Nestled at the top of Ely Place, a stone’s throw or so from the iconic Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, lies an oasis, close by, but just far enough away, from the madding crowds of shoppers and tourists.
For it is here that you will find the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts, better known as the RHA. With its 200th anniversary due to be celebrated in 2023, I recently visited the Academy’s 192nd exhibition. Among the 567 works, many of which are for sale too, there is certainly truth in the saying that there is bound to be “something for everyone”.
While painting is the main focus of artists, there are other forms too, including photography, mixed media, digital painting, drawing and sculpting in a variety of materials. A few years ago, I had occasion to visit the London equivalent, curated by Grayson Perry, and it was, to my mind, something of a shambles. Overfilled walls of works left the viewer with a sore neck, and huge disappointment.
One of the beauties of this year’s curation is the relaxed and clean layout of the works, allowing the visitor space to see them in their glory. Great credit to artists Donald Teskey and Vera Klute, both of whom have works on display, for their efforts.
One thing is certain about a visit to this annual extravaganza – you will possibly dislike as many works as you will enjoy. The beauty of arts is that it truly exists in the eye of the beholder, and I quickly strode past many of the works. I am sure that they have artistic merit, but this viewer’s eye was not caught by their beauty.
There were also many pieces that are standouts. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, the portrait of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen by Blaise Smith RHA is one that will cause you to stop and stare, with a generous attitude, and this is due to hang, belatedly, in Leinster House. Paul McCarthy’s Jackie McKenna, McKeon’s Stoneyard is another showstopper.
RHA member Pauline Bewick’s Aran got me a gift of cherries invites you to take time out and study the work in detail, as will Cecilia Moore’s work in sheet bronze, copper and nickel silver, titled Herbaceous Disorder.
The RHA annual exhibition runs until 24 July, and while you can view the works online, there is simply no substitute for a visit in person. There is no charge to view the works, and details of the gallery opening times are available on rhagallery.ie.