New Artist Network Members

Another round of applications for our Artist Network scheme has been and gone, and this time we’re delighted to welcome eight new members!

Find out a little more about them and their work below.

Amanda Chambers

Burning Lake (installation)

Burning Lake, installation

‘Amanda’s work is primarily concerned with our proximity to the past and the exploration of its residual traces found in archaeology, the built and natural environment and archival and collection sources. It seeks to establish a physical connection: in doing so, exploring how history may become inherited, personalised and present.’



path to Axe Head Oil 20x20inch 2016

Path to Axe Head, oil, 20 x 20 inches

‘Abstract art can reach into my soul and move and absorb me like no other art form. However it is the British landscape that inspires me and has always been my muse. I do not want to depict it I want to express it; by conveying the feelings I have for it.’ 


Dallas Collins

dallas collins

Planed All Over, etched aluminium box with rivets

‘Art & science have played an important part within my work whether it’s science fiction or science fact. The idea that artwork is limitless has had a profound interest for me from a very early age. My artwork tries to give the viewer a sense of wonderment in showing the things that sometimes reside behind the mirror and not always in front. I’ve lived with engineering and technology all my life and transferring these skills into art has played an important part in where I stand today as an artist.’


Stacey Guthrie

Woman With Soiled Non-Stick Iron

Woman with a Soiled Non-Stick Iron

‘The point I make via my art is personal and political and it remains acutely relevant in the 21st century; that woman is still seen as secondary to the needs of others. Much of my work represents the critical point where a woman starts to realise the impact of a lifetime of nurturing others over her own dreams and desires. The other aspect of my work is the subversion of the male gaze. As a middle-ages woman I find myself able to challenge the ownership society has over a woman’s image. I employ carnivalesque, surreal imagery to question how we view and value women.’


Catherine Knight

01.Hrisey, 12.25, oil on board, 24 x 30cm, 2014

Hrisey 12.25, oil on board

‘My current work is based on my recent residency on the island of Hrísey, Iceland in December 2013. I am working on a body of paintings focused on the small amount of daylight present during the winter in Northern Iceland and the constant shifts in light. I am fascinated by the vast and remote landscape in contrast to the small communities of people who live in such isolation.’


Gail Mason

Breach 2016 silkscreen monotype 77x77cms

Breach, silkscreen monotype

‘My work is concerned with the experience of being in … or sense of … a place or journey … real or imagined. The monotypes do not seek to be physically accurate or describe anywhere particular, but are places that I would like to walk through and explore.These are an outward expression of inner mark making, the footprints of past and future encounters.’


Ruth Piper


Ghost Bride

‘Central to my work is the notion of transition and transformation that link to a
strong sense of place both physical and psychological. The process of painting is experienced here as a fictional layering of the past and present that can look back at the viewer with a glimpse of something hidden, not yet known or experienced. These paintings are located in the transitional mythological space between knowing and the unconscious, where dreams and reality merge.’


Penny Simons

silk book 2

Silk Book with Stitch and Spider

‘My work is fundamentally rooted in an exploration of materials in as direct a way as
possible. Unexpected pairings can produce visually and conceptually interesting results. I found watching the process of making silk (by the silkworm) unexpectedly triggered links with other repetitive actions which produce a gradual emergence of something new. Making paper is another fixation: the transformation of threads which can fold, hold,
support, and sometimes smother. At the moment Iʼm working on using it as a collage element to investigate links between internal systems, both human and landscape.’










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Artwork of the Month – July

July’s Artwork of the Month has been chosen by John Palmer RWA. He has chosen Senate House by Bernard Dunstan RA NEAC PPRWA.

Dunstan, Bernard, b.1920; Senate House, Cambridge

Dunstan, Bernard; Senate House, Cambridge; Royal West of England Academy

‘A Past-President of the RWA, Bernard Dunstan has recently had a successful exhibition, jointly with his wife Diana Armfield, at the Royal Academy and I thought it would be appropriate to choose this work in the RWA Permanent Collection as my Artwork of the Month.

This is a great example of Modern Impressionist painting. The under-painting  washes of umber and grey unify the whole work,  with heavier paint in the sky of blue grey with glimpses of the background. The composition is balanced; the foreground which creates a shadow also lets the under-painting come through. On the building, everything is suggested, but with enough information to allow the eye to complete the image.  Although painted some 60 years ago, the work retains freshness and vitality.

