Summer Exhibition 2023 ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Jun 13 - Aug 20, 2023

With the opening of the Royal Academy of Art's annual exhibition the summer season officially begins, despite the London weather! This year the theme is Only Connect, the famous phrase from E.M. Forster's Howards End, and the works presented are as open to multiple interpretation as the dictum itself. There is something for everyone, and while we have our particular favourites, every viewer will make their own connections with the various works on display. In the large Weston Room we were particularly intrigued by Sir Michael Hopkins' reimagining of Highgate Cemetery and the linking of the past with the future of this extraordinary city landmark. As always, we also enjoyed, Chris Orr's watercolour/mixed media works such as "Ship" and "Theatre of the Absurd" which use whimsy as a bridge to comment on the variety of human folly. We didn't find as much humour as usual in this year's exhibition, but we enjoyed a chuckle at Martin Langford's "Daft Vader." It stood out amongst some of the more earnest pieces. In terms of an emotional connection, we found Zuzanna Salamon's "I Hope You Stay" particularly haunting. The enigmatic drama of the piece is matched by its beautiful technique. Equally technically captivating is the serene still life "The Muse" painted by Harriet Porter. Its exploration of tone and light is a lovely reflection of the exhibition's theme. For us, "Oratorio," the monumental work of the late Paula Rego stands out as the highlight of the 2023 show. It captures the idea of connection on so many levels and serves as a wonderful expression of a brilliant artistic career. This Summer Exhibition, like its predecessors, is one of the defining delights of the season.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Paula Rego RA, Oratorio, 2008-09. © Paula Rego, Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art.

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