Summer is coming to an end, the Summer Exhibition has finished and there is the noise of trolleys moving sculptures, of displays being dismantled and of paintings and drawings being carefully packed away. Even Tacita Dean has gone as the Royal Academy starts to prepare for its autumn series of exhibitions.
One of the huge benefits of the Academy’s 250th anniversary redevelopment is that you can now walk right through from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens (the footfall in the Burlington Arcade must be seriously diminished) and, in doing so, you pass through the Weston Studio which is the crossroads to the world of RA Schools, enabling them to run a frequently-changing series of exhibitions and installations, the last being by Deborah Delmar and Sung Tieu.
The latest exhibition has as its link the statue of the Lacoon and his Sons, the original of which is in the Vatican having been discovered in Rome in 1506. A full-size plaster cast sits in the new Collections Gallery, with a smaller version in the Weston Studio, as the Lacoon and his sons struggle in anguish to fight off the slippery writhing serpents with a dark shadow behind them, giving the title to the exhibition of ‘Serpent and Shadow’.
But all is not what it seems. Squeeze behind the full size cast and you find another shadow - a dark hollow space in which an acylic box has been inserted by Martin Westwood holding a model of a First World War ‘Dazzle Ship’.
In the Weston Studio, historic work from the RA Collections sits alongside contemporary work from RA students and graduates in this exhibition which explores the shadowy world of art where all might not be what it seems.
The partitions on which the work hangs themselves are shadows; you can see through them and, through the shadows, see the backs of artworks, breaking all the rules. Historic works by the likes of Benjamin West, JMW Turner and William Daniell hang alongside Tanya Blaco’s graphics, Amanda Kyritsopoulou’s mossy teddy bear, Josephine Baker’s installation, Jessy Jetpacks’ burning stalgmite, Toby Jury Morgan’s classical vase which underneath its black exterior is composed of modern materials, Richard Lockett’s digital video table and artworks by Joey Bryniarska, Joey Bryniarska and others, with audio recordings by Amanda Kyritsopoulou, Jessy Jetpacks and Benny Woo subtly adding shadowy sounds through the space.
This relatively small space is proving a success in housing some of the most imaginative contemporary exhibitions in the RA.