Whilst handling the painting, I did the thing that you always should do (if permissible): look at the back.  The provenance is there, comprising artist, acquisition, framer and price.’

John Palmer RWA


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Volunteers’ Week 2016 at the RWA

To celebrate the end of Volunteers’ Week 2016, Front of House Manager Kristen Pye invited a handful of our 100+ volunteers speak for themselves, and explain why they volunteer with the RWA.

Whether invigilating our galleries, reporting on the condition of a Turner masterpiece, working with families in our monthly Scribble & Sketch art-making sessions, or taking bids from eager art buyers at our annual Secret Postcard Auction, our volunteers really do it all.

If you are interested in getting involved with our friendly and flexible volunteer programme, check out our Volunteers webpage to learn more.

T.B. –  Invigilator Extraordinaire

A communicator and writer, I find I am taking a new path in life after an already diverse and full professional history. My creativity was calling to be fulfilled, and so a new chapter is unfolding and the RWA sets the scene for it!

For me, volunteering means I can soak up an ever-changing diversity of arts and can learn from all I see; be inspired and nourished; and meet so many fascinating people, who also care about art and colour, shape and form. And in the spaces between, when the gallery is quiet, I can read and enjoy books on art, and thus add to my history of art knowledge. Added to all this, we have fun when private views are on, and recently our Secret Postcard Auction event filled the building and galleries with a delightful buzz of energy.


Hele – Student of French and History of Art

My name is Hele and I am a volunteer at the RWA. I am a student of Art History and French at Bristol University, just finishing my second year. I chose Bristol for the music scene and the lovely atmosphere across the city. Having grown up in the countryside, Bristol’s close proximity to both Wells and Somerset was attractive to me.

I volunteer because, being a student, it is easy to get caught up in university life and I like to have the opportunity to engage with people outside of the uni bubble. I enjoy volunteering at the RWA because all who are involved make it a pleasant experience. For me, it is interesting to spend time in a gallery space, watching visitors respond in different ways to the works on display as well as chatting to them to discover in what ways they are moved (or not!) by certain pieces. It feels good to participate in something that is so important to me.

Pete – Official Bristol Rovers Supporter (0therwise retired)

I’m Pete, recently reached 70 years, and retired for five. I’m a new ‘boy’ on the block, as far as volunteering is concerned.

I have drawn and painted (including garden sheds!) since school days, so the interest in art has always been there I guess. I did an art course at the RWA Drawing School some years ago – nothing leading to any degree or similar – just for fun. Have always visited to see various exhibitions over the years – so have a feeling for the place, so to speak. Also seeing and being with original paintings is a pleasure. Passing one day on the bus, I thought volunteering would be good for me as well as the RWA. So far so good. They say “never volunteer” but I disagree.


Karine – translator, long-time Iggy Pop fan and Saturday volunteer

My name is Karine. I’ve volunteered at the RWA since July 2013. I am self-employed, working from home as a translator, specialising in art. Volunteering gets me out of the house and is a way of meeting people working in the arts, or simply like-minded people. The RWA is a lovely place and environment, with a really friendly team of people. It’s great to be part of it.

Ann – originally from Wales, dedicated chorus girl and Saturday volunteer

Hello – I am Ann. Born in Wales, I moved to Bristol 52 years ago, and have been a volunteer for almost 4 years. I love volunteering at the RWA as, since retiring, it has once more given me a sense of ‘purpose’, plus the opportunity to learn a lot more about art, which has always interested me. Perhaps above all has been the opportunity to meet lots of lovely people. I would thoroughly recommend it!


Angela – Art and Design Educator and Friday volunteer

My name is Angela and I have been volunteering at the RWA for about five years. I previously worked as a lecturer in the art and design department of a local college. I enjoy being part of the creative atmosphere here and participating in the changing exhibitions. It’s also interesting to talk to visitors and discuss works of art with them. In addition, the building is beautiful and the staff here are delightful to work with!

Helen – Culture vulture and all-round star lady

I’ve lived in Bristol almost 20 years. I volunteer for a variety of tasks – stewarding shows, meeting and greeting at special events and even pouring wine and water at private views.

