Image courtesy of Alicia Griffiths ©


The Ruth Borchard Collection is hosting an online exhibition celebrating the submissions to The Self-Portrait Exhibition 2021. All the artworks on display explore the diverse media and imagery through which contemporary artists represent themselves. We are proud to announce that amongst the over two-hundred self-portraits included are a number of Art Academy London related entrants. Namely Roxana Halls and Tim Benson, both painting tutors at AAL. Also featured is Alicia Griffiths, a London based contemporary artist and recent FD Fine Art (Contemporary Portraiture) graduate.

Visit to see the highly commended and short listed categories as well as the announcement of the winner.

Jonny Small gave AAL students a great Artists Talk in one of our studios recently. Jonny is a an abstract painter, who developed his practice at BA and MFA at Wimbledon school of art. He discussed the way that he works with obscurity and ambiguity to create images which are not directly decipherable to the viewer.

He told students that at the start of his studies at university he was most interested in portraiture. But he was gradually influenced by his BA tutors, the majority of whom where non-figurative artists. As a result, he his compositions became more ambiguous, and began to slip from distinction. His influences (which can be seen in his approach to painting) include Paul Nash, Futurism, the Horro Vacqui art movement and Vapourwave music!

“My paintings are close to looking like figurative images, but have just fallen out of recognised territory.”

The Artist noted the difficulties of working outside of the support of an institution. Since university, he noted that it is often more convenient to make miniature paintings. Though, smaller canvases aren’t ideal for his practise, as they don’t give the space for a lot of detail.

Since university, and having a break from London, Jonny has found himself returning to portraiture, which might be interesting for Contemporary Portraiture FD students to hear!  It was very interesting to hear about the development of the artist’s practise, thank you Jonny.

Two of our 2019 graduates, Heidi Sundvik and Jeremie Queyras, won the month-long Leo Gallery residency. The prize, which included flights, accommodation and art materials, was generously provided by Leo Gallery. Read all about it!

An unforgettable experience in Shanghai

We spent one month in a suburb of Shanghai called ZhuJiaJiao, an ancient Chinese town. Our accommodation and studio were a 90-minute train ride from the heart of Shanghai city centre. We spent most of the first week exploring Shanghai and the old town of ZhuJiaJiao, sometimes in company of Leo Gallery staff who were always available to help.

Our aim was to get immersed in the local history and culture and incorporate our observations in our works of art. The Gallery provided us with any required art materials as well as flights, accommodation and the huge studio. One of the locals was assigned to help us and provided indispensable help with tasks which required technical assistance.

This experience has been extremely enriching professionally as well as on a human level and has pushed our practice to new limits. Although the gallery did not have any expectations and left it up to us what we wanted to do during our time in Shanghai, having those means at our disposal motivated us to go beyond anything we had produced before. During the last weeks in particular, we produced more work than we had thought possible in such a short time. It was a wonderful challenge and opportunity, set in the most interesting circumstances.

During the last week of the residency, the gallery documented all our work and produced promotional videos as well as photographs and a poster. Leo Gallery organised a private view and invited clients and local artists, another occasion to socialise and network. The works created during our residency will continue to be on display for a month and the gallery will be promoting our works for sale.

An unforgettable experience, this residency exceeded all our expectations. We would like to thank Art Academy London and Leo Gallery for providing this opportunity.

We had an artist talk from Caleb Madden in our studios last week. Caleb is a sound and installation artist who is greatly influenced by philosophical theories, including Capitalist Realism and Hyperstition. Noise is a central concept to his work, looking at the way noise plays a part in human experience and culture. He completed his BA, MFA and is currently working on a PhD at Brighton University, all centred on the study of sound.

He started being an artist at the age of 18, initially being influenced by rave culture and the ‘Sensation:Young British Artist’ exhibition at Saatchi Gallery. Caleb was interested in the idea of human perception, and the way that culture can have an effect on it.

How does the noise of culture work to modulate and affect the fixed structures that we live with.

He talked about his interest in the concept of noise as a “productive and generative force.” Caleb explained how he had been moved and awakened by noise when visiting a functioning turbine in Southampton. Caleb also discussed the theory that is fed into his current work called Hyperstition: the notion of inventing a future which will effect the mindset of the present.

