Art sales at the RA: painting and printmaking

Published 9 December 2014

Painting and printmaking often feed into each other, as the first in a series of RA selling shows reveals.

  • This autumn the Academy launches Art Sales at the RA, an online platform that presents contemporary art for sale. Highlights are displayed in biannual selling shows in the Keeper’s House – the first is a wide-ranging exhibition featuring paintings and prints by Academicians and invited artists. The RA’s Summer Exhibition has long been an enormously successful platform for introducing contemporary art to a buying public, and this new venture offers a year-round possibility to acquire works for prices from £150 to £4,000 plus.

    The inaugural show (selected by Humphrey Ocean RA, as well as the RA’s exhibitions team) features painter-printmakers, including artists with an international profile, such as Georg Baselitz Hon RA and Tracey Emin RA, alongside younger prize-winning practitioners such as Katherine Jones and Tamsin Relly.

    Original prints offer those with modest means a genuine way of collecting work by renowned artists, and the Academy is privileged to launch a new edition by Baselitz, Farewell Bill (pictured). This line etching and sugarlift-aquatint was made in association with RA Editions, as part of its publishing programme that supports the RA Schools.

    The juxtaposition of paintings and prints exposes the push and pull that feeds an artist’s image-making process, and reveals how painters can greatly expand their repertoire of mark-making when working through the more technical medium of print. Mali Morris RA came relatively late to making fine art prints. Her satisfyingly airy screenprint Ruby Tuesday (2011), which was made in the RA Schools by RA Editions, is shown with her painting Hoopla (3) (2013). While she says she felt an initial resistance to making prints, she points out, “It has been completely fascinating to discover how different printmaking is from painting, and yet how my interests can still be explored, expressed, in this process.” It is an idea echoed by RA President Christopher Le Brun: “Away from the familiar routines of handling well- understood material, printmaking for a painter is one of the very best ways of genuinely and freshly encountering chance in ordered circumstances.”

  • For many painters whose studio practice is solitary, the collaborative nature of working on occasion with a professional printer can offer revelatory new insights. Albert Irvin RA describes his 30-year-long association with Advanced Graphics as “a marvellous marriage made in heaven”. It has resulted in an extraordinarily expressive series of prints, including the screenprint Festival (2012, pictured). Many of Irvin’s prints also combine processes of screenprint and woodblock to give texture and body to the surface of his images.

    The show includes a number of previously unseen works, including Stephen Farthing RA’s large-scale, unique etching Tree 2 (2000), which is the only surviving print from a plate that was proofed in New York and lost in the aftermath of 9/11. Emin, who has made prints throughout her career, has lent an “in-progress” lithograph to stand alongside the intimate, small acrylic I Can’t Sleep (2013). Katherine Jones, who won the London Original Print Fair prize in this year’s RA Summer Exhibition, works on fluid, small-scale watercolours as a way of clarifying ideas that are then “concluded” in the making of prints. These graphic works often combine different techniques such as collograph, hand-colouring and block print. For ‘Art Sales at the RA’ she shows her new print, The Wet and the Dry (2014, pictured).

    Emma Hill is the Director of the Eagle Gallery, London, and its associated imprint EMH Arts.

    Browse and buy contemporary artworks through Art Sales at the RA.

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