Our Bookshop Manager, and one of our most musical members of staff, Natalie Richardson, shares her thoughts on the paintings of musical instruments in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours online Exhibition.


As I was dancing around my living room the other day, I texted my best friend Alice:

'ABBA dance marathon just about to start in my living room.' 

Her reply? 

'What's the first tune? I shall join you.'

Music has always been a huge aspect of my life, but I'm finding that now more than ever, I'm desperately listening through all the good stuff out there, to lose myself in a moment that isn't about 'you-know-what'. I'm not afraid to admit I've been singing along (badly) and then getting my ukulele out to see if I can play along too. It's not usually a rock-stars' instrument-of-choice, but you've yet to hear me play.

Maybe that's why, as I was listening to '90s Bangers' (hits from my childhood) on the radio, and scrolling through the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours exhibition for work, I realised that there are so many instruments painted in the pictures. It got me thinking that creating music is such an act of togetherness. You need to be present and paying complete attention. If you're out by a beat, you're flat, or you're playing the wrong piece of music (it has been known to happen), it makes a beautiful melody a bit of a cacophony. 

Togetherness is what we're craving right now so can we find that in music?

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI Quartet Watermedia, 46 x 46 cm, £695

I wonder what the musicians in Roger Dellar's 'Quartet' are playing? Let me know what you think. His studies of The Cellist and the player in Violin Performance look so engrossed; the passion and concentration growing stronger as the piece progresses. There are so many classical (and non-classical) players who’ve done amazing virtual performances recently - it’s their creativity, and drive to do everything to try and be together, that impresses me.

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI The Cellist Watermedia, 46 x 46 cm, £695

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI Violin Performance Watermedia, 56 x 56 cm, £795

The string section gets another look-in with Anna Dudley Neill's Signature Tune which has them in a semi-abstract embrace. Initially, I thought there was something a bit ‘MC Escher’ going on here. Then I took some time, and through the lines of sound drawn on the page, I noticed the loving accuracy of the mark-making appear before me, like a study of life. Anna's truly seen the instruments for what they are; learning all their shapes and curves, whilst also capturing their potential, ability and hope, and drawing us into the truth in their beauty. We’ve got time ourselves at the moment to really look, and this powerfully simple act can have a such a calming influence.

Anna Dudley Neill RI Signature Tune Watercolour, 47 x 39 cm, £800

Currently, new friends are a bit hard to come by, but I have found a new one in Hanako. David Gleeson has captured her sly smile and strong gaze; Hanako knows the best is yet to come. Once she lifts the flute to her lips she will transport us all to another plane, filled with colour and light.

David Gleeson Hanako and Flute Watercolour, 77 x 74 cm, £2,500

I'm similarly intrigued with the chap in Geoffrey Wynne's Kind of Blue where the intensity of his eyes travels into my soul and I can hear the distant sounds of his song.

Geoffrey Wynne RI Kind of Blue Watercolour, 50 x 35 cm, £1,600

A good old celebratory fanfare is displayed in Nick Orsborn's Oasis and Aimee Birnbaum's Darwin’s Dream. It reminds me of all the noise the pots and pans, and hands, make for the NHS and keyworkers. Such an act of appreciation and unity. Did you also see the video of the six-year-old whose whole street stood outside their front doors with balloons to sing her ‘Happy Birthday’? Made me well up! Well done everyone, thank you. Keep up the good work and we'll stay home.

Nick Orsborn RI Oasis Watercolour, 36 x 36 cm, £750

Aimee Birnbaum RI Darwin's Dream Watercolour, 67 x 82 cm, £1,500

And on that note (pardon the pun), the final painting I'll draw your eye to (pardon the pun...again) is Rosa Sepple's What's New Pussycat? Not because of the title, although I shall be going to play some Tom Jones and texting Alice shortly, because this is where a lot of us are at the moment: at home, alone, tickling the ivories, with the cats…

Rosa Sepple PRI What's New Pussycat Watercolour, gouache & ink, 28 x 19 cm, £995

...it's 4 o'clock in the afternoon and you're in your corset (pyjamas).

#StaySafe #StayHome #FlattenTheCurve


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