I love a wide variety of art and enjoy learning about it – both from the curators and staff at the RWA and from the public who come to visit the gallery. I like being part of an organisation that is friendly and where I feel part of a team alongside professional staff, doing our best to help people learn and enjoy. What makes it worth it? I learn, enjoy and meet lots of people of all ages. It’s fun to be behind the scenes at the gallery and find what makes it tick!

Education Web 4

Peter – Arts graduate and stylish fellow

My name is Peter. I’m a recent addition to the volunteering team. With a background in fine art and textiles design, I worked in various artists collectives and design my own pocket squares and ties.

The atmosphere at the RWA is welcoming and friendly. Having volunteered in a plethora of different institutions, I must say I like it here the most!

Martin – avid cyclist and general joie de vivre – spreader

Hello! I’m Martin, a semi-retired salesman (a.k.a. go-getting international, jet-setting businessman). I’ve been a regular visitor to the RWA for years, so volunteering seemed a good way of learning more about the institution and giving something back.

What make’s it worth it? It’s the unbridled hedonism of being a gallery steward, the late-night drinking, the drug-fuelled parties, etc. Or perhaps the relaxing peace and quiet, with the chance to sit in lovely surrounding with the opportunity to socialise (or not, as the fancy takes me).

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Artwork of the Month: June

This month’s work from our permanent collection has been chosen by Bronwen Bradshaw RWA: 

Lawson, Sonia, b.1934; Fallen Angels

Sonia Lawson, Fallen Angels, oil on canvas, 152 x 121cm

I have so many questions about this painting. What is happening here? Who are these two monumental figures? The tension between them is immense, the colours urgent and full of danger. There appears to be no subtlety in the geometrical construction of the painting: it’s slap bang in your face. Could those be the twin towers in the background? No, of course not, this is 1987. But now I’m involved; this could be a part of my own history. There’s light and dark, and a redemptive quality here, and somehow I’m left with the feeling that Fallen Angels includes me too.

This is the genius of Sonia Lawson’s work: it operates on an epic scale, and though she insists that she is not a ‘storyteller’, the archetypes she uses coupled with autobiographical references form a gripping narrative which speaks directly to the viewer. I became aware of Lawson in the 1990’s when she was showing at the Boundary Gallery, and then in 2000 the RWA mounted a major retrospective of her work. She was at the Private View, and I was lucky enough to be there and to be able to tell her how much I loved her work. By this time it had become more abstract, often consisting of row upon row of squares or triangles containing loosely drawn figures, patterns and hieroglyphs (she says she spent hours drawing in the British Museum. How lucky that she – and we – are still allowed to draw in the BM! But that’s another story…). Though more formalised in structure, these later, highly textured paintings are no less monumental than the earlier figurative ones, and convey what it is to be human just as powerfully.

All of it, for me, is inspiration.


Fallen Angels is on display for the month of June on the upstairs landing.

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Deadline for Artist Network Applications

Are you a practising artist looking for ways to develop your practice, meet like-minded individuals and contribute to a thriving art gallery? We are looking for new artists to become members of our Artist Network scheme. We currently have over 45 artists in the scheme and the next deadline for applications is June 15th. Developed to support and promote artists in the early stages of their career, it is open to anyone actively pursuing an artistic career and working in any medium of visual art.

The scheme is also a great way to meet our Academician body, to learn from their experience and gain professional advice, and is a great platform for anyone with Academician aspirations. This year too we hosted the first Artist Network Exhibition in our lower galleries which showcased works by over 25 artists and ran for 4 weeks between April and May.

Night Light Geometry II

Night Light Geometry II by Rachel McDonnell, oil on board


Artist Network members are entitled to:

  • Free entry to all exhibitions
  • Invitations to RWA Private Views
  • Half-price submission of works to our open exhibitions
  • A profile on the RWA website
  • Opportunities to socialise with Academicians and Artist Network members at events held at the RWA, as well as being able to view the current exhibition privately
  • A monthly newsletter with updates, opportunities and news
  • Use of ‘Artist Network Member of the RWA’ on CV
  • Access to advice and mentoring from Academicians
Peasant Meal at Shaoguan

Peasant Meal at Shaoguan by John Brooks, archive print on cotton paper

Artist Network members are required to:

  • Pay a £120 membership fee per annum (either a one-off payment, or a standing order of £10/month)
  • Contribute a minimum of 5 days per year to volunteering for the RWA (there are lots of different ways to get involved and we’re happy to listen to suggestions if there are things you feel you could help with that play to your strengths/experience)
  • To act as ambassadors of the Academy, helping to promote and act in the best interest of the RWA

Membership is for a minimum of 1 and maximum of 5 years.

