Coinciding with the major exhibition, Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art, and in partnership with Oxford Brookes University, the RWA presents an interdisciplinary one-day symposium. 

​Air is everywhere. The air we breathe is essential to human, plant and animal life; its quality is a fundamental ingredient of our health and that of the planet as a whole. The air above us is a region of wonders and dangers: hot air balloons and aeroplanes, flying creatures and bombing raids, luminous colours and evocative clouds. It is not surprising that artists have often been fascinated by this kind of subject matter. From experiments with air-pumps in the eighteenth century, through the sky paintings of Turner and Constable and the polluted cityscapes of Grimshaw and Lowry, to the wartime perils and the exhilaration of flight in the paintings of Ravilious and Lanyon, British artists have found many varied sources of inspiration in the air.  Contemporary artists tackle similar themes, with an emphasis less on flight, which is no longer a novelty, than on the nature of breath and the connections between air and health.


This one-day symposium complements the exhibition, which includes works by J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, John Everett Millais, Christopher Nevinson, Eric Ravilious and Peter Lanyon along with work by contemporary artists. The symposium seeks to create dialogue between practicing artists, curators, writers, academics and students from disciplines including history of art, cultural studies, geography, history, literature, environmental humanities and philosophy.

Papers will be delivered on a variety of topics ranging from Making Breath Visible to Blimps, Balloons and Biplanes: Nevinson and Lavery in the Great War, and the day will include an exhibition tour and discussion panel from exhibiting artists ending in a reception in the RWA’s stunning main galleries.

The full schedule can be downloaded here 



Christiana Payne, Professor of History of Art, Oxford Brookes University

Sam Smiles, Professor Emeritus of History of Art, University of Plymouth

Stephen Jacobson, Vice-President, Royal West of England Academy


Air Exhibition Dates 

16 June - 3 September 2017. More information here


Times & Prices

9am - 5pm

£25 including lunch and refreshments 

Exhibition Dates - 16 June - 3 September 2017


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Air Symposium Schedule


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