Selection Day: Interview with Stephen Jacobson RWA

The 164th edition of the RWA Annual Open begins on Sunday 9 October, featuring hundreds of works by established and emerging artists from across the country. As the work goes up, we caught up with Vice President RWA, Stephen Jacobson who was on this year's Selection Panel and Hanging Committee, to find out what it's like to pick between so many amazing submissions...  

RWA: What does the Annual Open Exhibition mean to you? 
The Exhibition is open to everyone and, as such, represents the activities of all practitioners - from amateur artists to professionals. It is a showcase for traditional work along with moving image and installations. Artists can benefit enormously by seeing how their work stands up alongside their contemporaries.

What happens on Selection Day – take us through it…
A panel of eight, made up of Academicians and invited external selectors, examine each piece of work as it is presented by a team of volunteers. Voting is done by a show of hands and any work receiving five or more votes is carried through. The average success rate is around one in three. The Academicians’ work is accepted automatically and they can submit up to four pieces of which two will be guaranteed to be hung. The sculpture selection usually takes place at the end of the day and the selectors walk around the studio, in which the pieces are placed, to make their decisions. 

What do you look for when you are on the judging panel?
Personally I look for serious intent, real exploration and an imaginative vision. Good craftsmanship is to be admired but in itself does not necessarily make for a good piece of work. 

What is/was the atmosphere like on Selection Day?
Generally speaking the atmosphere is good natured and although there is some humour, the panel understand the significance of their responsibility and take it seriously. This year was the same. There was little dissent but members were not afraid to express strong feelings about some of the pieces.  

What do you look forward to most from the Annual Open?
Because I am involved with the selection and the hanging, I am anxious to see the culmination of our endeavours. It is not until the work is on the walls  that we know how good the show is and how well it hangs together. I also enjoy eventually meeting the other exhibitors at the opening. 

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