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Summer Exhibition 2014: First time exhibitors

Published 18 July 2014

Six of the artists from this year’s Summer Exhibitions share their thoughts on being selected for the first time.

  • Every year, the RA’s Summer Exhibition provides the opportunity for a huge range of artists to submit their work, in the hope of being selected to exhibit alongside some of the biggest names in contemporary art.

    With 1,262 pieces on display this year, the works are diverse, as are the artists themselves: male and female, young and old, British and international, from art students to an award winning Shakespearean actor. This year, 184 artists were featured in the exhibition for the first time, and we asked some of them to give us their thoughts on why they decided to enter their works, how it felt to be selected, and what it means to be part of a tradition dating back to 1769.

    • Charis Tsang's selected work is 'New York Apartment Block'  (photo-etching)

      Charis Tsang's selected work is 'New York Apartment Block' (photo-etching)

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Charis Tsang

      'New York Apartment Block'

      “At the end of last year, I completed a photo etching that I was extremely proud of and one which I thought worthy of submitting to the RA’s Summer Exhibition. Despite knowing that I would be up against stiff competition and that the likelihood of success extremely slim, I knew I was not going to forgive myself for not even attempting to try.

      When I finally received the notification email from the RA stating that my work had been accepted I was overjoyed and wanted to tell everyone I know! One colleague even mentioned that she had never seen me so happy! To have my work accepted by the British art establishment is quite an achievement and has definitely boosted my confidence in my skills as a printmaker. I am thankful for the Academy’s willingness to allow members of the public the rarefied opportunity to exhibit alongside big artistic names.”

    • Alex Booker


      “I’m sure anyone with any artistic aspiration dreams of being a part of the Summer Exhibition. I really enjoy the tradition of it being the largest, longest and arguably the most popular open exhibition in the UK. The mix of artistic disciplines, the combination of known and unknown artists all within the same show is unique and exciting. I took a gamble in entering my woodcut print, which is part of a larger series based on Cornish shipwrecks inspired by the Gibson family archive. Being in this show with many talented artists I admire is a thrill.”

      Alex Booker points to his work 'Maipu' (woodcut on Japanese paper)

      Alex Booker points to his work 'Maipu' (woodcut on Japanese paper)

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

    • Edward Petherbridge points to his work 'The Conductor' (acrylic)

      Edward Petherbridge points to his work 'The Conductor' (acrylic)

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Edward Petherbridge

      'The Conductor'

      “I submitted The Conductor because it is never too late to attempt a high hurdle.

      When the piece was accepted I thought how impressed my late brother (the subject), and my art master at Grammar school in 1952 would have been. It was rather like getting an Olivier Award for my acting, only more surprising.”

    • Pauline Emond

      'Regarde de tous tes yeux'

      “I applied to the RA Summer exhibition because it seemed like a thing to try out as a young artist discovering London. I was very happy when I was told I was accepted. I was especially curious to go to the Private View and meet the other artists. What I like about this exhibition is that contemporary works are being shown but there is quite a strong sense of the past about it.

      People have been participating in this event every year, in those very same rooms, for several centuries. It felt surreal to be part of such a long tradition; I really enjoyed that.”

      Pauline Emond standing next to her work 'Regarde de tous tes yeux' (etching on translucid Japanese paper)

      Pauline Emond standing next to her work 'Regarde de tous tes yeux' (etching on translucid Japanese paper)

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

    • Sait Mingu points to his works 'Upside Down' (acrylic), and 'Bounce 1' (ecoline on paper)

      Sait Mingu points to his works 'Upside Down' (acrylic), and 'Bounce 1' (ecoline on paper)

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Sait Mingu

      'Upside Down' and 'Bounce 1'

      “I decided to submit my work for the Summer Exhibition because I want to challenge myself internationally at the world’s largest open entry exhibition. I was thrilled when I was told my two artworks had been accepted but when I received the email that I had been awarded this year’s Hugh Casson Drawing Award I couldn’t believe my eyes and needed to read it twice.”

    • Greig Gilbert

      'Tsar Biro Minature'

      I created ‘Tsar Biro Miniature’ specifically for the Summer Exhibition, after watching a documentary about artists creating new work for entry.

      When I was told I had been accepted, I felt a mixture of elation and relief - I hadn’t told any of my family I’d entered - but with each stage of the judging process it became harder to keep secret. When I finally got the news I’d been accepted, I kept checking and re-checking the email. Once sure, I milked the celebration for about a week.

      Part of what I try to capture in my work is the dichotomy between historic source imagery and a contemporary, disposable medium: biro. This clash is further enhanced by the drawing being exhibited in such a prestigious venue.

      Greig Gilbert "frames" his work, 'Tsar Biro Minature'

      Greig Gilbert "frames" his work, 'Tsar Biro Minature'

  • Summer Exhibition 2014 is at the RA until 17 August 2014.

    Summer Exhibition is sponsored by Insight Investment