Revelation at the Royal Academy – Bill Jacklin

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I paid a visit to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London recently and decided to roll the David Hockney exhibition into the trip.

The only way to guarantee you’ll get in (even on a sunny afternoon when I thought everyone else should be out of London or in the park) is to book tickets in advance.  That requires a bit of guess-work about how long you think you’re going to need in each exhibition.  I decided that, on past form, a little over an hour should cover the Summer Exhibition, but I hadn’t a clue how long the Hockney would take, so the Summer Exhibition went first.

As usual, there were a few works in the Summer Exhibition that meant it was worth the trip.  Favourite room was the architecture room, filled with works that generally didn’t make it to construction.  The drawings were exquisite and I was surprised how many of them were for sale – or, rather, had been.  Pretty much everything had been snapped up.

I had nearly half-an-hour to kick my heels before the Hockney ticket would do its thing.  I headed for the Madejski Fine Rooms, which are usually quiet – and I was blown away by the exhibition there.

I’m ashamed to say that Bill Jacklin’s work had passed me by.  What I’d been missing!  The exhibition begins with etchings and lithographs from the early part of his career.  The works depicting his father and inspired by him are particularly moving.

But my favourites by a country mile were the lithographs of skaters in New York.  He captures the movement, gestures and poses that are specific to skating – and the fun too.  There’s a flash of colour – deep red; rich orangey-yellow – that makes you wonder whether it’s a trick of the light or the imagination.  But it’s there, mingling with the otherwise monochrome palate.

There are fizzing skies, works that could only be of Venice, sharp contrasts between light and dark in works of urban conflict and clashes and much more besides.

After this, the Hockney exhibition was an anti-climax – recognisable and predictable, although he’s a most fabulous colourist.  But put it this way:  I spent longer at the Bill Jacklin exhibition.

If you can make it, do rush there – it closes on 28 August.  And the best news is that it’s free – and you don’t have to pre-book a ticket.  Otherwise, check out his website.  So, so worth it.

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