This year’s Royal Ulster Academy exhibition is being held in the Cathedral Quarter and apparently an unprecedented 1,454 entries were received, resulting in around one in eight entries being accepted.
This year the Gold Medal, for the best work by a member of the Academic Body, went to Simon McWilliams for his piece called The Arc.
Meanwhile, the Silver Medal, for the best work by an artist who is not a member of the academy, went to Janet Mullarney for her aluminium and enamel 3D piece Gardenman.
This year there are a large number of 3D works including pieces by John Behan and Anthony Scott; both are invited artists.
One of the invited graduates, Nicola Agnew, was getting a lot of attention for her three little bears while another, Sandra Robinson, has already had one of her huge ceramic torsos snapped up by a Lisburn Road gallery.
I thought some of the portraits were outstanding but, of course, Neill Shawcross won the prize again with another of his sketchy, loose, wonderfully perceptive studies which no-one else seems to be able to compete with. Also look out for the amazing charcoal and chalk study of Michael Longley by David Russell.
There are plenty of good prints this year — I liked Marcus Patton’s silkscreen, Mr Braddell’s Fish, and Red O’Neill’s Thimbles.
Of the paintings, the very impressionistic Resonance by Stephen Lawlor caught my eye, as did Barbara Allen’s The Angry Bream, and Ciaran Gallagher’s Candahar Street.
Go and have a look — you won’t be disappointed.