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Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016
Stephen White

Ten works you have to see at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2022

The Royal Academy's annual open call exhibition is back, here are the best bits.

Written by
Eddy Frankel
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If your idea of a good time is a bunch of rich old people lecturing you about climate change, then boy are you in for a wild ride at this year’s Summer Exhibition. 

Climate is the main theme of the annual open call show this time, and the academicians (the artists who pick the work and curate the show) have taken to it like ducks to polluted water. Every room is filled with art about the environment. There are paintings of eroded landscapes and flooded cities, photos of rubbish dumps, images of swelling seas, and seemingly endless statement prints, all yelling at you with bollocks like ‘climate justice’, ‘mass extinction includes YOU!’, ‘why are they screwing up my planet?’ and the very useful ‘the world is fucked’.

It’s like a whole show of Keep Calm and Carry On posters for people who think only taking a plane twice a year makes them honorary members of Greenpeace.

It’s not that environmentalism is bad, obviously, or that we shouldn’t care about the climate, but do we really need to be this intensely patronised? Do you need Grayson Perry to remind you to recycle? None of this art does anything, it just pats itself on the back for looking like it does. And also, most importantly, almost none of the art is anywhere near good.

You know how the band on the Titanic kept playing as the ship sank? Well, imagine if there was a lecture theatre below deck with an artist giving a talk about the dangers of icebergs at the same time. That’s what this is. Pointless and self-important.

But as ever with the summer show, there are some little treasures to be found if you look hard enough. To prove it, we've picked our favourite pieces of art on display below.

The Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts. Until Aug 21. More details here.  

Thomas Harker, 'Roadside Picnic' and Kate Mieczkowska, 'Chicken and Chips on a Friday Night'
Thomas Harker and Kate Mieczkowska

Thomas Harker, 'Roadside Picnic' and Kate Mieczkowska, 'Chicken and Chips on a Friday Night'

There are two car crash paintings hung together, both are great for their own reasons. Thomas harker’s white van daubed with primal markings feels like the result of teenage pagan vandalism, and Kate Mieczkowska’s upturned compact is a neat embodiment of contemporary dystopia.

Mark Hampson, 'That Offal Man'
Mark Hampson

Mark Hampson, 'That Offal Man'

Mark Hampson has a handful of very gross, weird, aggressive, comic-like works in teh show, filled with lips and teeth and guts and spit. Great stuff.

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Eugenia Cuellar, 'Pomeline (Marie Antoinette's Little Lamb)'
Eugenia Cuellar

Eugenia Cuellar, 'Pomeline (Marie Antoinette's Little Lamb)'

This little lamb by Eugenia Cuellar in its neon green field is cute, but also unsettling and somehow jarring. It stands out for it's uncomfortably confrontational friendliness, which is a good thing.

Michael Johnson, 'Clod'
Clod

Michael Johnson, 'Clod'

What a strange little painting this is by Michael Johnson, showing a weird little stompy being made up of countless slodgy bits assembled into a mound of dark oddness.

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Humphrey Ocean RA, 'Blue Car'
Humphrey Ocean

Humphrey Ocean RA, 'Blue Car'

One of the more famous artists on display, and himself an academician, Humphrey Ocean’s semi-abstract, pixelated blue car is simple, deceptively naive and very pretty.

Roger Hiorns, 'Untitled'
Roger Hiorns

Roger Hiorns, 'Untitled'

Just a big jet engine whacked on the floor. Aggressive, conceptual, industrial and brilliant, by the very good Roger Hiorns. 

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Ian Southwood, 'Landscape with Mattresses'
Ian Southwood

Ian Southwood, 'Landscape with Mattresses'

Maybe my favourite painting in the show, this pile of mattresses by Ian Southwood is probably the only work that can be linked to the whole climate theme with anything approaching subtlety or intelligence. It’s a big pile of rubbish, in a good way.

Eileen Cooper RA, 'Reflection'
Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper RA, 'Reflection'

Eileen Cooper RA is another big, established name on display, and her little prints here feel like lovely moments of aesthetic respite in among all the shouty crap on the walls.

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Bruce Ingram, 'Upturns'
Bruce Ingram

Bruce Ingram, 'Upturns'

These totems by Bruce Ingram are made from discarded bits of painting stretchers and found wood. They’re gentle, rough-hewn things, and quite quietly beautiful.

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