Thanks to Caleb for the talk, was very interesting to hear about the use of sound in art!

Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf gave AAL students an Artists Talk in one of our studios today. Rebecca is a London-based artist who studied her BA at the University for the Creative arts and MFA at Wimbledon College of Arts. The main themes of her work are “female identity, mortality and desire,” studying the female body and the taboos that are associated with it.

First of all, she talked to students about how she approaches the canvas. Recalling something one of her BA tutors said to her, “never approach a painting with a fixed idea of what you want it to be like, because that will never happen.” Rebecca told students that she doesn’t weigh herself down with a strict plan for her paintings, which usually allows her to let ideas grow organically. She showed students the progression of  ‘Daughters of Medusa,’ which at one stage involved her partially whiting out the first painting, then painting something new over the top. The result was fantastic, with the layers creating a story on the canvas.

The artist then went into more depth on the themes of her work. Once Rebecca had done her MFA, her artistic focus became clear. She realised that because the female perspective was so central to her life, it was the most natural thing for her to explore. Her representations of the female body are expressions of the female experience, in menstruation, physical insecurity, womanhood and so much more. Rebecca said that she “only paints real women,” meaning, she paints women that are real to her, women she knows. By working mainly from photos, Rebecca is able to immerse herself in painting independently in her studio.

Rebecca is now Vice Principal of the Society of Women Artists, through which she curates exhibitions. It was very interesting to hear about the Artist’s journey, and the way she celebrates her gender through her work.

We had a talk from video, sculpture and installation artist Robin Tarbet at the Academy this week. He shared some really interesting insights into his career as an artist with AAL students.

Having grown up in rural Wiltshire, Robin was inspired by natural landscapes and open spaces from a young age. He then went on to study printmaking at Norwich College of Art and Design. During his university explorations, he started to develop ideas around the notion of an illusion. The ambiguity of technological objects’ inner workings really interested him; he noticed how often we don’t know how the devices we use actually work. He began creating sculptures and installations which created an illusion of their inner workings.

Robin’s practice changed when he moved to London; he was influenced the by large scale infrastructure that surrounded him. He said “the aesthetic of my work is based on in-between places, places between the city and the countryside.” Robin found a lot of great imagery in places and objects that have a solely functional (and often industrial) purpose.

A lot of his practice involves low-fi video and photography. The featured photograph is a product of one of his installations, through which he took photos with a camera attached to a moving model train! He is drawn to the “painterly quality” of the burred, low-fi image.

He talked to students about the shift from art student to artist, reminding everyone that once you leave university you don’t necessarily have access to facilities and expensive tools (such as a printing press). He works around this by being incredibly resourceful, often using recycled objects and kit that he could “get from a toy shop.” Robin still uses all of the skills he learned at art school to “pay the rent!”

Thank you to Robin for joining us today and giving our students a really interesting perspective on life as an artist in the real world.

Congratulations to our Professional Development Programme Leader, Briony Marshall, who has had her design shortlisted for a public sculpture commission in Leeds city centre. Leeds Arts University and Leeds City Council are currently in the final stages of the selection process for the new sculpture, which will be installed in Quarry Hill to celebrate the contribution of women to the city.
Briony’s piece pays tribute to the Leeds University academic Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, who discovered the chemical structure of Benzene. The sculpture depicts a circular chain of women and children, which mirrors the chemical structure and the way that each generation of women builds on the emancipation of the previous generation.
An exhibition which showcases the work of all the shortlisted artists is being held at the Blenheim Walk Gallery from 24th May – 4th July 2019. Briony’s maquette joins work by artists Pippa Hale, Wendy Briggs and Zsofia Jakab. This is a fantastic opportunity to represent feminism in Leeds city centre!

Rob Pepper, artist and principal at Art Academy London, provides some handy hints for wowing the art school of your dreams and discusses why it’s important to encourage creativity in young people.

At Art Academy London, every year we see how nerve-wracking prospective students find the application process: it can feel like they are being asked to lay their soul bare to a group of judgmental strangers. While we always try to be supportive, it’s true that art students have to reveal and explain themselves and their work in a much more personal manner than those applying to study science or maths. However, as with any educational path, the way to take the pressure and emotion out of the application process is the same: preparation, preparation, preparation!

