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August 15th 2011

RAA2011 exhibitionThis is the 243rd Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy on Piccadilly, which means that it started in 1768.  The Summer Exhibition heralds the start of important summer events, such as the Henley Regatta, and is the largest open submission art exhibition in the world.

It attracts some 11,000 entries, from which 1,117 pictures, sculptures and other artefacts are chosen.  The selection process is a tough one, with a human conveyer belt handing on works of art to be put in front of the selection panel for acceptance or rejection.  The selection process works like this; a submission is either marked with an X as rejected, or marked with a D as doubtful.  What is left is whittled down by a panel of anonymous judges to a tiny selection.

There are three ways in which works of art can be submitted to the Academy.  Members of the public can submit two works and members of the Academy can submit six works.  Or existing Academicians and international artists can be invited to exhibit.

It takes two weeks to hang the complete exhibition.  This year, the ten galleries were a pleasure to navigate, simply flowing from one eye catching piece to another.

keith tyson and his paintingThe stand out picture and the focus of the Academy’s Spotlight Talk is Deep Impact, a mixed media artwork on aluminium by Keith Tyson, the 2002 Turner Prize winner (pictured).

This image is a huge, glowing, apocalyptic inferno of orange red, yellow, white and black,  bubbling together to produce a fiery transcendence of the contemporary painting.

Deep Impact's strange lustre is not produced by lacquers or enamels.  Keith Tyson never went near a paint brush to make it, at all.  Instead, he pays homage to Jackson Pollack’s drip, pour method using ten to fifteen different substances, such as stain glass paint and resin.

But by using hot aluminium as a base, the result is not rhythmical or staccato applications of paint on canvas.  Instead, the paints and resins become molten, burning bright in their own viscosity, as the aluminium cools.

Tyson discovered this method after his studio was broken into and ransacked.  As he cleaned up the mess, the melding of spilled paints and pigments on the floor got him thinking and experimenting with painting in a whole new way.

Deep Impact is part of a continuing series called the Nature Paintings, which is not a reference to the great outdoors, but to the way that randomness, chance, probability and gambling all play a part in Keith Tyson's world.  In fact, pure chance suits his work, he says.

The RAA Summer Exhibition until 15th August 2011