Win a copy of Inquisitive Eyes

To celebrate the launch of the new exhibition, Inquisitive Eyes: Slade Painters in Edwardian Wessex, 1900 – 1914 on Saturday 6 February, we are offering you the chance to win a copy of the accompanying book by the exhibition’s curator, Gwen Yarker. The winner will also be invited to the exhibition preview on Friday 5 February.

Inquisitive Eyes reveals for the first time the importance of the Wessex landscape at a pivotal moment in British art. During the early twentieth century, the rural Dorset retreat of Purbeck played host to an informal artists’ ‘colony’ – evidently as significant as St. Ives or Newlyn, but hitherto unrecognised. This ambitious exhibition and accompanying book uncover a ‘lost chapter in British art’, during which the war between modernism and traditionalism was waged.

inqeye book

The book contains fascinating insights into this vital period in British art history, plus beautiful, full colour photographs of works by artists like Philip Wilson Steer, Henry Tonks, William Orpen and Vanessa Bell.

To enter, simply visit the RWA Facebook page and ‘like’ the Inquisitive Eyes competition post. The winner will be selected at 10am Friday 5 February. Good luck!

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Painting of the Month – February



February’s Painting of the Month has been chosen by Jessica Cooper RWA. She has chosen Sunday Afternoon by William Brooker.

‘William Brooker was born in Croydon, Surrey in 1918. Between the years 1936 and 1949 he studied at Croydon School of Art, Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmiths, London. Brooker then went on to teach at several art institutions including Bath, Willesden and Harrow. In 1965 he became senior lecturer at the Central School of Art, London and then principal of Wimbledon College of Art between 1969 and 1981.

Brooker had his first solo show at Arthur Tooth and Sons in 1955 and showed later in his career at the RWA, RA, Leicester Gallery and Agnews in London. The RWA acquired the painting Sunday Afternoon in 1952 for their collection and the Tate purchased Still Life New Studio in 1975. His work is held in numerous collections including the Tate, Arts Council, Aberdeen Art Gallery and galleries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.  Brooker died in 1983 and a retrospective of his work was held at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1987. His work is listed at present with the galleries Piano Nobile, London and Louise Kosman, Edinburgh.

I selected this painting from the RWA collection simply because, on first seeing it, it stuck in my mind and I kept going back to look at it. Researching further I couldn’t find any information on the painting itself, but after an initial panic about this I felt that that was not what was important. It is the direct response and connection that an individual has with a piece of art that is important. Although having said that, I do plan to research this work further in 2016 as one of my resolutions!

I love the muted palette and the calmness of the painting. The flat planes of colour, the sparseness of the floor and the walls conflicting with the intricacy of the crockery on the tray. The title of the work invites us to imagine our own story of a Sunday afternoon: I think of my son and his girlfriend, of two people captured on canvas in a world of their own.’ – Jessica Cooper RWA

This painting was bought by the RWA at the 100th annual exhibition in 1952.

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New Artist Network members

Following the most recent round of applications to our Artist Network Scheme, we are really excited to have four new members to join our current cohort.

Here’s an introduction to them and their works:

Alice Freeman

01.Drifter, etching, 26X26cm, 2015

Alice Freeman, Drifter, etching

‘My work deals with the tactile and textural qualities in etching and sculpture. Forms emerge through hands-on manipulation of a range of materials. These are moulded into an environment transforming it into a tactile space that both repels and attracts.’


George Harding

mr happy

George Harding, Mr Happy, oil on board

‘My self-portraits often explore the inner self. The paintings dissolve the figure pointing to different states of being that are temporal and ethereal. I am looking at how a surface can reflect, distort, fragment and transform the real. I want people to relate to this in an emotive way seeing this in themselves.’


Charlotte Price

1.Earthen Clod (ii), Relief print, 1 of 1, 20cms x 14cms, 2015 jpg.jpg

Charlotte Price, Earthen Clod, relief print


‘This body of visual artworks focuses upon the exploration of a rural landscape through its pathways and boundaries. The word ruderal describes a “plant that grows on waste ground.” It is this plant life sited at the edge of my walking that inspires my imagery.’


Deborah Westmancoat

Mountain (2012)

Deborah Westmancoat, Mountain, metal plate, rivets, charcoal, pencil on found board

‘I have a long term interest in alchemy and the philosophical sciences and how they help us to understand landscape and our place within it…I look for the quiet places where the stages [of alchemy] become apparent and collect samples of site and weather specific waters and combine with writing ink to illustrate my findings.’

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Newly Appointed Academicians

Academicians are artists at the forefront of their profession who have achieved excellence in their field. The RWA Academicians contribute to and support the activities of the Academy. This includes exhibiting in the annual Autumn Exhibition and lending their skills to delivering exhibitions, events and educational activities.

