RA Magazine Winter 2008
Issue Number: 101
Editorial: New beginnings
It seems that we have started something of a new RA Magazine tradition. Last issue, to celebrate our 100th edition, we offered you the chance to win an original print by Stephen Chambers RA (thank you for the many hundreds of entries; we reveal the winner in the Spring issue). Now another distinguished Academician, Philip Sutton, has given us a print and you the chance to win it.
Really it ought to be us delivering a gift to Sutton. In October he celebrated his 80th birthday, marking the occasion with a launch at the Royal Academy of the beautiful new book Philip Sutton: Life and Work. The prize print, his 1972 woodcut Sunrise, with its rich colours, was chosen for the book’s endpapers.
‘Living on the coast near Tenby, I have become a mini expert on sunrises,’ says Sutton. ‘At this time of year, the sun rises behind Caldy Island. It’s quite a sight. There’s something about a sunrise; a new beginning, nothing dissipated.’
The print exists in a limited edition of 100, and, in common with much of Sutton’s work, it is a joyful piece of art. But how much ‘meaning’ can a picture of a simple sunrise convey? It is not every day you get to raise such matters with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it was a topic we touched on when I met him in Lambeth Palace for a special interview. Dr Rowan Williams is an expert on the Eastern Orthodox Church and the special place that icons have in its tradition. We were excited when he agreed to help us introduce the Academy’s major survey of Byzantine history.
Undoubtedly, many of the icons on view at the Academy are sumptuous objects. Some are clearly the work of accomplished artists. But it is easy – for those of us not brought up in the Orthodox faith – to see them simply as pictures that tell the story of the scriptures. As Dr Williams explains, for believers, they have a much more profound purpose. And whether believer or not, the Archbishop’s suggestions about the way religious and spiritual art works are fascinating.
The Byzantine dominates this issue, from looking at icons to tracing the almost comical tale of a lamp that was mistaken for the Holy Grail. But we have still made room for a few other things, including an account of the life of William S. Burroughs. One of the Beat Generation’s most notorious figures, he plays a major part in the second half of the GSK Contemporary season.
Burroughs, it turns out, was an influence on many artists, including we reveal, Damien Hirst. And if you are looking for the influential, which architect has had a greater impact on the buildings of the West than Palladio?
You will have to wait until the New Year to see the exhibition dedicated to Palladio’s quincentenary at the Royal Academy. So lest it be said that we are getting ahead of ourselves, may I take this opportunity to wish you, on behalf of everyone at the magazine and our RA colleagues, a very merry Christmas.
- Nigel Billen, Acting Editor
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