Discover more about the exhibitions held at Mall Galleries through interviews with artists, photo essays, prize winners lists and video and audio content. Mall Galleries publish content from all Federation of British Artists Art Society Exhibitions.

The Art of a Nation

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This specially commissioned essay is reproduced from The Art of a Nation Exhibition Catalogue. Purchase the catalogue online now. 


By Lewis McNaught, Director, Mall Galleries

In recent years, we have had too few opportunities in this country to explore and evaluate the merits of Irish Art. Apart from a few commercial galleries that provide exhibition space for living, Irish-born painters, sculptors and photographers, it may surprise you to learn there has been no wide-ranging survey or other single exhibition in London providing an historical dimension to Irish Art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries for more than 30 years.    

In 1980 three important touring exhibitions visited London as part of A Sense of Ireland, the London Festival of Irish Arts, mounted by The Arts Councils in Ireland. Each gave a different, personal perspective on Irish Art in the Seventies. One of these, The Delighted Eye, was curated by Frances Ruane, who became Art Advisor to the Allied Irish Banks Collection in 1980 and who has written about the formation of their Collection for this catalogue. Strongholds (1991) and Elective Affinities (1993), both at Tate Gallery Liverpool, concentrated on new art from Ireland; representative Irish works in the permanent collections of Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are few in number, although Sir William Orpen’s wartime paintings are well represented in London’s Imperial War Museum. On the whole, London and the UK have been starved of exposure to great Irish Art.      

Sean Keating, On the Run, War of Independence

We are confident this selection will introduce you to works of enduring quality and may encourage you to cross the waters to discover more.

This is one of the reasons why Mall Galleries is proud to stage this selection of important Irish works collected by Allied Irish Banks plc. Drawn from a portfolio comprising more than 3,000 paintings, photographs and sculptures, astutely collected since the 1980s, the collection is surely one of the most important representative collections of Modern Irish Art, certainly broader in its historical range and quality than other corporate collections formed in Ireland. Tours of the works within the Republic are continuous and some of the more significant works are on permanent view at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. But The Art of a Nation is the first time these works have left the shores of Ireland. This exhibition is therefore the first opportunity for London gallery visitors to discover the diversity and character of works produced by artists in the Republic of Ireland from c1900 to the present day.    

But there is a further reason for staging this exhibition at Mall Galleries, home to the Federation of British Artists. Each year, these Galleries play host to the annual exhibitions of eight of the UK’s leading art societies. Several of the artists represented in The Art of a Nation were members or exhibited with these societies that for over fifty years have held their annual exhibitions at Mall Galleries. For example, Aloysius O’Kelly exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI); Roderic O’Conor, William Leech, Thomas Carr and Sir William Orpen all exhibited with the New English Art Club (NEAC); Letitia Hamilton and F E McWilliam both exhibited with the RBA, and Yeats with the ROI. Sir John Lavery was a member of the NEAC and showed an impressive 140 works with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP).    

Letitia Hamilton, Clew Bay

As well as exhibition opportunities, the London art world has provided Irish artists with valued support and a livelihood. This vital connection has continued into recent times with William Crozier and Hughie O’Donoghue RA both playing leading roles in the British art scene; Willie Doherty and Sean Scully have both been shortlisted twice for the Turner Prize. All these artists now enjoy a worldwide reputation and feature in this exhibition with important works.   The selection of works made by the exhibition’s curators, Anthony Lester and Nicholas Usherwood, will provide you with just a small insight into the range and quality of works in the AIB Collection. We are confident this selection will introduce you to works of enduring quality and may encourage you to cross the waters to discover more.

Art of a Nation opens 13 May to 31 May

Buy the Exhibition Catalogue online now

Portrait Painters' Studios


About the project:

Behind the Scenes with Portrait Painters’ provides a unique insight into the working lives of contemporary professional artists who are engaged in what is essentially a very human endeavour; the portrayal of the other. Portraiture is an art that crosses distances between ourselves and others and seeks to undo our own subjectivity. It is illustrative of an attempt to perceive and to know another human being and therefore a fundamental activity in our increasingly individualist oriented society. To know and have an understanding of others has never been so important as our societies fracture along religious, cultural and ethical divides. We need to be able to empathise in order to not only tolerate but embrace the infinite ways there are to be human.