How to apply:

Please email your artist CV, artist statement (no more than 300 words) and 5-10 images of your work (please include title, medium, size and date of works) to Jess Kirkby at

Submissions will be subject to selection by a group of Academicians with careers in painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking.

You can view the profiles of all our current Artist Network members, and view more details about the scheme, on our website at

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Artist Interview: Jemma Grundon

Jemma Grundon is a member of the RWA Artist Network. She studied at Fine Art at Bath University, and has an MA from Goldsmiths University, London. She is primarily an oil painter and  works from Jamaica Street Studios, Bristol.


RWA: What are you working on at the moment?

JG: I recently finished an MA at Goldsmiths and moved back to Bristol, and I feel like I’ve been reconnecting with my work since the move. The MA Artist Teacher and Contemporary Practice was very much trying to bridge the gap between pedagogy and contemporary art practice. This idea was new and interesting to me, and I’m still researching ways in which my practice can be part of a visual dialogue. At the time, my work culminated in a bubble installation that involved projectors and recording equipment. Bubbles are fascinating to me – they seem to have an endearing and lasting impact, for something so momentary and fragile.

I’m especially interested in the idea of what we might take away from a fleeting encounter. I came back to Bristol last year, and since then I’ve been, not starting again exactly, but finding a new perspective. It’s been quite challenging as I’ve been really conscious of not just repeating myself – I have been reconnecting with some of the themes behind  my work, experimenting with ways of depicting an ephemeral encounter.


For me at the moment it’s very much about pushing things forward, experimenting and finding new ways of conveying my ideas. These paintings (above) are more in keeping with my current ways of thinking; they’re inspired by an interest in terrariums and the idea that there’s a memory or image held in this almost invisible structure. I’m interested in the liminal – the invisible thresholds that exist. It’s that idea I’m playing with – is there a structure there or is there not?

RWA: Where do you find inspiration?

JG: I’ve always found inspiration from the idea of landscape, definitely. I used to paint paintings inspired by the landscape, and I still do from time to time. I love sublime skies and I’m always interested in painting the sky and clouds.

Things that are momentary inspire me – I think that’s where my interest in clouds comes from, because they are a fleeting presence. I have also explored dialogue, chance encounters, bubbles and puffs of smoke – little things that happen. I like the idea that we can’t control these happenings, they just pass, so it’s only the memory of them we’re left with. Perhaps it is that memory that I am trying to contain in the terrarium-like structures. There is a lovely saying I’m very fond of, rooted in Japanese philosophy; ‘mono no aware’, which translated means an awareness of things, with both a transient gentle sadness at their passing, or a sensitivity to ephemera. I’ll always be inspired by that notion.



RWA: What does the RWA mean to you?

JG: I joined the Artist Network when it started. Despite living in London for three years, I kept it ticking over because I knew I would be coming back to Bristol. It’s important to my artistic practice to be part of a network. I like to have a group of people around me, as sometimes painting can be a solitary business. I need that sort of energy around me. It’s the same reason I like being a part of Jamaica Street Artists, and the reason I enjoy collaborative practice.

I also like having the association with the RWA. For me, the building is like a marker in the sand for me in Bristol.


RWA: What would be your dream project?

JG: I would love to produce a series of quite large paintings, that are housed in a really exciting space, like a light-filled room with a glass ceiling, somewhere where the light is engaging with the paintings, like they were specifically painted for the way the light came into the room. I have dreams about doing that one day.

I’d travel more as well, and use the experience of travelling somewhere really remote, where the weather was exciting and the light interesting, like Iceland. I always want to create larger paintings too.

RWA: Who is your hero?

JG: I admire anyone who perseveres with their passion, in spite of difficulties. I think pursuing a passion is sometimes difficult and I’m constantly inspired by all artists that work hard to achieve and produce their work. As far as artistic influences, I really love James Turrell’s work. Every time I see his light installations they knock me sideways. I could immerse myself in his work all day long. I admire Gerhardt Richter too; he constantly shifts his work and it has changed so much over time, but there are always these familiar themes, and he always seems to get it right. My ultimate painting hero would be Turner because every time I see his work it just reminds me of why I paint.




