RASEAG at Anteros Norwich is a mixed exhibition of artworks by people who have previously attended the RAS and hail from or live in East Anglia. The Royal Academy Schools have been in existence for hundreds of years. Established by Joshua Reynolds for aspiring, professional artists the RAS has been through permutations of ethos, according to a succession of Keepers.
Today the Keeper is Eliza Bonham-Carter. A double-barrelled surname worthy of Debrett’s; one wonders how the same individual might fare if she were merely called Liz Carter, of state school provenance. Wokery aside, many RASEAG alumni were familiar with Peter Greenham RA and his secretary, Walter Woodington or ‘Woody’ as he was known; quiet Communist during the post-war era, though students wouldn’t have noticed as much.
Keepership after my time at the RAS shifted through Edward Middleditch RA, (former head of painting at Norwich School of Art) known for his brief period of fame during the Kitchen Sink movement followed by Norman Adams RA or ‘Fluff’.
Currently the Schools are the ‘it place’ for Art education in London, superseding the Royal College of Art, though I’m not sure why someone needs a Royle stamp of approval in the first place. My friend’s wife’s marmalade is vastly superior to Frank Cooper’s (see image infra), but doesn’t bear a royal coat of arms. Eh? Oh yes! It’s because the Queen used Frank’s. Not that she would have, given the choice.
At RASEAG Anteros Norwich, Kay Edwards cut a lively profile. Her paintings of beach huts and interiors adorned the walls beside colourful paintings by Lucy Bell (one of the main organisers of the event with Jelena Mone). Rory McShane’s paintings of trees caught the eye of my friend Ian, who came over from Woodbridge.
It was cheering to meet alumni at RASEAG Anteros Norwich who, like myself are either from East Anglia or gravitated there over the years. Still very much a backwater compared to other regions, Norwich is a Fine City ….. on a fine day. The opening of the RASEAG alumni show at Anteros Arts Centre could have been blessed with better weather.
It was good to meet friends; a wide range of expression from participating artists makes the show worthwhile. In spite of everything, RAS alumni keep going. Annie Hudson’s story is testimony. Books by Stephen Morris and Brian Whelan provide insight about the lives of RAS students. It’s not just Mervyn Peake and Ernest H Shepard who developed a literary talent.
I was pleased to see Jai Chaudhury and enjoyed meeting Kate, (his wife) who he drew, ‘back in the day’. Mandatory life-drawing (which we all experienced) is a bonding factor, no longer part of the curriculum at the RAS ….. we think it should be, cos anyone can park a shopping trolley in one of the back studios and call it ‘Art’.
I had to explain that to my seven year old son at the Anal-Phoney in Bristol when he put an empty paper cup in a window and asked ‘Dad, why can’t this be ‘Art’?’ I referred him to David Cockney, who happened to be with us at the time. However, the swearing box got too heavy! So we carried on paying homage to various piles of conceptual junk, knowing in a smug, liberal way we were amongst ‘the few’ (2% according to a Guardian Newspaper survey) who actually attend Art galleries in this country.
I was happy to see Paul Hawdon who I knew at St. Martins and the RAS. After looking closely, I recognised Vaughan who proffered the remark ‘50% Debs, 50% Plebs – that’s what you get here.’ When we met in the corridor in err ….. 1980 something or other.
Vaughan chinned Mike Upton for annoying him. Upton was a tutor whose status quickly changed to ‘Professor’ when Sarah Armstrong-Jones ditched textiles for Fine Art to become a student at the schools. Suddenly the men’s urinals were gilded and didn’t stink of piss, like they always used to; students had the pleasure of a mezzanine café instead of going underground to get stew and Young’s beers; Sarah (they say) had the luxury of a flat in nearby St. James’. A night at 70, Fentiman Road would have given her the willies! It was tatty, flea-bitten and leaked something chronic.
Vaughan’s forthright protest was how things were back then. At my alma mater (I’m an ‘Old Waltonian’ ) the woodwork teacher quickly broke a strike, knocking out the hardest lad in the school with an uppercut to the jaw. Oh dear! What would Ofsted say?
Models from our life-drawing workshops in Badingham came with partner- both studying at the UEA. Two portraits by myself were given ample space in the main gallery. My painting ‘the Human Penis’ found it’s way into a discreet corner, next to ‘Gamblin’ Bar Room Nudes’. Mind you, there wasn’t a cock in sight! (secretly there was – but spotting it could be a bit like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ picture. I put high prices on my work. Because I’m worth it!
RASEAG Alumni at the Anteros Arts Foundation in Norwich runs until Saturday the 6th of May, 2023.
Featured pic of RASEAG at Anteros by Heather
Photo of Alan Dedman by Casey Moore
Anteros PV pics by Alan Dedman