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A Day at the RA - Charles 1 & From Life

February 11, 2018

A day to indulge in two exhibitions at the Royal Academy. Both inspiring and revealing with my re-kindled interest in life drawing and portraits. 

 

The Charles 1 exhibition is a mixture of commissioned and collected art providing a great display of classical show piece art and portraiture. 

 

There were painting to tell stories, some as genuine human portraits, others as political posters and some just as posh wallpaper! 

 

It's actually quite surprising when you see the real paintings just how many of the large showy paintings are really not that well painted and bare the styles of several artists. It would be very interesting if the notes and guides had more information about the actual processes of production of the paintings and about how the artists worked. I imagine most were produced in artist lead workshops producing bespoke imagery to client's requests, just as someone might use an interior designer today. Many of the compositions use similar - and when you look closely - nonsensical devices, such as the random classical column and curtain motif.

 

What really stood out for me were the artist's self portraits, Holbein drawings and the Rembrandt Old Lady portrait.

 

From the portrait technique point of view, I noticed that the most convincing and engaging portraits that really seem to capture a personality have been achieved by defining the lines of the upper eyelid, upper nostril opening and central lip lines. Other details then enhance the portrait but those lines seem to be the foundations on which the rest of the face can be built.

 

'From Life' exhibition was initially hampered by bad navigation / lack of signage and once we'd found it was surprised by the small scale of it. Never the less it was a good show, I just wish there had been more. 

 

Paintings showing the original drawing classes were interesting when I noticed that they mostly showed classes working by candle or gas light. Very different from the fluorescent strips in the village hall life classes! 

 

The Iggy Pop life drawing project was great to see the many different approaches, some much more successful than others... but having said that, the show made you realise that what is good and bad is also in the eye of the beholder. There were some technically brilliant drawings that just left me cold and other crude naive style drawings that portrayed the sitter much more forcefully.

 

There were a couple of artists works whose drawings I really liked both of which were fairly minimalistic or economic in execution with strong expressive charcoal lines and freely applied shadow tones that really came to life. Not overworked which is something I am aware of in my recent drawings.

 

There was an area where you could experience three different virtual reality set-ups. One was walking through a slightly 3D'd piece of classical art in a Mediterranean setting. The second was standing inside a grey dome which you could alter the perimeters of. And the third was a 3D VR drawing environment which allowed you to draw in virtual 3D space and interact with your drawing. All were as crude as 3D images used to be in the 1980's but I guess it shows how the nature of 'From Life' might alter. Who knows.

 

 

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