These stills were taken by Christa Holka as part of the Portrait Painters’ Studios Project run by Christa and Sarah Jane Moon. The two artists are engaged in a process of visiting, interviewing and photographing selected members of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters in order to gain insight into their individual working processes. They are working towards presenting their research in book form later this year.

Portrait painting in and of itself is also a largely mysterious profession and one that lies outside industry. Each and every painter will have a unique way of painting and negotiating the process of painting others.The commissioning process is also one that is highly individual. It is hoped that this volume will demystify these processes and give the reader a greater understanding of what is involved in commissioning a portrait and how works of art are made. By doing so we aim to encourage and promote the endurance of portraiture as an art form of both cultural and political significance.


Christa Holka:

Photographer Christa Holka is an American artist who lives and works in London documenting and archiving the communities in which she exists. She often makes photographic portraits herself of artists and performers exploring personal narrative, memory, identity, self-representation and art practice and as such is sympathetic to the challenges of portraying others. Working with a forensic eye for detail she is able to offer a unique glimpse into the life of a studio as well as capturing the artist at ease. Christa has exhibited her work in galleries in the U.S., London, Berlin and Athens.


Sarah Jane Moon spoke to Art Magazine Studio International at the opening of her joint exhibition in the Mall Galleries Learning Centre.

Interview by Anna McNay

Filmed by Martin Kennedy

Royal Society of Portrait Painters Prize Winners


The 124th Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Open Exhibition opened on Wednesday 15 April.

The 124th Annual Open Exhibition is Robin-Lee Hall's first as President of the RP. Writing in the exhibition catalogue Robin-Lee says 'my ambition for the Society as President, is to continue to build on our history and strong reputation for high quality commissioned portraiture and share our knowledge and experience through education.'

Robin-Lee also thanked the generosity of the RP's sponsors support and belief in the Society's remit. The Prizes that are donated are valuable to the recipients, many of whom establish higher profiles from being showcased in this way.

The 2015 exhibition sees an expansion of the RP's relationship with Seven Investment Management and their generous £15,000 Conversations Prize. It is thanks to the sponsorship from Seven Investment Management the RP are able to offer workshops during the exhibition in the excellent Learning Centre at Mall Galleries. 

The Seven Investment Management £15,000 'Conversations' Prize was awarded to John Wonnacott CBE Hon. RP. The 'Conversations Prize is awarded for the best work interpreting the theme of a conversation piece, including two or more figures.

Commission John Wonnacott CBE Hon. RP to create a work just for you


The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

£10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished painting in the Society’s annual exhibition

Brian Morris

Upp åt Bäcken (Up the Creek)

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The de Laszlo Foundation Prize

£3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under

Lorna May Wadsworth

They Have Lunch Every Tuesday

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The Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing

£2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium

Jason Bowyer RP PPNEAC PS

Sammy G

Commission Jason Bowyer RP PPNEAC PS to create a work just for you

Changing Faces Commissions Prize

£2,000 commission to produce a portrait of a person with a disfigurement for the Changing Faces collection

Hero Johnson


The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award

£2,000 and framed certificate for the most classically inspired portrait in the exhibition.

Miriam Escofet


Commission Miriam Escofet to create a work just for you

The Arts Club Charitable Trust Award in association in with The Arts Club

£1,000 to the most deserving artist in the exhibition, as judged by a representative from the Charitable Trust.

Awarded jointly to Emma Hopkins and Claire Anscomb

Claire Anscomb



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Emma Hopkins

Geri Morgan

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Smallwood Architects Prize for contextual portraiture

£1,000 prize is for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.

Tom Hughes

Living Room with Lamps

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Call for Entries

The RP seeks submissions of new and traditional interpretations of portraiture. The Call for Entries is currently open, submit your artwork before Friday 29 January 2016.

For more information please click here.

