For the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018, the society asked artists to consider the theme of ‘Community Spirit’. Many of the selected works explore this concept’s resonance for individual artists, and it’s fascinating to note how many exhibitors responded to the idea of community through food - from food production and farming to the social interaction of meals shared.

Mall Galleries' Digital Content Creator, Beatrice Bowles-Bray, got in touch with the artists to find out why they chose to focus on food and farming.

Kitchen Table Still Life by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 135 x 112 cm - £7,500

‘My studio is on a small dairy farm, so I’m surrounded by food production and farming activities’ says artist Nigel Fletcher. ‘My window looks out onto the farmyard and the cows in the barn opposite. I have all the smells and sounds of the farm with me while I'm painting - I love it!’

The Old Bee Hives by Nigel Fletcher: Oil, 50 x 30 cm - £1,200

‘I painted The Old Bee Hives whilst exploring a neighbouring farm. I’d been trying and failing to find a suitable subject to paint, and was about to give up when I spotted this scene out of the corner of my eye. I set up my easel with all the usual excitement, but as it was harvest time I kept having to move out of the way of a tractor driving past to bring grain from the field to the barn.’ 

Community Spirit Allotments by Roger Dellar PS RI ROI: Oil, 56 x 56 cm - £1,200

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI’s painting Community Spirit Allotments is similarly inspired by the harvest and fresh produce. ‘People working together for the common good; it’s a scene that’s close to my heart’ he says. ‘It’s good for people to pull together, get to know each other, and produce fresh food. That element of physical exercise is missing in many people’s lifestyles.’

The Red Colander by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 59 x 59 cm - £1,950

Exhibitor Linda Alexander ROI’s focus on fruit is purely aesthetic; ‘I love the natural world with its extraordinary shapes, textures and colours’, she says. ‘I try to illuminate these features with sunlight; sunlight brings warmth to the subject as well as blue tones from the sky and often extraordinary lighting effects. Green Apples illustrates all of these points.’

Green Apples by Linda Alexander ROI: Oil, 52 x 52 cm - £1,750

‘I was drawn to the apples as a subject because the leaves were a beautiful shape, encircling the fruit. It gave the painting a lovely rhythm. I liked the textures in the subject; the smooth apples, the gnarled stem, and the veined twisted leaves. And then there's the sunlight on the whole thing which gives it all energy and heat.’

Poplars Farm Workshop by David Curtis VPRSMA ROI: Oil, 53 x 53 cm - £2,350

Fleur Robertson shares Linda’s appreciation for the aesthetic of fresh fruit. ‘I feel that pears have personality, perhaps because of their torso-like shape’ she says. ‘Maybe that’s why they’ve drawn not just my eye, but those of many artists in the past – they even take centre stage in Caravaggio's revolutionary Still Life with Fruit on a Stone Ledge, considered to be the first still life painting in western art.’

Candlelit Pears by Fleur Robertson: Oil, 24 x 24 cm - £300

Artist Colette Clegg and her husband moved out of London to a farm when their children were little. 'We wanted them to have a childhood like we had experienced, with space to run around, lots of animals, and growing food rather than depending on supermarkets. We have a thriving vegetable patch, growing everything from cucumbers and curly kale to beetroot, beans and pumpkins. I'm always on the lookout for interesting subjects to paint, and while it’s tempting to got to exotic places to paint, sometimes the best source of inspiration can be right under your nose. Our kitchen garden offers unlimited ideas.' 

Chioggia Beets by Colette Clegg: Oil, 35 x 35 cm - £595

'I never really liked beetroot when I was growing up, but when we started growing our own beetroot we discovered how delicious it is. Chioggia beets are our favourite; the leaves are a dramatic contrast of vivid green and purple, and digging them out is like prospecting for rubies. I harvest them early in the day so I have time to paint them. Many mealtimes have been delayed due to my creative endeavours. The squishy, juicy consistency of oil paint makes it the perfect medium for my vegetable portraits.'

Discover the exhibition catalogue online now to see how other artists have touched on the themes of food and community. The ROI Annual Exhibition is open at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. To purchase a work of art contact or call 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue