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Royal Academy 250th Summer Exhibition

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Time for the annual trip to the Summer Exhibition at the other RA ;-)

Not just any annual open-submission exhibition featuring over 1,300 artworks – this one is also the RA’s 250th Summer Exhibition and so it is extra special.

I couldn’t agree more – co-curated by Grayson Perry RA this time the exhibition feels like a celebration of colour and art that truly reflects the current climate. Political artwork sits alongside fun and whimsical art and both look at home here.

I particularly enjoyed Room III with its bright yellow walls and sense of fun. You can feel Grayson Perry’s influence in the intelligent, joyful and poignant work here.

Room III Summer Exhibition

We filled our List of Works with annotations and feel inspired for the year to come. This year’s Summer Exhibition has outdone itself!

Until next year..


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London in Art

london eye
Our capital has been portrayed so many ways over the years, and yet we still can’t get enough.  It is no wonder that is has attracted so many artists to paint its river, buildings, winding alleyways, grand landmarks, people and magnificent skyline.
A few of our favourites..
Great Fire of London (Oil on panel)
This painting has been dated to 1666, although we do not know who the artist was. It depicts the fire on the night of 4th September 1666, the third night of the raging flames. The level of detail suggests an eyewitness to the actual event as it so carefully depicts the City as it is engulfed by flames and the chaos as people rush to the Thames with their belongings. We see them scrambling into boats while others load their possessions onto horses, ready to flee the city. The extent of the fire can be seen from The Tower of London, right across to London Bridge which appears to have been spared thus far.
A high level of detail brings the terror and chaos experienced by those witnessing the fire to life. The depiction of the fire at night emphasises the huge, towering flames as they rise high above the capital, casting an eerie light on those attempting to escape.
This painting currently hangs in the Museum of London Linbury Gallery.
London Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge (Canaletto) 
A beautiful view across the Thames at dusk, framed by one of the arches of the new Westminster Bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral to the right. The symmetry and uniformity of the frame is broken only by a solitary bucket hanging on the right side of the fame. It provides the perfect point of interest and is a nod to the unfinished nature of the bridge at the time of painting. It is thought that this painting was commissioned by Sir Hugh Smithson who was one of the people responsible for supervising the building of the new bridge.
The architectural detail is quintessentially Canaletto, and reminiscent of his earlier paintings of Venice. The composition reflects this work too, with the large expanse of sky and central placement of The Thames echoing the canals of Venice.
Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge 
Painted in 1872-5. One of my own favourite paintings. The truly dramatic nature of this composition makes it stand out amongst others. Perhaps it is not instantly recognisable as London, but the structure of the old Battersea Bridge looms high over the Thames here and the Albert Bridge is just visible in the background. The eye is drawn to the fireworks above the Bridge and the remnants falling in gold down towards the Thames. It is said that Whistler preferred the calm of the Thames by night and would go out with oarsmen to sketch before returning to his studio to paint.
Painted in 1872-5. One of my own favourite paintings. The truly dramatic nature of this composition makes it stand out amongst others. Perhaps it is not instantly recognisable as London, but the structure of the old Battersea Bridge looms high over the Thames here and the Albert Bridge is just visible in the background. The eye is drawn to the fireworks above the Bridge and the remnants falling in gold down towards the Thames. It is said that Whistler preferred the calm of the Thames by night and would go out with oarsmen to sketch before returning to his studio to paint.
This painting is part of Tate’s permanent collection.
Cover Image: ‘London Eye’ by Lee McCarthy
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Raku Process and Origins by Shaun Hall