Photography by Alick Cotterill

Inside Portraits - Works by Sarah Jane Moon

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This exhibition showcases the most recent work of Sarah Jane Moon, recipient of the 2013 Bulldog Bursary. Sarah Jane is a committed painter who has a background in arts theory and history as well as having trained in figurative painting at The Heatherley School of Fine Art. She is originally from New Zealand and has worked, taught and lived internationally, spending significant periods of time in Japan, Malaysia and Australia.

Sarah Jane’s work is on an ambitious scale and captures her peers and contemporaries, many of whom are creatives and entrepreneurs themselves. She is drawn to personalities who are uniquely and authentically themselves and who pursue creative endeavours that reflect that.

From writers and performers to entrepreneurs and fashionistas, her sitters are often forging their own creative paths with flare, commitment and passion. Subjects in the portraits on display include writer and lecturer Dr Laura Bridgeman, designer and furniture maker Emma Leslie, performance artist and lecturer Dr Brian Lobel and entrepreneur and events manager Stav B among others.

Sarah Jane has a keen eye for detail and symbolism and as such her portraits often incorporate objects and paraphernalia specific to the sitter’s profession and identity. Her work also reflects an abiding interest in the individual’s presentation of the self, the artist’s perception of the subject and the gap that forever persists between. What is the relationship between the socially constructed persona and the self? Who are we in the presence of ourselves and others? Where is identity located and how is it performed?

Many of her subjects are from non-heteronormative backgrounds and it is hoped that her portraits will form part of a wider narrative of celebrating the vast pool of talent, creativity and drive that flourishes in these milieux.

An Essential Guide to Tina Jenkins’ ‘Hystoria’


To celebrate Tina Jenkins’ Hystoria opening at Mall Galleries, we have created an ‘Essential Guide’ to the artist and her work

These works have come out of an initial interest in the subject of hysteria. I am not trying to illustrate or express the hysterical in my paintings but whilst contemplating the subject, ideas and compulsions become starting points for making works.


The Plastic 

It is underlay for buildings, so sometimes it has dents and marks. I wanted it to look really pristine and I would ring the suppliers and say, ‘It’s damaged!’ and they would reply, ‘Well, it’s for buildings’.

But I am getting less and less annoyed about it, it is what it is. It retains a lot of the marks of the working process and it’s the trauma of the work that comes through.

The Process

Sometimes the figures go in first. They are painted just on clear plastic and then, I turn it round and cover the background so that the colour shows through.

With a knife, I cut bits and tear them down; some parts come off really easily, others make a whole area rip off. I will go on to fill in the gaps and back to cutting, ripping and backfilling again and again.

The Bad Bits

A bad bit for me is something that I can’t reconcile in my mind. I take them out and then fill them in again and bad bits will get back in. Playing around with everything that I feel is wrong is very subjective. Other people might not see it as wrong, but for me it’s just not right.

I will continually work through an area until it becomes something that I can bear. You peel away and sometimes a whole figure is gone.

Recycling and Discarding

I have a real problem with throwing away the ripped bits of paint. I use tape to take them off so nothing goes to waste. I have boxes and boxes of archived ripped paint. I used to work with oil based gloss which I found very problematic in terms of landfill, but even though the paint is now waterbased, I still don’t want to just stick it in the bin.

I have to do it like that. For parts of ‘Hystoria’, I have taken pages from old auction catalogues and the discarded paint that I have removed from my paintings and bound them together. These catalogues list the estimated value of the objects they depict. The objects once sold, render the catalogue as a defunct guide of proposed value past. A historic record of image and value gained and lost.

Painting and Hysteria

Because of the way I create my paintings, I am always analysing what I am doing and why I am doing it. Looking at different artists and thinking about the whole history of painting in terms of different types of abstraction, makes you wonder whether you can re-do those processes. Exploring and constantly replaying these notions, means that the paintings themselves were becoming more hysterical. I was thinking that if they were hysterical, then what does this sort of painting look like. And if that is hysterical, what does it have to offer painting as opposed to more traditional approaches.

Painting is a way of thinking. You see certain works and it feels that the person that made them is a painter and it could quite often be a sculptural work, or an installation, or anything. It is a way of putting things together. Painting is not something you define by the act of painting. It is about a certain way of thinking things through.



