual textual submissions.Ok so I’m well off the mainstream and can live with that but I want to be excited and stimulated with Art that I couldn’t do myself. It’s so vapid. The old guard is depleting.I like looking at Ken Howard’s work. I used to salivate over John Hoyland. Peter Brown isn’t there.Tia Shan Schierenberg has gone AWOL. There was a surprise to see a John Walker in England but it was not one of his best.(he was a tutor atbBirmingham College of Art 1965/8). What a missed opportunity I think. A major showcase for recent Art and thatbisbthe result.
    I look forward to the shows at the Mall Gallery. A rich mix but usually solid intent and skilful. Am I giving away my age I expect so. I like your paintings Rob. Will keep following your work.Cheers Phil

    Comment by Phil Tootell — September 17, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

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