Let’s start with the basic principles of preparing for your interview: presenting your work. Think of your portfolio as a snapshot of your potential as an artist – a way of showing the art school of your dreams your style, skills and thinking, and how you can develop these while studying with them.

Your portfolio should comprise around 20 pieces of work, featuring a range of research, ideas development, experimentation with different materials, techniques and media, and some finished pieces. Whether you choose to include self-initiated work or projects from school, it’s good to show images in sketchbooks or notebooks, working drawings, life drawing, photography and media manipulation, and 2D or 3D work.

It’s also useful to organise your portfolio into categories to make it easier to view and present. Avoid repetition and try to demonstrate a range of your skills – and not just technical skills, but also your ability to find inventive and creative solutions to visual problems. You can include brief explanations, but avoid falling into the A-Level trap of writing a detailed analysis of your work: one or two sentences is enough.

At interview, it’s essential that you can talk confidently about your work – not only to show passion and determination, but also to justify your decisions. Each piece in your portfolio should have a thought process behind it, and it can’t just be “I made that piece because my art teacher told me to!”

To stand out from the crowd, think about ways of developing creativity and thinking differently (but don’t confuse this with trying to shock an art tutor, as they’ve seen most things already). It’s about being authentic to your own creativity and pushing the boundaries of that.

It’s essential that you show an interest in art, culture and society and can talk about how this informs your own work. This type of contextual knowledge will really strengthen your portfolio and show your commitment when interviewing for an art school. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of visiting galleries, and learning to look at and record the work of others – this not only helps to inform your practice but will prepare you for studying art at higher education.

However, you don’t need to limit your interests to creative fields: politics, the environment, media, history, religion, philosophy, music, theatre, cinema, literature, film or new technologies can all inspire your art. Building your knowledge on a subject that interests you and incorporating that into your practice adds a new layer of meaning to your work. And if you’re passionate and interested about it, you’ll find it easier to speak engagingly at an interview.

A-Level students will typically start with a foundation course before studying an undergraduate degree such as a BA. At Art Academy London, our one-year Fine Art Foundation focuses on giving students the tools to go on and study art, including building a portfolio, providing one-to-one guidance, visiting top museums and galleries, and conducting mock interviews – all of which will help prepare students both for applying to, and then studying at, art school.

There has never been a more important time to develop our young people to be creative and art schools play an integral part of this: we teach people to think creatively, challenge them to realise their potential, and help them find good jobs. Focusing on creativity and the arts has never been more relevant in a world that continues to define its culture by the human ingenuity, resilience and adaptability that comes from studying art.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has gifted President Xi of China two first edition prints by our principal, artist Rob Pepper. The gifts were given on her recent visit to China where she travelled to Beijing to meet with the President. The artworks which depict the cityscapes of both Beijing and London were given to celebrate a “Golden Era” between the two countries.

Rob Pepper has been travelling between the two countries over the past five years capturing Chinese cities through his drawings. His artworks depict the architectural heritage of both London and Beijing. Pen and ink creates an intimate line, that is then emblazoned with bold geometric shapes and colours giving a contemporary vision of these iconic skylines. The two 70cm wide works were mounted together with a plaque commemorating the visit and gifted alongside a handwritten note from Rob.

Of the experience, Rob said:

“It’s a huge honour for my artwork to be used as a symbol of friendship and connection between our two great nations. As an artist I’ve long admired the clarity of Chinese mark-making and in my own work I look to interweave a similar finesse with a contemporary western sensibility. British culture is highly influential and well respected in China and there are many possibilities for artists and creatives. I foresee ever increasing cultural exchange and as an artist I’m excited about future projects between China and the UK. I’m excited to be exploring the potential of creating new art schools in China which will further enable a partnership between Chinese and British artists and students.”

Congratulations to all the Academy members who participate in the 2016 RP Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. This year’s show includes artwork by tutors Caroline BaysAndy James, Anthony Williams, Robin-Lee HallAnastasia PollardTim Benson and Melissa Scott-Miller – see her work “The Artist’s Son (Grooner)” below and read about it in the Islington Tribune article.

The RP Exhibition is an annual high profile showcase which features over 200 of the most outstanding and innovative portraits by artists working in Great Britain and around the world today. It includes new work by member artists, as well as paintings selected from open submission.

The current exhibition is open until the 20th of May.