Figurative Art Today | Updates from Mall Galleries - The national focal point for contemporary figurative art, and home to the Federation of British Artists. Includes written content and photo essays from our Exhibitions, Call for Entries, Art Consultancy.

Adebanji Alade ROI, St Paul’s At Night, Oils


Adebanji Alade ROI creates remarkable paintings about people and places. His oil painting, ‘St Paul’s at Night’, is available as a Christmas card in Mall Galleries bookshop. With his mastery of depicting light and activity in oils, Adebanji perfectly captures the hustle, bustle and festive spirit of London at Christmas. We asked him about his creative process, his life as a teacher and his love of historic London.

Why did you choose to paint St Paul’s in a night scene as opposed to another London landmark?

I chose St Paul’s because this particular edifice is my favourite place to paint at nighttime in London. It stands out as a remarkable beacon of light on London’s skyline and has hardly changed from how it was many centuries ago.

Regarding your painterly tips and tricks, you have two techniques that you term ‘inside-out’ and ‘outside-in’ respectively. Can you explain what these terms mean and how you put them into practice?

I have two main ways to which I approach my paintings. The easier method is ‘outside-in’ where I block-in the main bold shapes in the picture very quickly to get an overall feel for the subject I’m painting. Once I have done this, I then refine the bold shapes and bring them to become more detailed, so it’s started outside and finished inside. The ‘inside-out’ method is a bit trickier and demands my drawing skills to be at their best! I start from a small spot in the painting and finish that spot. Then I gradually spread out to other parts of the painting, finishing each area as I go along. It’s almost like walking a tightrope - risky but interesting!

You started teaching at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea in 2015. What is your favourite aspect of teaching and why? Have you learnt any artistic lessons from your students?

My favourite aspect of teaching is being able to help students solve the problems they encounter in their paintings. It is so rewarding and fulfilling because I believe we are all here to make life easier and more pleasant for someone else. Three of the greatest lessons I have learnt from students is to always slow down, to remain hungry and to keep learning myself. Slowing down means being more careful at the beginning to make sure the drawing is right. Whenever I am not hungry for excellence the end result is mediocre, and that’s one of the things I dread most. Once I stop learning I’m dead.

Finally, what are your plans for this year’s festive season?

Last year I went to Portugal and it was great, and this year I am hoping to be in Nigeria to enjoy the festive season with my family and friends, like I did in 2015!

View Adebanji's work in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition until 10 December

Image credit

Adebanji Alade ROI, St Paul’s At Night, Oils

Advice to recent graduates

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Charlie and Tori Day of Studio One Gallery offered some excellent advice to artists at our FBA Futures 2017 networking event, that we thought we should share with you in its entirety, as it is true for artists at any stage of their career:

Advice to recent graduates

by Tori Day and Charlie Day, Managers of Studio One Gallery, London


  1. Be humble. Be nice. Someone once said ‘be nice to those around you on your way up, as you’ll need them on your way down’
  2. Get support as soon as you can. Join a club. Join a supportive studio. Start your own studios/art club. Even if its meeting up with fellow ex-students for a pint every 2 months. Keep up to date with what your contemporaries are doing/seeing
  3. Work with other recent graduates, help each other, learn from each other, share your skills with others. ‘You teach best what you most need to learn’
  4. Keep your website up to date. Very up to date
  5. Be on social media. Don’t be a Luddite. Share with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Tori has sold a piece via the internet an hour after finishing it! The moral of the story might be: wait until the painting is dry before you share it on Facebook!
  6. Networking. Horrible word, but you do need to do it. Don’t hand your business cards out at a funeral (a true story – yes, really!) But do get to know your fellow artists. We would probably rather lock ourselves away in the studio and paint, but we make ourselves go to exhibitions, and talks, etc.
  7. If you are in a group exhibition, find out a little about your fellow artist’s work, either from them, their website, or the gallery. If you are invigilating the show, you can then explain to interested visitors a little about each of the works, and more about your own work! You will get the inevitable question: ‘Oh, so which is your work?’
  8. Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t think you now have ‘a style’ that you have to stick to. You have plenty of time to keep experimenting and trying different ways of working, or different media
  9. Keep up the momentum…but do be prepared for the lulls, which inevitably will come
  10. Always have a simple business card on you. You are a visual artist, so have an image of your work on one side; name, email address and website on the reverse. (We missed this out of the talk, as we had no business cards on us from Studio One Gallery, as we have just run out!)


Tori Day

Tori’s subject matter could be described as still life, although she prefers to think of her paintings as ‘portraits of things’. She draws attention to the artifice of the set-up of such purposefully posed objects by including the materials she uses to construct the backdrop, rejecting the idea of a painterly window and seeking to embrace the humility not just of the objects but of the practice of painting itself.

Charlie Day

Currently Charlie is making small works based upon the feel of the coastal landscape: of the south coast, where he lives, and of the north Norfolk coast, which he visits often and where he walks extensively. These are not landscape paintings, as such. Neither are they entirely abstract, but a combination of the two, and they are inspired by the St Ives painters of the mid-twentieth century.

Studio One Gallery

Possibly the smallest gallery in London at just 10 feet by 7, Studio One has no right angles, anaglypta wallpaper and the original Georgian floorboards. We exhibit work from our own studio members, as well as local artist groups and selected early career artists.

