This year I got permission from the RHS to video the RHS London Botanical Art Show 2017. This way those who aspire to enter in future - or have been thinking about visiting - can
my comments about the exhibition itself.....
RHS London Botanical Art Show 2017
This year's show was slightly smaller than the one in 2016. It was planned to have 29 artists (35 in 2016) from 10 different countries (10 in 2016). In reality due to two artists pulling out late on due to the serious ill-health of close family members, the exhibition was reduced to 26 artists from 8 different countries.
As both of the artists who didn't exhibit are also previous Gold Medal Winners, the number of Gold Medals awarded may also have been reduced. This year it was 9 compared to 13 in 2016.
Although the quality of work at the top end was good, initially I thought there was more variability in standards across the whole exhibition when compared to the last show in London. However when I did the medal count, this simply wasn't true in terms of medals the situation was as follows:
You can Download the list of 2017 awards (57kB pdf)
As always I was able to walk round the show and spot the Gold Medal exhibits before I saw the Medal Card attached to their stand. That's because there's something different about a Gold medal-winning exhibit. They stand out. They're unique. They're very high quality.
The RHS this year for the first time produced a board explaining how they assess the exhibits. While insiders and those with a copy of what used to be a hard to find document which listed the criteria knew what was important, this wasn't always immediately apparent to those visiting the show. Hence you'd get people liking exhibits because it was very pretty - and not realising that there were issues which meant that the exhibit got marked down.
So the key things which judges are looking for are:
I'm not sure everybody has quite got the message that it's not just about having a theme but rather it's about having a theme related to a specific plant family.
UPDATE: A very experienced exhibitor has written to me and suggested that the "of" (above) may have been a typo and SHOULD have been "or" as per the printed guidelines. In which case this is less of a change than it looked at first! I'm writing to the Picture Panel to check. However I'd observe that the higher medals do by and large go to exhibits with a strong botanical, horticultural or habitat theme.
For example, Kate Barling had a very pretty exhibit which was well presented and had great explanations of all her plants in labels underneath each one - and it won her a Silver Medal.
However, while "Climbers growing in my Devon Garden" might represent a coherent theme, it misses out on having an emphasis on
There was a clear lesson at the show for all those who find mixing and painting greens to be a bit of a challenge and that came in the form of all the green leaves in Bridget Gillespie's exhibit of Root Vegetables: Life Cycle where differences in green within and between plants were much more evident within this Gold Medal winning exhibit.
That for me is the value of visiting the show and why all those who can visit easily should make a point of doing so - and making the date of your visit non-negotiable!
I heard a new theme at this year's show. Judges telling exhibitors that they don't need to do so many paintings! Apparently, the Picture Panel judges are getting a bit anxious whether there is a new trend to submit more than six paintings.
I'm wondering if this is maybe a "new judge" thing because those of us who have been painting for the RHS for a long time AND those of us visiting RHS for some time well remember when the minimum requirement for an exhibit was EIGHT artworks (not six as it is now). Above is a photo I took at the 2011 show in the Lindley Hall - where each exhibit very clearly has 8 paintings.
Below are three of Kathy Pickles's Clematis paintings. While for most people this would be half her exhibit, for Kathy this is just a quarter of her exhibit. There are nine more! However Kathy goes way back in terms of painting for the RHS. This was her seventh Gold Medal and she got her first back in the early 90s.
I gather the point being made is that the Judges have to look at each and every painting in an exhibit really carefully - and on average look at them all four times (or is that four different judges looking at each painting?). This is because the grade of medal you get is based on the weakest painting. While this may be a complete joy if the exhibit wins a Gold Medal, it's less so if the exhibit isn't up to this standard. However even Mrs Ishi who won a Gold for her roses was advised to paint fewer paintings next time if she wants to exhibit her roses again.
I think the other thing that influences this injunction not to paint too many paintings is that as the show gets bigger it will become intolerable for the judges if all the exhibitors start painting more than six.
I predict if it becomes a major problem, then it will be addressed by telling exhibitors when they arrive that they can hang six and that's it. So if you do paint more than six, think on - there may come a time when extra paintings won't help in any way.
Video of the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
Below is my video of the exhibition:
I hope you enjoy it. Do let me know what you think.
(Also can I apologise, it was supposed to be in HD but didn't turn out that way for some reason I have yet to identify!)
If you're interested in entering The RHS Botanical Art Show in 2018, you will need to first be approved to exhibit.
More about the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
Past blog posts include:
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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