Jock McFayden tells us about this year's RA Summer Exhibition full of dazzling colour

by Cass Art

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246 years after its initial launch, The RA’s Summer Exhibition is about to reveal its most colourful year yet. The world’s largest open submission exhibition, the galleries at Burlington House are filled every year with a huge collection of artwork in all media – painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture and film.

For the first time this year you can view all the works online, but it’s really worth going to see the exhibition itself, especially as you’ll be greeted by a dazzling vinyl installation on the stairs, by none other than artist Jim Lambie.

Cass Art has organised a ticket offer too, so you can see the Summer Exhibition for even less this year.

Summer Exhibition Jim Lambie
Image Credit © Benedict Johnson, Royal Academy of Arts.

The Summer Exhibition

The Summer Exhibition provides a unique platform for both emerging and established artists to showcase their work to an international audience, and was co-ordinated this year by Michael Craig-Martin, an artist mesmerised by colour.

Highlights include a contemporary figure yet classical object by Matthew Darbyshire, and an installation of coloured Perspex hanging from the ceiling by Liam Gillick.

The longevity and vastness of this exhibition is a remarkable achievement year after year. We asked this year’s curator of Gallery II, painter Jock McFadyen, about what goes on behind the scenes, and what you can expect from the 2015 show.

 RA Summer Exhibition

Hi Jock! Can you give us an idea of what to expect from the Summer Exhibition this year? We’ve heard it’s set to be the most colourful one yet…

The summer show is getting more 'curated' every year. The variety and volume of works might mitigate against this but recent themed hangs at various museums including Tate Britain show the possibilities of the challenge. Displaying works connected by narrative, form, subject, colour or scale is possible and exciting. This year's coordinator is Michael Craig Martin, well known for his surprising use of colour, and he has painted the walls of the main connecting galleries and commissioned a stunning piece by Jim Lambie so don't forget your sunglasses...

What kinds of challenges did you face when curating your room - broadly interpreted as 'Radical Landscape.'

It's not a landscape room really, more a portrait of Britain today as seen by artists up and down the country. The only challenge is to make the pictures and sculpture work together and identify various thematic and formal threads.

Jock McFayden 
Photography: John Bodkin, DawkinsColour. © Royal Academy of Arts.

Which artists/artworks should we keep a lookout for at the show? (In Gallery II or otherwise?)
In my room there is the portrait of Simon Cowell by Jean Samtula and the landscape by Elise Ansel is very beautiful, but you must make your own choice

Do you have a favourite piece in the show or is it too difficult to choose?

I  love all the works in my room and wouldn't have hung them if they didn't rock my boat.

Can you tell us bit about your own paintings? Your subjects are so varied, from urban landscapes to distorted portraits, but can you tell us about any recurring themes?
If you want to be successful in the art business it is advisable to repeat yourself and do the same thing all the time for years until the public and the salerooms finally get the message...  but of course that is unutterably tedious and I decided a long time ago to allow my work to be subject led. The paintings trail behind the subject and each different subject becomes a new adventure for the paint. This can be confusing because the public expects artists to have a lifelong narrow theme and never waver. I started off with people and then removed them because nobody was looking at how the background was painted (often the most important bit for me) and in recent years I have started putting them back. I have always wanted to be able to paint a decent still-life but have never managed to pull it off...

 Jock McFayden painting greyhound

What paints do you use and why?

All different brands I don't care really. I'm not fussy at all about paint but I always use oil. I have no emotional connection with water based paint.

Do you think landscape painting still has as much of a presence in the art world as it used to?

Exactly the same... there are only three things; landscape, portrait and still life. All depictive pictures including films and telly are either exclusively one or a combination of the other two or three at any given time. A newscaster might be portrait but there will be a still life element (a piece of paper, a glass of water) and a backdrop which is often a landscape (of a war zone etc) so it is far more difficult to imagine a world without the constant depiction of the earth. How to get rid of landscape would be the real challenge.

And finally, why do you paint?

The pleasure principle.

Jock McFayden painting 
Jock McFyaden, Tate Moss, 2010, oil on canvas, 200 x 300cm


Cass Art has also partnered with the Royal Academy to bring you £2 off entry to the Summer Exhibition - purchase anything online or in-store at Cass Art to receive our offers leaflet with the discount voucher. Find our more and view all of our other great art offers here.

The Summer Exhibition is open from 8th June to 16th August.

Summer Exhibition at the RA

Feeling inspired? 

The Summer Exhibition is open from 8th June to 16th August.

You can read more about the Summer Exhibition on the Royal Academy website. Summer Exhibition is proudly sponsored by Insight Investment. 

Images of Summer Exhibition: Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2015 at the Royal Academy of Arts © David Parry, Royal Academy of Arts

Paintings by Jock McFayden: © Jock McFayden

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