After a year-long application process, we are delighted to welcome five new Academicians to the RWA this year. They are:

Malcolm Ashman

Mr Stone, oil and metal leaf on panel, 20 x 20cm, 2015

Malcolm Ashman RWA, Mr. Stone, oil and metal leaf on board, 20 x 20cm

‘Drawing and painting gave me a voice. … Over time the landscape and the figure have been my focus. I don’t maintain a single cohesive style; my response to each subject is different but strong drawing is always the foundation.’ @MalcolmAshman


Lucy Austin

Lucy Austin, Duologue Sketchbook i, watercolour on paper, 14 x 19cm, 2015

Lucy Austin RWA, Duologue Sketchbook i, watercolour, 14 x 19cm

‘The Duologues explore making images using layers of paint, opacity and transparency. … Each drawing has a pair of personages who seem to be conversing in some way. I am thinking about the layers of experience that become part of us and also forms and structures in the landscape which are transformed by my imagination.’


Sara Dudman

Sara Dudman, Tiny Nest (Sky I) oil on canvas, 34 x 34cm

Sara Dudman RWA,Tiny Nest (Sky I), oil on canvas, 34 x 34cm

‘My paintings and drawings are as much responses to specific environments and experiences as they are intuitive and well-versed yet spontaneous explorations of media and surfaces. Working processes direct my practice. Initially using a combination of video and traditional recording methods, each work seeks to explore and express interactions and relationships with the environment. A dynamic is created between the subject and the process of creating the work itself.’ @SaraDudman



Ros Ford

Ros Ford, Shelter, Sparke Evans Park, etching, aquatint and drypoint, 80 x 108cm

Ros Ford RWA, Shelter, Sparke Evans Park, etching, aquatint and drypoint, 80 x 108cm

‘Functional structures and buildings fascinate me. These can range from the abandoned and derelict, to contemporary places of work or leisure. This subject matter is a vehicle for my interest in the buildings’ form and structure and their relationship with the landscape. Etching, a process using physical and chemical techniques of creating textures, marks and layers on metal reflects the industrial nature of my subject.’


Sarah Gillespie

Picture 3655

Sarah Gillespie RWA, Outside, mezzotint, 20 x 20cm

‘I hope, through a process of long-looking and close attention – focusing on quieter moments of beauty and oft hidden lives – to reveal something of the natural world’s remaining loveliness. Working in black and white and subtle shades of brown and grey demands a different form of looking to the immediate win offered by more overt colours.  Instead I am looking for an emotional delicacy, hoping to offer intimations of frail beauty, fleeting pleasures, the delicate poetry of a shadow and looking…’








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24-hour Flash Sale



From 10am on Friday 15 January, the Royal West of England Academy will take part in a 24-hour flash sale alongside Bristol’s top cultural destinations.

Bargain-hunters can pick from music performances, art and museum exhibitions, cinema screenings and theatre tickets.

RWA will be offering huge discounts on a range of beautiful art books, including The Art of Richard Long – Complete works (William Mapas), Chagall: Modern Master (Tate) and Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930 – 1980 (Tate)

Top picks from the flash sale include:

  • St George’s offering 25% off all tickets for 14 performances including classical, world music, folk legends, a reworking of the Bristol trip-hop sound for Filmic, and family fun;
  • Colston Hall promoting discounts on a range of musical treats including the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and legendary Baaba Maal;
  • Arnolfini celebrating the launch of ‘John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea’ with 50% off a limited number of tickets for panel discussions, live music and performances;
  • Watershed offering 25% off films in January, including The Danish Girl with Oscar® award-winning Eddie Redmayne;
  • M Shed offering 40% off tickets to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition;
  • Tobacco Factory Theatres is offering a limited number of discounted tickets for several shows across its current programme including the much-anticipated Shakespeare season;
  • Bristol Old Vic enticing people with discounted tickets to 11 shows including the acclaimed Pink Mist and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Look out for #flashtag on Twitter for more updates and great offers.

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RWA Shop Christmas Flash Sale

On Wednesday 23 December, from 10am to 6pm, RWA Shop will be offering 10% off all stock.


From prints, cards and postcards to unique homeware, artisan jewelry and hand-printed stationary – don’t miss the chance to pick up last-minute gifts!


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Stage Presence: An interview with Judith Aston

As part of RWA’s current exhibition Centre Stage: Celebrating Theatre in Bristol, Marketing Manager Holly McGrane spoke to Judith Aston about her role directing and producing the immersive artwork A Theatre Within A Theatre. 

How did the project come about?