RWA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

JG: A Tutor at university once told me to always believe in my work, because if I didn’t, you couldn’t expect anyone else to. This advice has stuck, and I strive to produce work that is true to myself and, hopefully, has integrity.

RWA: If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

JG: I really don’t know. I did my Fine Art degree at Bath Spa and then I moved to Bristol. And then I just kept painting – I was fortunate enough to find a studio when I graduated. I used to work in shops and things on a part-time basis. I decided to train as a Teacher of Art because it felt like a way forward and I have always been passionate about the value of art education. I think learning creatively and through visual means is very important, and I do believe that art has benefits for everyone. However, if I wasn’t an artist I don’t think I’d be a teacher because the reason I went into teaching was because of a love of making art.



RWA: If you could own any piece of artwork what would it be?

JG: It would be one of Gerhardt Richter’s Iceberg in Mist I love its melancholic and wistful composition, and the way it’s not a large painting, but it seems to resonate so much with me. I also adore Turner’s unfinished watercolours and oil paintings – some of them don’t even look like anything, just swirling chaos. If I had any money left over, I’d buy a nice Rothko.

RWA: How do you see the future of the RWA?

JG: I see it as an important place in Bristol that continues to exhibit and promote art and a place that gathers people to make art. I love to see galleries that make art more accessible and engaging for all, and where  it’s about opening it out to more free and informal ways of showing art too. I get excited by exhibitions that make me think differently or galleries that hang work on the ceilings rather than the walls! I think that’s important for any art institution to push boundaries but maybe particularly for the RWA because it has that traditional starting point – which for me, as a painter using oils, is important. However, I think it’s also important to know where to break traditions and where to keep them.

Continuing to show works of local artists and work with the community is really important too. It’s great that there are places like the RWA that have that capacity.



Jemma Grundon has recently exhibited as part of the Artist Network Exhibition at the RWA. She will also be exhibiting at the annual Jamaica Street Artist Open Studios, from 10th – 12th June 2016.



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Artwork of the Month: May

Christopher, Ann; Silent Shadow II

Christopher, Ann; Silent Shadow II; Royal West of England Academy


This month’s work from our permanent collection has been chosen by Chris Dunseath RWA FRBS: 

‘I welcomed the challenge of selecting the RWA Artwork of the Month. It was fascinating viewing the substantial body of work that the RWA has acquired over the years. The collection I was invited to select from was primarily work by painters, however being a sculptor I am fascinated by the 2D work of sculptors. It is possible to get significant insights into the creative process of sculptors by looking at their sketchbooks, drawings and prints. I chose Silent Shadow II, a mixed media drawing measuring 24 x 24 cm, which was from a series of 22 developing a similar theme. It was purchased by the RWA in 1992.

Artworks that exist on the edges of disciplines frequently produce intriguing results. Silent Shadow II operates on the boundary of two and three dimensions.

Its controlled use of mark-making, intensity and depth of tone and colour, together with mixed media additions suggest a powerful psychological space. This work on paper hints at the decision making process involved in Ann Christopher’s large scale sculptures and major public commissions.

Ann Christopher is a non-figurative sculptor working primarily in cast bronze, stainless steel, silver and fabricated corten. Her work comprises both large and small sculptures, site specific commissions, drawings and prints. She was elected to the RWA in 1983, elected as a Royal Academician (RA) in 1989 and elected as a Fellow of The Royal British Society of Sculptors (FRBS) in 1992.’

Silent Shadow II is on display for the month of May on the upstairs landing.


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Artist Interview: Alice Freeman

Alice Freeman is a recently elected RWA Artist Network member. She studied at Byam Shaw School of Art before graduating from Camberwell College (UAL) in 2013. Her practice incorporates drawing with etching and sculpture and she works from BV Studios, Bristol. 


RWA: What are you working on at the moment?

AF: I work with etching and sculpture, allowing them to influence one another. At the moment I’ve been looking at different kinds of coral and jellyfish. Because of their unusual forms, it’s been possible for me to play with a variety of ideas. Recently, I found these amazing photographs of deserted towns in Syria, all bombed-out. They’re really incredible images and I wanted to start doing an etching series with those. I’m very interested in things that repel yet at the same time attract. The jellyfish can arouse feelings of disgust but you kind of want to prod them at the same time. It’s a similar idea with the Syrian buildings in that it’s a horrible subject matter but they’re actually really beautiful on a sculptural level.


