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ROI at the Mall Galleries

Today I visited the Mall Galleries and saw the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018

It was an unexpectedly mild day and autumn sun put a warm glow on our visit to the gallery.

So nice to see so many great paintings in one place 'in the flesh', many of the pictures are familiar from seeing them on social media. The first thing that struck me was the difference in size of many of the paintings - seeing them online reduces all pictures to the a similar scale - seeing them in real life really highlights the variations, often the opposite of what I had imagined.

As I walked around taking them all in, I am aware of certain artists making a connection and feeling indifferent to others. Firstly let me say they were ALL GOOD! So I'm not trying to criticise any of the artists, but I love exhibitions like this because it helps me clarify what kind of painting 'I' really prefer.

Some paintings are technically brilliant but are somehow easy to pass by, almost too polished and finished. Others are engaging because you can sense the artist, sitter or environment as if they have left an imprint of the act of painting in the image.

A bugbear of mine is not working from life. In particular where an artist had pictures obviously painted from life with a crudeness and quirky draftsmanship you might expect, then other pictures which have that tell-tale 'too-perfect' drawing and photographic lighting going on.

I'm conflicted by the notion of working from 2D references, it's more widespread now than ever, with artists using smart phone cameras as on-the-spot reference as well as laptops and printouts. I have always considered painterly art to be about - what Hockney would call - 'eye-balling' the subject from life or memory. But artists have used various artificial aids for centuries so I guess it can be argued as just moving with the times. There are no rules to say it has to be done one way or the other. I guess, like so much in art it comes back down to personal preferences, and I'm clearer now about what mine are!

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