I’m a lecturer in the film making department at UWE and within our faculty we have the Centre for Moving Image Research (CMIR). CMIR


Judith Aston

approached Bristol Old Vic with the offer of a bursary as part of their interest in creating partnerships across the city and in promoting the development of new moving image work. BOV suggested employing this bursary in the development of work for the Centre Stage exhibition. I had already been involved in a project that worked with people from Bristol Old Vic and so Dr Sarah Sparke (CMIR Bursaries project manager) and Chloe Elwood (Bristol Old Vic executive producer) approached me to create a new work for the RWA show.

The brief was to do something that reflected an aspect of the architecture of the theatre – that was the starting point.

RWA Theatre Within a Theatre Exhibition - Photographer Jack Offord - High Res-01803.jpg

Theatre Within a Theatre, Centre Stage, RWA. Photo Jack Offord


Has the focus or themes of the work changed at all during the process?

I had a tour of Bristol Old Vic with Tom Morris (Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic) and he started talking about the multiple points of view of an audience member and the relationship between performer and audience. It so completely dovetailed with my own practice and interests that I felt I had to adopt that concept too.

In the work, we are trying to explore aspects of the theatre experience. One of the core things was the issue around sightlines and how theatre, as a live experience, differs from cinema, particularly in terms of audience relationship.

As part of the process, we visited Bristol Old Vic during The Crucible. It was a wet November and we would come in at four in the afternoon. The actor who played Giles Corey would come in quite early and walk around the galleries at the top of the auditorium and just whistle – with the whole theatre to himself – to warm up. Later the other actors would start arriving, maybe warming up on stage, and we would be there taking it all in. That was such a wonderful experience for us – that sense of being part of it, part of the show itself. I wanted to recreate that privileged perspective through A Theatre Within a Theatre.


There are so many elements to the piece – how was it all constructed? 

I recently worked with some of my final year students on a project called The Russian Winter and I have continued working with them on this project, as well as on a piece for the Bristol Proms.

RWA Theatre Within a Theatre Exhibition - Photographer Jack Offord - High Res-01814.jpg

A Theatre Within A Theatre, Centre Stage, RWA. Photo Jack Offord

Theatre Within a Theatre has been a totally collaborative artwork. I have been a sort of producer and director – it’s more like working on a play or film rather than a traditional painting or artwork model of working. We are all ‘the artist’, working together to create this piece.


You mentioned the idea of an audience/performer relationship in theatre. How important was this when you were developing the work?  

I have a PhD in Interaction Design, originally looking at the human/computer interface where the interaction is between a person and a machine.  In my work, I like to combine that training with my ongoing experience with multimedia, across different disciplines – moving image, sound, text, still image. I felt it was a natural progression to start exploring the relationships between actors and audiences, stage and auditorium. In a way, this project pulls together lots of things that I have been thinking about.

RWA Theatre Within a Theatre Exhibition - Photographer Jack Offord - High Res-01848.jpg

A Theatre Within A Theatre, Centre Stage, RWA. Photo Jack Offord.

There is a sense of anticipation in the theatre. Often audiences love it when something goes wrong because they feel part of a privileged experience. Seeing how people respond when something does go wrong gives them a view behind the scenes – that sense of being part of the show.

Film is evolving to give a more unique, live experience. There has been a big rise in directors giving live talks and live bands in cinemas, to create a unique experience.  Donald Norman (director of The Design Lab at University of California) said that everything is designed to be interacted with, from a door handle to a book.  In a very digital world, I think that there is a thirst for handmade, tactile crafting.


What does theatre mean to you?

Through this project, I have been brought back to my childhood love of theatre and live performance. I find myself drawn, more and more, to working with moving image in live performance situations.


How do you want audiences to experience, and respond to, your work?

We want the audience to leave with the feeling that they have experienced the theatre from the privileged perspective of the actors and the people who make the theatre.

RWA Theatre Within a Theatre Exhibition - Photographer Jack Offord - High Res-01822.jpg

A Theatre Within A Theatre, Centre Stage, RWA. Photo Jack Offord

When you visit the work, you need to give it time and tune in to the sound. Once you do tune in and pick up the fragments, it starts to carry the concept. There are different ways to experience the work, which runs on a sixteen-minute loop topped and tailed by two quotes about the theatre from Peter O’Toole.


What’s next for A Theatre Within A Theatre?

Because it was done on a small bursary over a three month period, this is only a first step towards something much bigger. This is its first iteration. I hope that, as in the theatre, the audience will give feedback and I will be able to develop it further. In May, during the Old Vic’s big celebratory anniversary weekend, the project will return again and ideally we will be able to create an all-encompassing theatrical experience.

A Theatre Within A Theatre is part of Centre Stage: Celebrating Theatre in Bristol at Royal West of England Academy until 24 January 2016. Entry to the exhibition is free.

A Theatre Within A Theatre was made possible by a bursary from UWE Centre for Moving Image Research, with additional support from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and the Royal West of England Academy.


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