Royal West of England Academy, Bristol: Reigning Cats & Dogs

This afternoon I wrapped up against the freezing cold to make the short journey from my little flat to the Royal West of England Academy. Currently showing is Reigning Cats and Dogs, an exhibition dedicated to art that showcases our domesticated animal allies.

Dogs and cats have appeared – both incidentally and centrally – in art across the ages, and the RWA is showcasing a range of mediums, eras and themes side-by-side. From ancient Egypt – through Valequez, David Hockney and Lucien Freud – to local contemporary painters, it is a far-reaching and enlightening exhibition. And pieces featuring loyal mutts and feisty felines tackle a surprisingly large portfolio of themes – religious devotion, sexuality, the family portrait, abstraction in landscape and mechanical sculpture among them. 

The works of Ben Hughes – an artist who complements the realist painting of subjects with starkly plain line-drawn backdrops – particularly appealed to me, as did Oliver Canti’s humorous The Bark Ascending, Marcelle Hanselaar’s striking oil paintings and Lukasz Pazera’s work in computer graphics, Zone Dog

The exhibition is largely a presentation of dualisms: the domestic versus the feral; the controller versus the controlled; Victorian sentimentality versus modern kitsch; and – in some of the cases – human versus animal.

Dog of Zone from Lukasz Pazera on Vimeo.

Reigning Cats and Dogs, RWA | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Leslie Glenn Damhus | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Reigning Cats and Dogs, RWA | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Bobbie Russon | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

A Satyr Mourning Over a Nymph | Piero di Cosimo

Family Viewing | Ben Hughes

Lily | Ben Hughes

Girl with a White Dog | Lucian Freud

Self Portrait With Legs | Sarah Francis

Marcelle Hanselaar

A Dark Silence in Suburbia | P.J. Crook

The New Yorker, 27th September 2004

Reigning Cats and Dogs runs at Royal West of England Academy until 15th March 2013.


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