Raku Process and its Origins
Raku is essentially a style of pottery firing which involves quickly heating wares in a kiln normally fired outdoors. Traditionally kilns were fuelled by split wood or coal, but many Potters today use Propane Gas, as the temperature can be more carefully controlled.
Its origins of course lie in the Zen Buddhist Tea Ceremony and the humble little black and red tea bowls first produced by Chojiro in Japan.  The Raku family themselves continue this tradition towards the present day.  In traditional Raku ware the work is drawn from the kiln red hot and exposed to the air- doused in water or   rolled in grass or leaves to cool. The effect is of a typically Oxidised surface- muted, understated – yet one of natural beauty and simplicity.
Western Raku is a total contrast. Here the wares are drawn from the kiln in the typical Raku style, with tongs, but instead they are placed in a chamber (normally an old dustbin) full of combustible materials- such as leaves or wood shavings. This then ignites and produces lots of flames and smoke! The lack of oxygen present causes a reduction process to begin.
This allows the metallic elements within the Glaze’s oxides to react. A wide spectrum of effects and variations is possible, from metallic lustres and textures to the familiar crazing and smoke blackened lines  caused by the cooling process. Western Raku lends itself to experimentation – yet it still shares the same spontaneity and freedom evident in those original humble tea bowls produced in Japan.


Shaun Hall Raku
Copper Matt Method
Shaun works in both glazed Raku producing highly glossy metallic wares and heavily textured lava glazes. However, he is perhaps better known for using Copper matt slips.
This is a technically challenging and often elusive version of Raku firing. The pot or ware is coated in a thin copper matt slip. It is then  placed in a kiln and subsequently withdrawn at a higher than normal temperature for Raku at about 1020-1040oc.
Instead of being plunged into a bin full of combustible materials and smokes, Shaun places the work on a circular bed of wood shavings. This causes flames to lick around the sides of the vessel. More wood shavings are sprinkled around the pot for up to 2 minutes, before a metal bin is placed over the work, sealing in the air.  Wood shavings seal the base of the bin.
Depending on the size of the pot being fired- the work  is then left to cool for between 10-15 minutes. A short burst of air is then let in by lifting the bin a little- and the pot is again left to cool for a similar period. This is repeated  until the pot is cool enough to handle.
This  burst of air allows a period of reoxidisation/reduction and dramatically causes  the spread of the Copper Matt lustre and its’ dramatic colours.  Vivid areas of metallic copper bloom can result- with anything possible from salmon pink, rust, gold, green blue, orange and red.
It has been described as the most challenging of all Raku firing techniques to master. Many variables can upset the outcome- from the “internal”-the kiln firing temperature reached- to the “external”- the temperature outside on the firing day. (A hot or cold day can sometimes cause a wide variation in cooling/reduction rates thus affecting colour development) Even the type of wood shavings used can cause problems. Lastly, The dramatic cooling rate and the sudden exposure of the pot to the outside air can cause firing cracks.
Despite these factors- Copper Matt Raku remains one of the most enigmatic and beguiling of all the varied and experimental Western Raku techniques. Perhaps though,   it is the mastery of this technique required by the Potter –coupled with the almost fleeting transcience of colour, surface and “ other worldliness”- which lie  at the heart of its appeal. Certainly a good Copper Matte pot is a stunning thing and consequently absolutely unique.
Shaun Hall has developed quite a reputation for working in this medium and –uniquely- with slab built sculptural wares. His work can be seen in two recently published books- 500 Raku by Lark/US and Handmade in Britain by Vivays- both published in 2011/12.
View Shaun’s work in our Ceramics section


Sentinel II in Raku Copper finish
Sentinel II by Shaun Hall
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A London exhibition which starts today seeks to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder through the medium of art. A series of artists personally affected by SAD have been commissioned by Studio C&C to create artworks to help combat symptoms of the disorder which affects between 5- 10% of the population.
One piece of work included in the project is a sheet of blotting paper soaked in Vitamin D, which is lacking when we are not exposed to sunlight, whilst others are simply intended to inspire cheer.
Symptoms of SAD are generally caused by lack of sunlight and so are heightened during winter months. Those affected can suffer from depression, lack of motivation and decreased energy levels.
The launch event itself is set to be a kind of escapism from winter and a chance to view the artwork as well as the accompanying ‘SAD Rescue Pack’ book,  which has been compiled by the participating artists.
The exhibition runs from Thursday 19th Feb until Sunday 22nd Feb at Protein Gallery Space, London.
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Artist Gill Bustamante – TV Ads

Starting on May 9th 2016, four of my Summer themed paintings are being used in a TV ad which is running during Good Morning Plus on ITV. The ad is for Opticrom eye drops who are sponsoring the program so their ads feature at beginning of ad breaks and at the ends. Four different paintings were used showing a figure magically appearing out of the background and rubbing their eyes which smears the face paint they were wearing to cleverly highlight how summer can cause itchy eyes!