RWA: Where do you find inspiration?

AF: Anywhere. The jellyfish idea came when I went to the aquarium. Looking at buildings is very new to me, as I am normally inspired by nature –usually something that’s biological. The Syria images just popped up on my computer, on my news feed and after the initial wave of sadness I was intrigued by the forms the photos created.


At University you try everything. I started etching in my second year and before that I did a lot of oil painting, but I never felt very connected to it. I stepped into the etching room and it was an amazing atmosphere. Everyone was running around – so many health and safety risks going on. It was just wonderful and I fell in love with it – the processes, and it’s all so scientific. If you get something wrong, you’ve ruined it, but it’s kind of exciting at the same time.  My process always begins with a drawing or sometimes a sculpture. I’ll make something and think “I’d like to draw it”, and then I’ll etch it on to the plate, but it’s a long process to get it there.


I usually have a tiny notebook on me. Nowadays, though, if I see something I really like I just take a photo of it and work from that. You just don’t have time in today’s society to start drawing something there and then and you’d get so many odd looks if you did, which is a real shame.

RWA: What does the RWA mean to you?

AF: It’s such a long standing thing. I think it’s wonderful that it’s been around for over 150 years. For Bristol, to have the RWA is brilliant, and so to be part of it is just incredible. Having the support and opportunities the RWA offers, and having the opportunity to show work there, is fantastic.

RWA: What would be your dream project?

AF: I would love to create huge sculptural, organic forms that would sit permanently in nature and withstand the test of time. If money and time were no object I’d just be in here working all the time. It would be wonderful.


RWA: Who is your hero?

AF: That’s quite tricky. Maybe Louise Bourgeois. She was such a strong, female character who worked right up until the end of her life, experimenting across a wide range of mediums. Art was everything to her. It was a way of communication, escapism and therapy.

RWA: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

AF: I guess it would be from one of my art teachers at Camberwell. She told me don’t make work you think people want to see. Make work you want to create.


RWA: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

AF: At the moment I’m teaching myself to code. I find this new language really interesting so maybe I would be doing something in that. But I just can’t imagine my world without art in it. It’s a horrible thing to have to think about!

I grew up in St Ives and there were probably certain opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d have lived elsewhere. Because of that, I think it was possibly more likely for me to become an artist, but I don’t know how much of an effect it has had on my actual art work. Colour is such a significant part of St Ives. Naturally it has had a big impact on many of the artists who live and work there. However I tend to mainly work in monotone! I think colour is one of the most difficult things to work with. I find it so hard. I do think to some extent my work wouldn’t suit colour, I think it would take something away from it.


RWA: If you could own any piece of artwork which would it be?

AF: It would be one of Eva Hess’, just one of her little studio pieces. She’s my absolute favourite artist.

RWA: How do you see the future of the RWA?

AF: Well I’ve only been a member for three months so I’ve still got to get used to everything. I think the RWA is always going to be very prominent I see it as always being something that’s there and something that’s part of Bristol. I think it’s brilliant that it’s bringing in contemporary artists and I think that’s the way to go; to keep the old but combine it with the new.

Alice Freeman will be exhibiting as part of the the Artist Network Exhibition at the RWA from Saturday 23 April –  to Sunday 15 May 2016. She will also be exhibiting at the BV Open Studios Friday 22 April, Saturday 23 April and Sunday 24 April. Alice also has an upcoming show at the Centrespace Gallery in Bristol for a collaborative exhibition entitled Foreign Lands. The exhibition will run from 2 June – 9 June 2016.

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Artwork of the Month: April

This month’s work from our permanent collection has been chosen by Alice Mumford RWA:

‘I was asked to write a piece for Artwork of the Month and scrolling through dozens of postage stamp-sized reproductions from the RWA collection, one jumped out at me – Jack Chalker’s Landscape, Westham House. After a few days I tested this first fleeting judgment, and again it said ‘Stop!’ I knew nothing about Chalker, but I decided to look first and find out later.’

Chalker, Jack, 1918-2014; Landscape, Westham House

Chalker, Jack; Landscape, Westham House; Royal West of England Academy

‘With some paintings, the more time you spend with them, the more they reveal about themselves and their creator. I felt something was communicated to me beyond the initial image of a barn, tree, field and big, billowing sky.

