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Photographs by Alan Jones
This year's Open Exhibition has proved highly successful with the public attendance much improved over last year and these visits rewarded by an extremely high standard of work displayed. The new Gallery at the Castle was a fitting and prestigious home for an outstanding collection of images, sculpture and ceramics from across the South West. Thoroughly contemporary and exciting work was mixed seamlessly with the traditional in all genres making for an exciting exhibition fully in line with the Academy's refreshed and redefined aims and objectives. Winners of the Lionel Aggett Memorial Prize, awarded each year for the best in show from on-academicians were Rita Brown for her mixed media on canvas Bodyform No 1, Angela Fahey for her oil on canvas Windy Day Across the Harbour and Alison Hood for her ceramic sculpture Conversations. Highly Commended was Rupert W Brookes for his oil on canvas The Migrants. (click on the images below to see photos of the works).
In his Opening of the Private View and welcome to the guests Alan Fynn, Chair of Trustees, took the opportunity to introduce visitors to the facilities of the new Academy website, profiling all the Academy's new initiatives and its history and achievements over the last twelve years. He also reminded guests of The next Academicians Show in the Spring and the Drecki Lecture for 2012. Announcing that the Trustees had renewed the Academy's commitment to education with a planned Annual Open Award for young artists from primary to age twenty, to be staged in 2012, he asked for help from all present with this project - either by volunteer effort or help with funding through the re-launched Friends Association and new Associate Membership Scheme.

Below is a review of the 2011 SWAc Open Exhibition by Alison Summerfield.

Cherry trees in Amsterdam and April in Paris, two delightful paintings by Tina Morgan gave a certain spring like atmosphere and romance to this year's South West Academy's open exhibition together with others such as Sonia Fynn's Cretan Spring - Alliums, Early morning Mist - Burgh Island by Janice Walton, The Basilica; Venice by Simon Ashby and Chassaigne through the Trees by Martin Dutton. Unlike London's Frieze Fair, SWAc did not require a Super Yacht to attract visitors but with coastlines and boats a naturally occurring theme here in the West Country, Ray Balkwill, Chris Sampson, Roger Wonnacott, Sally Clayden and their co exhibitors did not disappoint with their regionally inspired paintings - and of course, were more affordable and easier to transport home.

However, as with every SWAc exhibition there was a truly diverse selection of genre executed in all manner of styles and media. Jo Dixon's exquisite portrait Forward Facing in oil, to June Arnold's Asleep on the Ghats in Varansasi in pastel and Kirstie Benwos's 'White Garden' in oil, acrylic and collage, together with lino-cuts and etchings, water colours, pen drawings and photography, as well as ceramics and sculpture - (the latter of which I hope will prove more widely represented in 2012) - all offered the art buyer a variety of artworks and prices.

First time exhibitors and emerging artists hung side by side with well established artists and academicians. And, as always there were one or two surprises to keep regular attendees of the SWAc exhibition on their toes - this year Kevin Jones's wonderful Still life with Fish was far removed from his from his usual style and genre, and while another painting by Jo Dixon saw a move away from her portraits to paint the Spare Room, the alluring serenity in her work was still recognisable. Visitors may well also be familiar with Roger Wonnacott's Trawler paintings but this year his Twilight and CKS Newlyn - well you could almost smell the rust on the hulls.

Despite the onset of Autumn there was a definite air of spring during the SWAc Open Exhibition and despite one or two weaker entries, the high calibre that we have come to expect at this annual event was maintained and proves without doubt, that the South West Academy provides a solid platform for both new and established artists and is an excellent assembly for art collectors too.

First Prize: Rita Brown
Bodyform Number 1
Mixed Media
Second Prize: Angela Fahey
Windy Day Across the Harbour
Oil on Canvas
Third Prize: Alison Hood
Highly Commended: Rupert W. Brooks
The Migrants (detail)
Oil on Canvas
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