Tina Jenkins

Mall Galleries

30 March to 11 April 2015

10am to 5pm

Closes 1pm on final day

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Prize Winners


The 203rd exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours was opened on 24 March by journalist and water colourist Jon Snow. The 203rd exhibition is also the first with new President Andy Wood at the helm.

Andy has been a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours since 1981. After serving on Council for a number of years he was elected Honorary Secretary in 2009 and elected President of the RI in 2014.

Andy has designed and built the RI's website and has more recently encouraged the Institute to embrace social media such as Facebook and Twitter. He sees his role as being to keep the society in the present while always looking to the future.

The opening exhibition also included the Prize Giving. This year there were several new awards that have been generously donated by sponsors from home and abroad. These included a prize from the Shenzhen International Watercolour Biennial, China and a new award to encourage young artists given by the venerable London guild - The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers'.

The big winner at the Prize Giving was Deborah Walker RI who won three awards for her work 'Detail'. Deborah was awarded the Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award, The Escoda Barcelona Award and The Turner Medal, a medal in honour of Turner which is awarded to a member of the RI and RWS.


Detail - Deborah Walker RI

Turner Medal

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Prizes & Awards


The Leathersellers' Award

Tim Patrick

Barren Room

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The Matt Bruce RI Memorial Award

J Richard Plincke RI

Come Helen, Come Bring Me My Soul Again

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The Winsor & Newton / RI Award

Delia Cardnell RI

All works

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The John Purcell Paper Prize

Filipe Miguel das Dores

Mario Night

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Schmincke Award

Varsha Bhatia

Entrance, Natural History Museum

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The Frank Herring Easel Award

Christopher Forsey RI

Puss in Souk

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Shenzhen International Watercolour Biennial Prize

Xi Guo


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Wicked Watercolours Award

Jan Munro


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Dry Red Press Award

Lisa Graa Jensen RI

Hide & Seek

Call for Entries

The RI seeks the best contemporary watercolour and watermedia painting. The Call for Entries is currently open, submit your artwork before Friday 8 January.

For more information please click here.

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Image credit

Deborah Walker RI, Detail, detail

Royal Society of British Artists Prize Winners


The Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition was opened by James Horton PRBA on 10 March 2015. 

In his President's Foreward in the exhibition catalogue James wrote:

"The programme for supporting and encouraging the young arts flourishes and gain momentum every year. In addition to the ongoing relationship with NADFAS and The Dover Federation for the arts we have this year, mounted an outside exhibition at Lloyd's Register, entitled "Rising Stars" which features the work of both RBA Scholars and the shortlisted candidates for the Rome Scholarship. For this particular thanks must go to Mick Davies who was instrumental in getting this show off the ground. "

At the Private View James also thanked all the Royal Society of British Artists sponsors and prize givers especially the de László family for their loyalty to the society and their recent creation of a new prize 'The de Laszlo Award for Classical Draughtsmanship' won by Tatyana Kulida Shelley for her work 'Weightless'.


Prizes and Awards

The Arts Club Charitable Trust Award

Lizet Dingemans 


Daisy Cox 

Self Portrait 

The Davison Award for Oil Painting

Olwyn Bowey Hon RBA RA

Fallen Apple Tree

The Dry Red Press Award

Jacqueline Taber Hon RBA

Christopher’s Tomatoes

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The Edward Wesson Award for Watercolour Painting

Mollie Andrews

Glass Eyes

Frinton Frames Award

John Martin RBA

Breakfast Table

Hahnemühle Fine Art UK Award

Melvyn Petterson RBA NEAC

Clouds and Shadow

The Michael Harding Award

Charles Hardaker RBA NEAC


The Michael Harding Award

Martin Leman RBA


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The Gordon Hulson Memorial Prize

Robert Floyd

Self Portrait Facing Artist’s Block

The Geoffrey Vivis Memorial Award

Tim Galton RBA

The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire

The Winsor & Newton Painting Award

William Selby RBA ROI NEAC

Rose & Hipps

Image credit

Martin John, Breakfast Table (detail)