The RA Summer Exhibition: "I could do that - but I've got talent"

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You've got a little less than a week to get yourself down to the Royal Academy to marvel at the wonders of the Summer Exhibition. Or do I mean wonder at the marvels? Or neither? Do I mean marvel at the lack of talent – or the extraordinary choices of the judges? Or wonder why I didn't do a quick recce of the place before I started because then I wouldn't have spent so much time being angry, but instead would have left myself time for the fantastic last room, dedicated exclusively to a series of tapestries of Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences. I could have spent the entire two hours in that room alone – unlike Brian Sewell, who calls the “visually raucous and machine-made offences” a “hideous homage” to Hogarth. Ah, well, each to his own.

Of course, Perry aside, there are some treasures to behold – such as the two rooms given over to printmakers (image above) and some quite extraordinary panoramic pencil drawings. If nothing else, the Summer Exhibition always gets me thinking, and one of the big questions is what sort of pieces by what sort of artists are actually turned away, with some plain grey blocks of nonsense or something which looks like it's been painted by a toddler given favour in their place.

I could go on ad nauseam about the age-old argument about whether one can objectively call art good or bad (hint: yes, I can), but then this blog might run for several hundred pages. But interestingly, one of my favourite pieces of the Summer Exhibition was clearly a joke about the stupidity of the submission process, the value of art and the pretentiousness of some of the purchasers. It was a painting of a blank piece of paper with a white frame, with row upon row of “sold” dots on it. And, as if by some perverse irony, prints of that very same “blank” painting had been sold over and over. Either the art-buying public with more money than sense (or at least more money than decent eyesight) is enjoying the joke a lot, or it's an artistic self-fulfilling prophecy: if it's hanging in the RA, someone will probably buy it.

It puts me in mind of the Hayward Gallery's 2012 exhibition, “Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957-2012”. These genius curators – for that is surely what they are – put together an exhibition where people were charged £8 for the privilege of looking at invisible art. For instance, “1000 hours of staring” by American conceptual artist Tom Friedman. This was a blank piece of paper which he had stared at for a total of 1000 hours over five years. So that, apparently, makes it art. Insert your own expletive here.

Oh, and get this one: there was a pillar that Andy Warhol allegedly trod on once. Whether that was by accident or not I'm not sure, but sure as hell, Mr Warhol's loafers did make contact. The point? Well, OBVIOUSLY, it allows the viewer to be in the presence of Warhol's “celebrity aura”.

Hand me that invisible gun. I want to shoot myself through the emperor's new clothes which I'm wearing and which I just bought for a cool 20 grand. Oh, wait, I don't want to get invisible blood on them...

Anyway, going back to the Summer Exhibition, I would imagine that if I were an artist I would get quite annoyed at being rejected when such a lot of dross hangs on the walls. As a long-standing blogger for Creativepool, I have seen truly spectacular evidence of design and illustration prowess by members of the community who have an almost overwhelming amount of creativity and originality.

So with that in mind, I'd like to ask you, Creativepoolers and readers of the Creativepool Magazine, how you feel when you see the work of those with considerably less talent than you hanging on such prestigious walls. And, heaven forbid, a row of little red dots, showing how many prints have been sold.

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a blogger, copywriter and editor

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