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FPS Artist's in the public eye: SIMON BURDER


I have entered the RA Summer Exhibition several times over the years. I know that it is possible to have work accepted as I have been successful once before. This year at the last minute I decided I had to give it another go.

With competitive exhibitions it pays to send in more than one work, even though it costs more, because the jury members are looking at thousands of entries and they may not notice that your one picture is by a different artist than the previous work. This year I had ready two lithographs of St Enodoc, a church on the coast of North Cornwall well known to fans of the poet John Betjeman. Having entered many open competitions before, I am under no illusions that I will not always get the work accepted, so I suppose I am somewhat inured to rejection. It is still upsetting, but the feeling doesn’t last long. Neither by the way does the feeling of elation when your work is accepted.

The RA is a little special though. The first stage is to get your work selected by the jury. The hanging committee choose what to put on the walls from all the works that have got through this selection. This can depend on many subtle issues, such as whether your work is the right size or colour to go in a particular place! This year for the first time artists received a letter telling them of their success in the first stage. This gave me hope than all was not lost at the outset, but it was about another week before the vital letter arrived. You can almost tell by the thickness of the envelope that it contains your invitation to a grand private view, but I held my breath until I actually read the words.

Varnishing Day is the preview for the artists. It is a glamorous occasion, although I was disappointed that many of the canapés had already gone by the time of my arrival at about midday. I most enjoyed the surprise of meeting friends who were also exhibiting.

The hope of showing in the RA is that your work will sell. For me this started to happen almost immediately. It is a curious experience because you start to question the value of your work. If it sells so easily is it because it is too cheap or too ‘commercial’? Greed can make you think the price wasn’t high enough, but if you had made it higher, would it still have sold? And when all the prints in the edition have sold you can regret not having printed more. There is poignancy in sending off to a buyer the final copy of the work that you created and will never have again to show to someone else. Somehow the money doesn’t seem to mean so much. It has been good to meet some of the buyers and realise the pleasure and meaning my artwork gives them.

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