Wednesday, 26 June 2013

187th RSA Annual Exhibition

The annual RSA exhibition is currently on show in Edinburgh's RSA Gallery, the Mound. It runs until the 2nd of July. Official page here 

The exhibition is an annual collection of "contemporary paintings, sculpture, film, printmaking, photography and installation alongside work by some of the country's leading architects". It is consistently awesome and absolutely free so if you are in Edinburgh and have a spare few hours go and see it.

I will focus mainly on the architecture section which, as I understand, consists of members of the RSA and is curated by a couple of different Scottish architects each year. Like the rest of the exhibition and indeed most large scale collections, it is littered with everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some of the work is genuinely awe inspiring while others attempt to tickle. The Morton Award winners Roger & Reid have a light hearted film that consists of masked gentry frolicking around a stately home in what can only be interpreted as a rubber bandit style piss take which rewards lens based media. Some of their other work can be viewed here

Some other work of note, outside of the architecture section, includes the Collection of Dundee Art Galleries iron mask work which scare and titillate in equal measure. David P. Evans Acrylic paintings are somewhat reminiscent of the always appealing 1970's photorealism in a kind of lo-fi homage. Think John Beader with a limited palette  The trio of paintings chosen depict a slightly sterile industrial world but his balance and colour choice are breath taking. Philip Reaves two pieces using watercolours and strips of corrugated brown cardboard are so simple and evocative it makes one double take. They neighbour Glen Orwin's beautiful mixed media abstract "Vertical Green Evaporation". Work that really stands out among the myriad of paintings on show. They share space with an absolutely stunning piece by David Mach. A life sized tiger made entirely from spray painted coat hangers! It is all too much to take in on a single visit.

Gallery 10, in the basement, houses the architecture. Upon entry there are a series of digital prints by Rankinfraser Landscape Architects. Simple, clean, balanced  digitalgrayscale prints that  leave you feeling relaxed. A sign, I hope, that the world of architects are finally accepting a profession often overlooked. Konishi Gaffney, who can do no wrong it seems, have a beautiful series of development models from their Echo Chamber project. I am familiar with this project from a previous lecture so it is a joy to see some of their work first hand. They once again display a kind of restraint often lacking in the architecture of this particular corner of the globe. Most of the models on show are winners. David Page of Page/Park Architects has a fine example of why balsa wood should never be laser cut. I am a huge fan of laser cutting but I must admit we have lost something important with the abandonment of the hand made discrepencies often found in architecture models pre laser cutter. The copper spiral stair case, only fleetingly visible within the substantial balsa form is enticing and exciting. Equally enjoyable but more clean cut are the efforts of Neil Gillespie of Reiach & Hall. His oak models are basic in form but so well crafted. The weirdest piece of the architecture section is by Eelco Hooftman of GROSS MAX. It is a mixed media print of their Templehoff Rock project. It depicts a mountain with a fantastic collection of render ghosts. Unfortunately, their other work on display is such a blatant aping of Joy Division's Unknown Peasures artwork that I found myself slighlty angry. I really wish people would leave that imagery alone and respect it for what it is. Their explanation of a Beijing mountain range was weak in the extreme. It wasn't the only poor work on display. Eightyseven Architecture's work looked amateurish in the extreme. I see better work from first years every day. Similarly, Graeme Massey's House of Art model could do with a sander! Richard Murphy's Dalkey House and University work have obvious merits but their approach to exhibition is baffling. They seem to treat the RSA as an advertisement. Their presentation style is akin to the aesthetic of a client brochure found in the glass and steel lobby of a commercial architecture office. Not suitable for a gallery and some serious questions should be asked of their continued participation.

Other than that the overall show is superb yet again and well worth a visit. Its still RSA so some  of the time it feels very fuddy duddy but their is real talent and hard work in the mix as well. Go see fo yourself.

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