Arts & Culture
by Aspect County

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

21 June – 21 Aug 2022

Run by the Royal Academicians, artists and architects elected by their peers in recognition of their exceptional work, the Royal Academy (RA) exists to champion art and artists. Some 252 years ago, a group of artists made it their mission to form an annual exhibition to support artists and architects, by showcasing art of the moment to the nation. The Summer Exhibition has run uninterrupted ever since, including during the recent global pandemic, all be it with a few minor tweaks to the dates. 

In 2020, coordinated by artistic duo Jane and Louise Wilson RA, the exhibition took place in the winter and included new works by Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel, Gillian Wearing and Ai Weiwei. In 2021, selected and co-ordinated by Yinka Shonibare and a panel of artists, under the theme of Reclaiming Magic’, the exhibition again took place in the winter. 

This year, the annual celebration of art and creativity returns to its regular summer slot and will explore the urgent theme of climate: whether as a crisis or opportunity, or simply our everyday experience, it is an all-embracing and urgent subject. The 2022 committee includes Rana Begum, Grayson Perry, Farshid Moussavi and Conrad Shawcross, and is led by the celebrated British sculptor, Alison Wilding.

The Summer Exhibition regularly showcases over 1,000 artworks selected now from a maximum 16,500 entries, with the majority being for sale, raising funds to support both the exhibiting artists and the not-for-profit work of the RA. 4,000 entries are pre-selected by the committee, which are then delivered to the RA for the final selection round and hanging. It is a gruelling process for those who submit and can be a very nail-biting time for pre-selected artists, as they wait to hear if they have made it on to the wall. If they have, a wonderful treat awaits them as they enjoy the many traditions that surround this historical event, including varnishing day — originally the day when artists would put the finishing touches to their works within the galleries, it is now a day of celebration for the artists who have been selected for the show.

Southeast based artists who regularly submit work for the Summer Exhibition include Dani Humberstone PVPSWA, Will Taylor RBA and Simone Riley.

Dani Humberstone is artist in Residence at WING Art Gallery. Located in the old haberdashery shop in Wadhurst High Street, the gallery represents a broad range of local, national, and international artists. Talking about her RA experience, Dani says.

It seems like a lifetime ago now that I last submitted and got into the Summer Exhibition. I had been shortlisted a few times before I got all the way through, so it felt particularly sweet.

Varnishing Day was great. Will Taylor and I went together. We attended the artists blessing at St. James Church, then followed the steel band back down Piccadilly to the RA. A few RAs attended and were happy to chat, I also met a couple whose artwork I am a fan of, and we met Sir Christopher Le Brun, who was President at the time.

My work was hung in a group with both Una Stubbs & Harry Hill so when the BBC were interviewing them, I used the opportunity to do a walk by, or two. 

And I did varnish my work!”


Dani Humberstone at RA

Dani Humberstone at RA

Will Taylor grew up in Liverpool but now lives and works just outside Rye. An accomplished painter and printmaker, he is a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the Society of Graphic Fine Art and the Rye Society of artists. 

His artwork hangs in galleries in Kent, East Sussex and he regularly exhibits at the Mall Galleries, Bankside Gallery, Affordable Art Fair, and the RA Summer Exhibition. 

I am delighted to have been preselected for the RA Summer Exhibition 2022

Will Taylor outside the RA 2015

Outside the RA courtesy of the artist

Having had a good run between 2015 and 2019 of preselection, selection for the galleries but not hung, actual hanging and sales, I took a break in 2020 whilst the world changed and didn’t submit. I then submitted in 2021 but was not preselected – which had the effect of rekindling enthusiasm to keep trying and realising how honoured I was to exhibit in prior years. It also made me realise that there are, in a good way, no rules. I find one should put forward one’s best work that matters to you and not try to second guess what might work for the RA that year. If your work gets in that’s great, if it doesn’t it is work that you are proud of that will live to exhibit another day.

2022 then feels like it has all the excitement of submitting for the first time.”


The Rape of the Rye Townswomen

The Rape of the Rye Townswomen by Will Taylor RBA

Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach by Will Taylor RBA

Lewes based digital photomontage artist Simone Riley uses her own digital photographs to create original digital fine art prints.

I didn’t have the courage to submit to the RA Summer Exhibition until 2018, when the combination of Grayson Perry as curator, and the theme of Fun’ was just too appealing not to give it a go! My artwork was accepted and hung in the show, which was hugely exciting and verging on the miraculous. Varnishing day was an amazing experience – I felt very honoured to be part of it. 

Simone by Caitline Lock

© Caitlin Lock

In 2019 I submitted again, and my work was shortlisted (pre-selected), but I didn’t get through to the final round. Obviously disappointing, particularly having delivered the work only to have to take it away again, but as one of my friends put it; Being shortlisted is still like being nominated for an Oscar, even if you don’t actually win it”.

During the pandemic (2020÷2021) I chose to stay away from London, but I have submitted a piece of work for this year’s exhibition, which has been shortlisted (pre-selected) again. Obviously, it could go either way, but I know from previous experience that being selected is at least a possibility – and being shortlisted but not selected is still something of a positive affirmation, particularly given the vast number of submissions.”


Innocence Simone Riley

Innocence by Simone Riley

To Book your tickets go to: www​.roy​ala​cad​e​my​.org​.uk/​e​x​h​i​b​i​t​i​o​n​/​s​u​m​m​e​r​-​e​x​h​i​b​i​t​i​o​n​-2022

Written by Lesley Samms MSc ANLP MAC; Founder Pure Arts Group