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Cocktails or Culture? Undiscovered Art in Exeter

An afternoon at an art exhibition is probably not up there in the sport and hangover recovery clichés mainly expected of university students. However to quote Charles Saatchi as the reason behind my article, when asked “What is the point of art?”, he wittily replied “To stop our eyeballs going into meltdown from all the rubbish TV and films we happily look at the rest of the time”. So as a saviour for your poor eyeballs, but also as a relaxing and free alternative to university work and the closest Exeter is going to get to culture, here are two top art exhibitions currently on at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. (WARNING: As I spent my summer interning at the gallery, my opinions may be slightly biased towards an afternoon spent enjoying art, but hear me out as the range on display should appeal to everyone.)

Firstly I will start by introducing the RAMM, a museum-come-gallery situated in the centre of Exeter (just up from Pitcher and Piano and Boston Tea Party) that not only is free entry, but was also voted Museum of the Year 2012 by the Art Fund Prize. Although a small building, the museum has many visiting exhibitions from larger galleries in London including the V&A and the British Museum, enabling it to display collections from some of the top museums in the country.

Warriors of the Plains

A great example of RAMM’s partnership with bigger museums is their current exhibition Warriors of the Plains: 200 years of Native North American honour and ritual, which is currently on loan from the British Museum. The exhibition is artefact and object-based, focusing on the material culture behind the warfare and rituals of the Native Americans. It takes an in depth look into the initially familiar world of Native American costume exploring the spirituality and ritual significance behind the objects. The exhibition is great for anyone with an interest in fashion, textiles and costume because the pieces on display are both striking and intricate. And for those of you who are not complete art geeks, there is also some historical information for you intellectuals to enjoy!

A Symphony of Curves

The other exhibition I would greatly recommend visiting while at the RAMM (especially as it is literally next door to the other display) is called A Symphony of Curves: Geoffrey Preston – a tradition in plaster. It is based on the art of architectural sculpture, which in basic terms is decorative plaster. The pieces shown are mainly examples for period houses and restoration projects, and the work on display is a combination of decorative plaster panels with design drawings and photographs.

All of the work is by local artist Geoffrey Preston, however there is also information on the rich tradition of the art in Devon and its history and development over the past four centuries. For anyone, like myself, who has never seen or been interested in architectural sculpture but does appreciate art, I could not recommend this exhibition enough. The delicate beauty and precision of both the drawing and sculptures of Geoffrey Preston can only be described as awe-inspiring due to their detail and complexity.

So my advice to you students is next time you have a rainy afternoon free why not try something a little bit more cultural than another afternoon in Topshop slowly going further into your overdraft?
Picture credits: Royal Albert Memorial website. Top: Returning the Gaze (detail). Assiniboine dancer Kevin Haywahe with face paint © Jeff Thomas; Bottom: Bird and Acanthus Leaves by Geoffrey Preston, © The artist.

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