The thing happened out of the blue when a nice lady who works for ITV was looking for ‘summer themed’ paintings and had found me on an artist’s directory website.  She contacted me because some of my paintings are of flower meadows and are large.  I did not get paid as such but what she did was buy 4 prints of the paintings from Point 101 (who are a great fine art printers I use to fulfil my print orders) and these were large enough for the actual filming. Afterwards, she gave me the 4 prints which I can sell.

No-one will know the paintings in the ads are mine but it has made my parents happy and is a nice thing to add to my news site so it was good. It may be encouraging to other artists that simply continuing to keep putting your name out there does sometimes pay off!

On an interesting aside – two of the paintings featured in the ads sold in the first week the ads began to run even though the buyers had not seen the ad and I had, in fact, painted them over a year ago – spooky eh?


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The Accidental Garden

Abraham Cruzvillegas The Empty Lot
The Turbine Hall is busy.
People are crowding and looking over the balcony. They are looking at soil and the sculpture by Abraham Cruzvillegas is a success.
Cruzvillegas filled small triangular lots with soil from a range of parks, commons and green spaces across London to see what would happen. The Empty Lot.
At the beginning, nobody knew what would happen. Maybe nothing.  It was part sculpture and part agricultural experiment. Nothing was planted by the artist or by Tate Modern. The plants/fungi visible arrived by one of the following means:
– Existing seeds within the soil
– Seeds/spores travelling in the air
– Seed-bombing by the public
At the end of the experiment we can see the results and view the small plants as signs of hope from within a metropolitan wilderness. There is potential.
Cruzvillegas was inspired by his knowledge of ancient agricultural methods used to farm the area that is now Mexico City.
We are lucky that we have been able to bask in the calmness of this accidental garden.

Abraham Cruzvillegas

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‘Blind Spots’ Jackson Pollock at Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool will be showcasing the largest collection of Jackson Pollock’s ‘Black Pour’ paintings ever seen together  in the UK for a new show running until 18th October 2015. This is the first exhibition in 30 years to focus on this specific area of his work.
The Black Pourings were part of a significant change in style for Pollock who had been working on his colourful, abstract drip paintings for the previous 4 years. During a difficult period of his life, which began in 1951, Pollock decided that he wanted a change of style and moved away from the ‘drip’ method towards the ‘pour’ method, continuing in his ‘Action Painting’ style. The works use black enamel paint poured onto unprimed canvas. His use of black can be seen as an attempt to defy critics who believed his work to be wthout substance and ‘decorative’. He would work in a barn with the canvas unstretched and spread out across the floor, approaching the canvas from different sides and angles. Pollock was to succumb to his addiction to alcohol, and ‘painter’s block’ followed in 1953.
The exhibition also shows some of Jackson Pollock’s earlier paintings to give the viewer a broad overview of his work and a chance to see the black pour paintings in the context of his career as a whole.
Read more about Blind Spots at Tate Liverpool
Cover Image: ‘Kites’ by Jan Rippingham after Jackson Pollock
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MIF 2015

Manchester International Festival 2015
MIF this year started on 2nd July and will be running until 19th July. This bi-annual festival showcases new art, music and theatre performances by many well-known artists. The festival was the brainchild of Alex Poots following the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. He saw Manchester as a city capable of holding such large -scale events and also as a major cultural hub. He is well aware of Manchester’s past and it’s forerunning during the music scenes of 80’s and 90’s. He saw the re-invention of Manchester through Tony Wilson’s ‘Factory’ record label.
Poots suggested to Manchester Council a festival which would be led by artists, be completely independent of the council and only showcase new work.


MIF has previously seen new work unveiled by the likes of Bjork, Damon Albarn and Kenneth Branagh.
This year’s festival includes Richter/ Pärt. This is a project which took years to plan and can be attributed to Alex Poots’ introduction of artist Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt. This creative partnership has inspired both parties to create new work with and for each other. Richter has produced 4 new works alongside Pärt’s Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima.
Tickets to Richter/ Pärt are free and this show will run at The Whitworth Gallery until 19th July.


More information about Richter/Pärt