Galleries - June 2016

A serendipitous rearrangement of exhibition openingdates has brought about a nice head to head in June between two old artistic rivals, the New English Art Club and the Royal Academy , both for the first time in living memory, openingtheir annual members’ shows in the same month. The NEAC was founded in 1885 by a group of young French Realist/Impressionist influenced painters dissatisfied with the reactionary attitudes of the Royal Academy of the day to these important new ideas, and their first exhibition in 1888 included many significant stars of the future – John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, George Clausen and Stanhope Forbes amongthem. Many in turn then became members of the RA but that didn’t stop the Club continuingto act as a focal point for artistic experimentation well into early 20th century, with first Augustus John, Sickert and the Camden Town-ers and then Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and Mark Gertler all becomingmembers. There was a point after the war, it has to be said, when the NEAC was simply somethingof a staging post on the way to the RA but in recent decades as, somewhat ironically in view of its earlier history of reaction, the RA has tried to put on a more super- trendy contemporary face, the gap has widened once again with the NEAC now an important refuge for artists wanting to pursue more painterly goals. This certainly doesn’t mean a reactionary conservatism either, as one look at their 2016 exhibition at the Mall Galleries , makes very clear – open to members and non-members alike, it shows a wonderfully broad range of just very good painting, from near abstraction to meticulous and lovingrealism and everythingelse in between. Not too London and South East oriented either with a splendid £4,000 prize from the Haworth Trust for work by artists practising in the North of England. Meanwhile at the Royal Academy the show rolls on for the 248th edition of its Summer Exhibition (from 13 June). Now it has become a showcase for international art and artists of all kinds and, as a result, much less of a snapshot of what’s going on across the country than it once was; a reflection of a certain reality maybe but also still leaving huge swathes of significant, and important, home grown visual activity largely unexplored. Flowers Gallery in Cork Street have their longstanding– 23 years – exhibition ‘Artist of the Day’ openingon 20 June. Ten well known artists are invited to select a talent of their choice to show in the gallery for a day. The only criteria, apart from their talent of course, are originality, promise, the ability to benefit from the experience and the fact that, they have not exhibited at Flowers or had a solo show of any kind in London before. It’s such a nice simple idea and predicated on the indisputable fact that most successful artists know very well just how chancy and fickle the fame game can be in the art world – why me, not them? If you have never encountered this show before do try and get to see it – the artist and their selector are on hand to talk about the work. With Jane and Louise Wilson, Lisa Milroy, Patrick Hughes and Paul Winstanley amongthose invited to select this year, it looks as intriguing as ever. The first woman artist to win the prestigious Rome Scholarship in Decorative Painting, in 1920, Winifred Knights was the star pupil of the immediate post-war generation at the Slade, the exactingProfessor Tonks’ favourite student. She seemed, in short, to have the British art world at her feet, only to disappear from view after her premature death in 1947, with the retrospective exhibition of her work now being mounted by Dulwich Picture Gallery the first ever accorded her. What happened? R OUND-UP Open houses 10 GALLERIES JUNE 2016 Rising star Talent spotting