Artwork of the Month: August

Artwork of the Month: August

August's Artwork of the Month has been chosen by Anne Gillespie RWA. She has picked 'The Academy's Hands' by Nigel Casseldine RWA from the RWA Permanent Collection. Anna writes:

'I chose this painting because I was drawn to the sitter’s large hands taking centre stage in the painting and the way the title informs us of how crucial the sitter was to the running of the Academy. As a sculptor I often need the help of technicians and craftspeople to be able to make and to install my work. The title instantly told me that the painter must have felt the same sense of gratitude and respect towards technicians as I do.

When asked to choose an ‘Artwork of the Month’, Tristan Pollard, the Curatorial Technician here at the RWA, showed me round the collection and to my surprise said that he knew the sitter, John Burzynski, who had in fact been his predecessor. John was known as the Head Porter in those days but the practical realities of the role remain much the same today. The painting was probably painted in what was the staff room and is now the Drawing School, and depicts the timeless subject matter of a man relaxing but still very much ‘at work’. Despite the timeless quality some things in the painting do tell us that things have moved on. A shirt and tie is no required in the role Curatorial Technician!

John Burzynski worked for the RWA for 20 years and then continued in a voluntary capacity after he had officially retired and handed over to Tristan who has himself been the Hands of the Academy for the last 20 years, although these days working in tandem with the capable hands of Ben Rowe the Facilities Manager.

John Burzynski was born in Poland and witnessed the Russian invasion and then the German occupation. He was transported by cattle wagon to a forced labour camp but managed to escape to Switzerland in January 1945. His fascinating wartime story was written down in an interview and can be seen on request from the RWA. Apart from that interview he was typical of his generation in preferring not to talk about the war. At retirement he did say though that he had had many joyous and rewarding years at the RWA. I am sure he helped as many people as Tristan and Ben so skilfully and calmly do today.'

Nigel Casseldine's work will be on display on our upstairs landing throughout August.