Exhibiting Small Paintings

For the first time, I submitted two paintings (the maximum number allowed) to the RSA Open, running at the Royal Scottish Academy’s galleries from 12th November until 18th December. There is always a danger in entering for this sort of show: you may find your work rejected and then find the exhibition crammed with the sorts of works which you try hard to avoid. However, my pieces were duly hung. I show them above. One is based on a sketch I did when sailing down the Forth. Modern ships have been intriguing me, particularly container ships which look like Paul Klee’s magic squares afloat. The neatly arranged caravans on the Fife shore allowed an interesting interplay between two sets of rectangles. This is the first of what I hope to be a series.

The RSA Open has a size restriction of no more than 60cm. in any direction. The works are displayed in groups, triple-hung in some cases, forming shapes with spaces between. Although it makes for a rather dinky effect, I cannot see how so many small pieces could be shown otherwise. Small pieces of sculpture, even from distinguished practitioners always tend to look a bit like ornaments.

Being a long established venerable institution, the RSA has a varnishing day and a private view, unlike in France where the word for private view is a varnishing (un vernissage). I popped into the academy to have an unobstructed view of the work. Most people will be familiar with tales of J.M. Turner actually repainting parts of his works at RA varnishing days. I did not come equipped to tamper in any way with my pieces, but I would have liked to have adjusted the tones of the frames. Never before having exhibited small paintings, I was unaware of the larger part played by the frames. Normally I use a rule of thumb method: print frames with their white mounts I frame with an off-white lime wash effect, for oil paintings I use a warm, dark grey. This works well enough with large paintings, but I now see that with small works the tone needs to be varied. Bright paintings with lots of light areas need a lighter tone of frame. For economic reasons I sometimes have to re-use print frames. When I framed these paintings I thought that this was permanent but I have learned something which I will remember if I submit to this exhibition in the future.