Behind the scenes at the 169 Annual Open

Behind the scenes at the 169 Annual Open

A Q&A with the selection panel of the Annual Open Exhibition.

It's just over 2 weeks to go until the 169 Annual Open Exhibition and our small team is hard at work hanging hundreds of selected artworks in the gallery. Selected works include painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, and mixed media, showcasing the most exciting artists from across the country and beyond. We caught up with 2 of the selection panel from this year, RWA Academicians Rosalind Robinson and Hamish Young for a Q&A to find out how they came to select the chosen pieces and their encouraging message to those who submitted.                                                                                        

Have you seen a theme in this year's submissions? 

Rosalind: Trees! Otherwise, subjects as random as one might expect from an Open Exhibition without a specified theme. 

Hamish: There were a large number of landscapes in particular images of trees and pathways or roads disappearing to a vanishing point that were submitted this year.

What made an entry stand out for you? 

Rosalind: This year, with so much gloomy news around, I also looked for work that had a sense of fun.

Hamish: I’m always drawn to particular compositional models and look for technical skill in handling the medium used. Titles influence me too, and I prefer those that add ambiguity to works.

Images laid out on the gallery floor for the AOE169

How did the selection panel work together to come to a decision? How did you find the selection process? 

Rosalind: The requirement to view approximately 3 entries per minute leaves no time for dissuasion, so decisions tend to be made more individually. 'Yes' entries tend to be obvious, likewise 'No's - it's the 'Maybe's that take time! 

Hamish: It’s a democratic process. The panel looks at every artwork and cast a vote attributed with a numerical value (Yes, Maybe, No). A cut-off is then used to shortlist the number of entries to around 1000 works before the wider selection panel comes together in person to view and vote on each work. A work is selected by a majority vote.

What would be your message to entries that didn't get selected this time?

Rosalind: Continue to pursue making your own work, with your own unique vision, sometimes there is only one vote making the difference between acceptance and rejection.  

Hamish: I want to say thank you so much for submitting your work. It has been a real privilege to see all the entries. I regularly receive messages myself that say “Unfortunately on this occasion your work has not been selected” and I find it hard not to take it personally because my work is highly personal. Many organisations rely on submission to open exhibitions to support themselves. Over the years I’ve started thinking of open entries as being a bit like the lottery. First and foremost it’s a donation to the arts and artists, with the benefit that occasionally I get my work exhibited in some wonderful spaces alongside artists I admire.

Colorful artworks being organized ready for hanging at the RWA Annual Open Exhibition

What do you think makes the RWA AOE unique? 

Rosalind: The artists who submit their work provide unpredictable uniqueness. 

Hamish: The panel comprised of a wide range to practitioners selecting a wide range of works from ceramics to installations. Submitting to the RWA open helps to support the organisation and provides the opportunity to all to exhibit in a world-class space. I was thrilled when I first exhibited a piece and the RWA, and every time since.

The 169 Annual Open Exhibition is showing from 8 October - 8 January. With all works available to purchase both at the RWA or online you can own a piece of the exhibition and invest in art by an emerging artist, or well-known name. Find out more about the Annual Open Exhibition and purchase your tickets.