RSA Annual Exhibition: the “Nature of the Beast”

'NW from Conival, May', Acrylic & Pastel, 2009, 80 x 80 cmOn Friday 23rd October my partner Anita and I drove across to Edinburgh in order to hand in the two paintings I was entering for the RSA Annual Exhibition. 

Of course, things are never quite as simple as that!  We really don’t know Edinburgh well, especially the roads and with my not being able to see a map clearly, even with a powerful magnifier, it makes finding anywhere somewhat interesting.  Back in May I’d had to take work to George St in Edinburgh as part of the Jolomo Award and we’d found that if you get there early enough you can get parking.  So then, not being confident that we could find our way to the RSA, we decided to head for George St early enough to get a parking space, and then carry the paintings from there.  Seemed like a good plan …but of course we missed a turn somewhere on our way into Edinburgh and ended up driving around the city centre …eventually finding a car park somewhere below the castle.  This left us a 20 minute walk through the gardens with two quite large and heavy paintings …but not too bad.

On Friday 30th October I received an email from RSA saying that regrettably my two paintings had not been selected and that I’d need to collect them on the Saturday 31st.  So, back in the car and this time heading straight for the car park we’d found the week before ….and we found it again.  By the time we reached the RSA it was lunchtime and as we approached the door Anita said …there’s a queue out onto the pavement!  We joined it and then waited. 

'Below Mid Hill, Luss', Acrylic & Pastel, 2009, 90 x 60 cmThankfully it was a beautiful day with bright sun and it was nice just to stand and look at these fantastic buildings.  It was also quite fun listening to some of my fellow ‘failed to get selected’ artists moaning and complaining about the long wait!   It took about an hour and a half to get to the front of the queue and I felt rather sorry for the people working there, the woman who helped us find my paintings said she hadn’t had a minutes break since 10 o’clock and she looked in desperate need for a cup of tea.  There were still many many works to be handed back so it looked like it was going to be a long day for them all, but somehow they were all still smiling and doing a great job.  We eventually got back to the studio at around 5pm …both feeling a little shattered.  All that effort not to get the work into the show.  But that really is the nature of the beast.  If you enter these large competition exhibitions the odds are well stacked against you.  You know there will probably be several thousand other hopefuls entering too and that your work will be viewed for just a matter of seconds in the selection process. 

Why put yourself through all that? 

I guess it’s the prestige of having work in an RSA exhibition, but for me it’s also the whole adventure …the drives there and back, the getting lost, the lugging of paintings across the city centre, and the inglorious queuing to get the work back a week later …but of course the next time the work might just catch the selectors eye and then it’d all seem worth it!  Try again next year…..

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