The barn or farm, with its small, arched doorway is a wonderful Suffolk pink, like a Cedric Morris painting. But unlike Morris’s comforting rural scenes, there are more contradictory emotions at work here.

Jack Chalker’s painting draws us in through the point of most contrast; where the shadow of the small shed meets the bright light falling on the bigger building. Once drawn there we want to go into the building. It makes us inquisitive: What’s inside? Is it lived in? Why are there no windows? We approach at eye-level; there is no road, river or path leading to the barn so it makes us feel as though we have just stumbled across this simple dwelling. We are drawn closer, but then the fir trees against the barn with their strong dark uprights seem to act like bars stopping access to the building.

Of course, the title Westham House should give us a clue as to what the building is. If it is a house then surely we have approached from the wrong side. What of the smaller building next to it? It acts as a smaller echo of the bigger gable and again it is mysterious. Can we make out a doorway? Both buildings have an air of aloofness about them.

The pink walls, the large trees and the lush pasture in the foreground make it seem like the quintessential British landscape, but only at first glance. The green pasture is slightly acidic, reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s greens and against the Suffolk pink it seems to give an air of discord and a warning not to come closer. There is a big tree, possibly an oak, on the left. The foliage is so heavy that it bears down on the little shed. The shadows on the little building, the underside of the tree and the doorway are so dark that they give a suggestion of melancholy.

The sky in Chalker’s painting is the place of freedom, a soaring of spirit, you can fly off in that sky with its wonderful, big generous marks, creamy whites and gentle blues and greys. Here, you feel, he finds freedom from the weights and troubles of the earth.

It is the contradictory messages in the painting that captivate me.’

Landscape, Westham House is on display for the month of April on the upstairs landing.

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Interview: Printmaking with Sophie Rae


Sophie Rae is an illustrator and printmaker based in Bristol. She regularly runs workshops in the city and works freelance for a variety of clients. We caught up with her following one of her family printmaking workshops at the RWA.

Where did you study and how did you get into printmaking?

I studied illustration at the Arts University Bournemouth. However, it wasn’t until my final year at university that I began experimenting in the print room. They have these rollers (points to hand-held roller) and I just thought they were amazing. I’ve been playing around with them ever since.


Did you start teaching straight away?

No, not straight away, it was maybe a couple of years after I got here (Bristol). I teach all ages! I do kids and adults workshops. The printmaking I do is quite a versatile process – you can do really, really detailed prints, multi layered prints and cut all different types of stencils, so it’s good for adults too. You are able to make something very specific if you want, or there’s the possibility of making something a bit more abstract.


Is this what you do full time? And where do you work on your own projects?

I mainly teach workshops and make prints to sell and sometimes do illustration commissions. The amount of time I spend on teaching varies massively. I teach at lots of different places around Bristol, including at schools. I have a studio at Hamilton House. It’s great and central and there’s lovely people there. I’ve had a studio there for a few years now and I can’t imagine working anywhere else, or imagine leaving it any time soon!

What were you doing in today’s workshop?

Today was abstract printing with stencils. We have used lovely printing inks and these special printing rollers, which are quite squishy so they allow the ink to get into all the corners of the stencil, giving you a nice sharp line. People were playing around with drawing different shapes, cutting those shapes into stencils and then they would layer up different shapes on the page to create a multi-layered, colourful print.


Why do you think being creative is important for families and kids?

I think it gives them time to play around and experiment. Doing something new and learning a new process gives you a real sense of satisfaction. I think it’s a really rewarding and important thing for parents and kids to do together, because they get to have fun and help each other out.

Is that something you remember doing as a kid?

I guess I don’t remember going to workshops when I was younger. I don’t actually really remember having those opportunities, which I think is why I find teaching workshops now so great. When I see parents bring their kids along I’m like, “that’s so nice!” I have to say, getting invited along to schools as ‘the artist’ is really strange!



Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

At the moment I’ve  got work up at Bocabar on the Bath Road. Then I will be exhibiting at Pramer Arts, which is just north of Bristol  and is a really lovely place. After that I’m going to have a few bits at Musgrove hospital, near Taunton, which will be for a shoreline exhibition.

Sophie will be teaching a Colourful Collage Workshop at the RWA on Thursday 2 June, 10.30am. Find out more about Sophie’s work on her website

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