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Royal West Academy Annual Open Exhibition Review

Last weekend saw the Royal West Academy of Art’s 167th Annual Open Exhibition draw to a close, so I thought I’d head on over to get a glimpse at some of the latest emerging artists. The RWA is home to one of the largest open submission exhibitions in the UK, boasting an incredible 3,223 submissions last year. The exhibition has long been one of the major artistic events in the region, continuing to fulfil the RWA’s aim to bring remarkable art, from all over the country and beyond, to the South West.On first entering each gallery, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of art; of course I eventually found myself wandering around, stopping and staring like someone straight out of Ferris Bueller. Despite the eclectic mix of works, each room felt harmonious, as opposed to crowded, or incoherent.

Personally, portraiture is not my favourite art from — or so I thought. These pictures showcase just a few of the incredible portraits that dominated one side of the Methuen Gallery. The diversity of style displayed here is definitely illustrative of the rest of the collection.

From what I gather, the RWA often leans towards exhibiting more abstract art and this year’s Open Exhibition was no exemption from that tendency. The above photo features an incredible piece by Derek Balmer (centre) amongst others.

Lucy Austin’s ‘Cypher’ on the far right.

If you want to expose yourself to new artists and works that you might have not otherwise seen, the Annual Open Exhibition is definitely for you. Another featured artist was Adelaide Damoah, who has been named by The Times as “the” artist to invest in right now. Recently appointed an RWA Academician, two of her works (pictured below) were displayed.

“Olga” above. “Marie Therease” below. 

Though it closed on the 1st December, I would definitely make space for the Open Exhibition in your calendar, especially if you’re keen to keep up to date with the latest artists and trends. I would also recommend a trip to the RWA at any time of year, as they always have amazing exhibitions and it’s free for students!


All photographs in this article were taken by the author. 


Emily Gates

Bristol '20

Hey! I'm currently an English Literature student at the University of Bristol.
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