I am writing this in London, which is, apparently, now known as the cultural centre of the world. I would not disagree, as there seems to be Art, with a capital A, everywhere. All genres, all levels, bursting upon your senses from all directions. I am English, as some of you may already know, but I have lived in Malta for almost 40 years now. I am not sure which country I would call ‘home’ now, as I have put down roots in both.
I can’t see myself ever moving back to England (but then I never say never about anything; who knows?) but I do enjoy coming back to soak up the vibrancy and inspiration of the art scene here. I often wonder what would have happened, where I would be now, if I had followed my tutors’ encouragement to apply for the Royal College of Art to further my studies. Instead, I left home to live with the current love of my life in Hull, about 200 miles north of London.
Over 12,000 works are sent in to the Royal Academy for consideration every year, and only around 800 are eventually hung. So what happens to the work that is refused? For the last 25 years an enterprising gallery, the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in The Cut on the South Bank, has revived the traditional ‘Salon de Refuses’. Here they will only consider work that has been rejected from the Royal Academy’s rigorous selection process.
We went along to see this exhibition, and were fascinated. The gallery is quite small and there is not room to hang even a fraction of the paintings, which are stacked everywhere. Beautiful figurative works covered the walls and we could have browsed for hours. They accepted 1,200 pieces, by 800 different artists. As paintings sell, they are replaced by new works, so the exhibition changes continually over the weeks that it is open. Many people say that the collection of works here is much more interesting and original than that of the Royal Academy.
It’s great to know that the art scene in general is alive and booming, that so much interest and support is being poured into creativity and innovation. The atmosphere is so exciting that it’s hard not to be inspired and stimulated by it.
It’s difficult to absorb so much visual stimuli in one go, and so I hope that the photos, leaflets, books and information that I gathered will continue to inspire me in my Malta studio when I unpack my holiday memories.