The 189th RHA Annual Exhibition 2019–where 351 artists are given a place to shine

The 189th RHA annual exhibition is on in the Gallagher Gallery—home of the RHA—15 Ely Place, Dublin. It runs from Tuesday 21st May–Saturday 10tAugust.  


Over the course of a week, a selection committee, made up of 6 RHA members, viewed nearly 3000 artworks from which they selected 350+. Furthermore, In the past 10 years this free exhibition has seen over 457,000 visitors and the work of nearly 4000 artists has been exhibited. Notably also, nearly 3000 artworks have been sold to the public.

An exhibition for the masses

In this exhibition you will find art pieces from all genres of art.  There is sculpture, photography, oil and acrylic on board, linen and canvas, watercolor on paper. Also to be seen is lithograph, archival prints, linocut, risograph and silkscreen. It’s all there. The only medium I didn’t find was video installation work. I spent a pleasurable 2 hours wandering around the Gallagher Gallery, exploring the spaces, enjoying the ‘retinal’ value of the many diverse artworks and being drawn in by a few. In the words of Abigail O’Brien, PRHA (President’s Preface, publication with 189th RHA Annual Exhibition 2109)

The 189th RHA Annual Exhibition is an important barometer and celebration of visual artists and their work and we celebrate this amazing show with 351 exhibiting artists. Enjoy the show, celebrate their creativity and buy the pieces that you love.

An Engaging Exhibit

To underline the variety of the work on display one piece in particular held my attention for quite a while, in it’s sheer concentrated volume of message. This piece is by Liam Belton RHA, Ten to Twelvemixed media, 242×152×39 cm. It’s a large piece, standing like a bookshelf, against the back wall of one of the larger rooms in the gallery.

A bookshelf filled with symbols, figures and images which represent our involvement, as humans, on planet earth. The symbols clearly reflect the message of how we consume and over-consume. Everything is painted charcoal or black with a patina of antique gold on some of the images or figures. The colors seem to depict a sense of doom and make this 3-dimensional exhibit 1-dimensional in some ways. I spent a long time engaging with this piece and enjoying my own dialogue with it (silently of course).


A piece that really pulled me in

As I wandered around the exhibition, letting my eyes do the talking, a particular piece drew me in. From afar, it looked like some sort of cloth. It looked like a rectangular piece of loosely knitted fine cotton, in shades of blue, on an ink black background. The initial feeling that it was thread, rather than paint, was what first caught my eye. Then, as I looked a little longer, I was drawn by the shape of the blue weave and it’s contrast to the inky background. It reminded me of a very fine curtain blowing in the breeze at an open window, perhaps even a window without glass. It conjured up the image of a remnant of curtain at the window of an abandoned house—the secrets of a family who lived there once, held within. As I got closer and read the title and looked more closely at the work I was amazed to read it was a watercolor on paper. The painting is titled Ebbed, and is by Roisin Lewis. As this painting entranced me so I looked up the artist. From this, I was amazed to find that these paintings are the artist’s replication of the idea of space and time at sea. As the artist is an open water swimmer herself she is very interested in and involved in the long-distance swimmer. She especially seems interested in the mental strategies they employ to keep going, the constant repetition of over-arm strokes. The digging into the water to propel the body forward. The blue loops (which I first saw as loose knitting) represent each stroke taken by the swimmers. In this particular series of paintings the artist is representing the strokes of swimmers who undertook the Channel swim in 2014. I felt a pull to this painting. The movement, the rhythm, the breeze, all caught my eye. The fact that I was to undertake an open water swim race the next day felt rather eerie.   




I relished this exhibition in it’s sheer largess and variety. As such, I urge you to take a trip to the RHA yourself and see which work of art beckons you in.


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