This advice was given as part of FBA Futures 2017, we had a lovely evening of networking and advice at Bermondsey Arts Club, an off-shoot of Artistic Spaces who’ve been offering a prize at FBA Futures since 2014.

Sophie Hill of Bow Arts/Nunnery Gallery (formerly a member of Mall Galleries’ staff and worked on FBA Futures 2014 and 2015) gave us an idea of the many and varied opportunities for professional development offered by the Bow Arts Trust in their Bow Skills programme.

Joshua Waterhouse, an FBA Futures exhibitor from 2015, spoke honesty and eloquently about the trials and joys of being a professional artist in London.

Women Only?!


Inspired by The Society of Women Artists’ Summer Exhibition and in response to the recently launched £100,000 Freelands Award, we invited some expert speakers in the field to join us for a panel discussion exploring the continued relevance of Women-only art exhibitions and competitions.

The Speakers included Sue Jelley, President of the Society of Women Artists, an organisation founded over 160 years ago when there were very limited opportunities for women to exhibit their work; Melanie Cassoff, Managing Director of the Freelands Foundation, who launched the new Freelands Award in response to a report they commissioned on the mid-career opportunities for women artists and Eliza Gluckman, Curator of the New Hall Art Collection, a collection housed at the Murray Edwards College, which itself was founded to allow women to attend Cambridge University and independent curator working on projects including 'A Woman’s Place'. The Debate was Chaired by Susan Mumford, the founder of the Association of Women Art Dealers and Be Smart About Art, organisations which offer professional support and mentoring to both artists and art dealers.

The panel found that while there have been huge strides in improving women’s access to arts education and exhibition over the 160 years since the founding of the Society of Women Artists, and since the founding of the New Hall Art Collection in the 1980s, there is much room for improvement. They concluded that by working together the gender gap can be closed still further. 

You can listen to a recording of the talk, which took place at Mall Galleries on 3 August 2016, here:

New English Art Club member Peter Clossick shortlisted for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016.


Peter Clossick, a member of the New English Art Club has been shortlisted for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016 for his work; Summer Solstice. His work, alongside many others, will be on display during the exhibition in February.

Image credit

Peter Clossick NEAC, Summer Solstice (detail)

Figurative Art Today: Akash Bhatt, Blue Room

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Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries discusses Akash Bhatt RBA's work Blue Room.

The work is part of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition at Mall Galleries.


Figurative Art Today: Charlotte Johnson Wahl, Ward Round, a Consultant and his Firm

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Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries discusses Charlotte Johnson Wahl's work Ward Round,  a Consultant and his Firm.

The work is part of the Minding Too Much: A Charlotte Johnson Wahl Retrospective Exhibition at Mall Galleries.


Ahead of the Academy

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Carla Groppi, After Atget (5) Parc de Saint-Cloud (detail) - Threadneedle Prize 2013

The Royal Academy has announced the big winners at their Summer Exhibition 2015. At the top of the list for painting, sculpture and drawing, respectively, are Rose Wylie (winner of The Charles Wollaston Award), Tim Shaw (winner, The Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture), and Carla Groppi (winner, The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize). However the above artists have something else in common other than their just-announced wins at the RA - they've all exhibited at The Threadneedle Prize, the country's most significant open submission competition for contemporary figurative art. 

Tim Shaw exhibited in the inaugural edition of the Prize in 2008, showed the following year as a Shortlisted Artist, exhibited again in 2010, and was invited back as a Selector for The Threadneedle Prize 2013. Wylie was shortlisted for the Prize alongside Shaw in 2009, while Carla Groppi exhibited more recently in 2013, her work even featuring as the catalogue cover. In 2013, Carla Groppi exhibited a pastel drawing, After Atget (5) Parc de Saint-Cloud, and in 2010, Shaw, his foam, black plastic sculpture, Man on Fire; if these titles seem familiar, they should do... over at the Royal Academy, Shaw has just won for his work, Man on Fire Version II, and Groppi, with After Atget (44) - works similar or in the same series as those shown at The Threadneedle Prize.

Tim Shaw, Man on Fire Threadneedle Prize 2010

Congratulations to all three artists for their continued success.

Meanwhile we look forward to seeing the works submitted for the next edition of The Threadneedle Prize, now The Columbia Threadneedle Prize: Figurative Art Today, which opens for submissions on 13 July - the first prize of which is £20,000 and a solo show at Mall Galleries. The Prize invites submissions of figurative or representational paintings, drawings, original prints, sculpture, mixed media constructions, small scale installations and reliefs that are strong and topical observations on the world around us.

Figurative Art Today: Shane Blount, It's a Blue Giraffe


Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries discusses Shane Blount's work It's a Blue Giraffe

Part of 'The Art of a Nation' Irish Works from the Allied Irish Banks and Crawford Art Gallery Collections Exhibition at Mall Galleries

Figurative Art Today - Jennifer Anderson - The Directors

Figurative Art Today: Laura Such - Perpetual Being

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Director of Mall Galleries, Lewis McNaught, shares his view on a work by Laura Such in the Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition.

Works from the exhibition are available to browse and buy online now