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In our current exhibition ‘The Shape of Things’, we are lucky enough to be showing the stunning works of Jane Bustin. Bustin creates geometrically juxtaposed panels for which she draws her influences from far and wide – 15th century Dutch portrait paintings with stark colour contrasts; modernist architecture and the formal properties of geometric abstraction. The very nature of her work is paint laid next to paint and texture next to texture, creating unique and pleasing pastel-toned visual constructs. The fresh, light colour palette cites cosmetics, sweet wrappers and neon signs in a way that subtly blends historical inspirations with those of the contemporary. It is this dynamic contrast of influences, combined with the honest and clean aesthetic that has earned Bustin her well-deserved representation in the current RA Summer Exhibition.
The 2015 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, like Bustin’s work, has succeeded magnificently with combining age-old art-historical traditions with fresh, innovative ideas. The exhibition is one that has been held without interruption since 1769. Then, the Royal Academy of Arts, to give it’s full name, was housed at Pall Mall, but its rapid expansion demanded a move in 1771 to Somerset House, where new quarters were built on the West entrance to accommodate it. Ever growing, it moved again in 1837 to be situated alongside the National Gallery, and then finally in 1868 it moved to Burlington House on Piccadilly where it can be visited today.
The Royal Academy’s mission is and always has been to exhibit the contemporary – submissions of works are not limited to any particular school or criteria. In fact, any artist could, and still can, exhibit.
This summer’s exhibition is comprised of 1100 works (hand-picked from a formidable number of over 12,000 entries) and has been co-ordinated by Royal Academician Michael Craig-Martin OBE. Craig-Martin is a contemporary conceptual artist and painter who is well known for his affiliation with the Young British Artist’s, and counts Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst amongst his protégées.
The exhibition is displayed in the traditional salon-style – the cavernous spaces of Burlington House are peppered with artworks large and small, hung high and low from ceiling to floor. And yet, the curation is what brings the show into the 21st century. The entire experience is one that assaults the senses – from the ginormous metal structure The Dappled Light of the Sun by Conrad Shawcross RA that dominates the courtyard, to the ascension of Jim Lambie’s rainbow that flows in multi-coloured tape up the neo-classical staircase to the entrance of the exhibition. The juxtaposition of old and new is immediately evident and, inside, it becomes even more apparent.
Each room has been curated by a different member of the RA and holds a theme. Noticeable above all, however, is the continuation from the staircase of vivid colours that runs throughout the exhibition. The central entrance room, curated by Craig-Martin himself, has been painted in a strong sea green; the adjacent room is a vibrant, candy pink and from this the artworks are accentuated, more appealing against their Technicolor, appetising and somewhat tangible.
The representation within is, as ever, diverse. Notable features include works by established artists, such as Anish Kapoor’s sculpture of bubbles trapped in an ethereal transparent block and Grayson Perry’s monumentally scaled vibrant tapestry of Julie and Rob. Works such as these are displayed alongside more progressive pieces, such as a bodice by Clancy Gebler Davies made entirely of her own hair and TV presenter Harry Hill’s portrait of member of the YBA Damien Hirst, who’s work is also included.
The entire show is a must-see – for the collector, for the conceptualist, for the appreciator and for the student – there are works within that reach to all.
Jane Bustin’s work can be seen at the RA Summer Exhibition in Gallery II until the 16th August.
By Holland Drury