My First Open

London Group Members reflect on the first time they exhibited in a London Group Open

The London Group Open 1978, the Royal College of Art 

Victoria Barlett LG, Pompeii Dog, 1978, Cloth, acrylic and wood

Victoria Barlett LG
I was delighted to have this work selected for the London Group Open at the Royal College of Art 1978. Perhaps it was the first time a stitched and stuffed cloth sculpture had been shown with the London Group. I made studies of the casts in the Royal Academy Exhibition of Pompeii 1977 and, with the work’s screen printed/painted gauze images of peoples’ shocked faces, it was considered unusual at the time.

Suzan Swale LG, Between 2, 1976, acrylic on canvas

Suzan Swale LG
The London Group Open at The Royal College of Art Galleries 1978, years before becoming a member in 1984. It was also in The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1977. It was part of a return to painting after a period of making installations.

David Redfern LG, Smash the Front, 1978, oil on perspex on canvas

David Redfern LG
The Royal College of Art was the venue for my first Open in 1978. That was handy because I was working at the Serpentine Gallery at that time and got to the PV early! Peter Donnelly was the President at the time (I didn’t meet him) and Moich Abrahams was on the Working Party. In the catalogue introduction, Donnelly wished “to thank the Arts Council for its continued financial support”, ah, those were the days. Moich, Anthony Eyton and Paula Rego were members then, and still are; other members at the time recorded in the catalogue were Basil Beattie, Phyllis Bray, Jeffery Camp, Duncan Grant, Albert Irvin, Leon Kossoff, Wendy Pasmore, Claude Rogers and Mary Webb. The Selection Committee accepted my painting “Smash the Front”, a comment on the infamous 1977 march of the National Front through Lewisham where I still live, and was hung in the concrete and glass cavern (or so it seemed) of the RCA’s Gulbenkian Galleries. I remember thinking this group of artists were intriguing and resolved to find out more about this “famed” organisation. Thirty-five years later I published their history.


The London Group Open 1982, Camden Art Centre

David Wiseman LG, Pathway, charcoal on paper

David Wiseman LG
This show was interesting as it toured to the Penwith Galleries, St Ives and the Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton. All non-members’ works toured (including mine) but the members’ works had to be greatly reduced due to space restrictions, with only 30 members’ works touring. The Camden show also included David Hockney, John Hoyland and Ken Kiff as guests.


The London Group Open 1991, Barbican Centre

Bill Watson LG, Steamboat Whistle, 1990/91

Bill Watson LG
It’s 1.6 metres in height and is derived from the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s ‘Dear Landlord’ on the John Wesley Harding album. I exhibited this piece with the London Group in 1991 in the Barbican Curve Gallery. I believe that when Arthur Wilson was invigilating the exhibition a member of staff from Guys Hospital approached him saying he was interested in this piece. They were considering purchasing it for the children’s recovery area. However in the end they felt it would be too fragile for their purposes. The piece is still in existence and resides in Morley Farm Barn.


From 1995, there was a gap of 12 years

Graham Mileson LG, Over Under, 2002, interference acrylic and acrylic gel

Graham Mileson LG
This painting was exhibited at The Woodlands Art Gallery, where The London Group showed between 2000-2002, a time when there weren’t any Opens. Having joined the group in 2001, this was my first opportunity to show with the group.

Over Under was painted in my studio in Thurnam Kent and was among 20 paintings completed that year. I had been mixing interference colour into pigment for the last ten years, I also used acrylic gel in these paintings. They were influenced in part by the beautiful north downs in Kent. My studio was in the wilds and surrounded by open fields of rapeseed and other crops. Happy Days!


The London Group Opens resumed in 2007 with an exhibition at Menier Gallery

Peter Clossick LG (PLG 2001-2005)
During my presidency with the Edna Ginesi bequest, a windfall much needed at the time, we decided to make use of the money for the benefit of members. No Open had been held for a while, due to the peripatetic nature of the group and the extortionate cost of hiring a suitable size venue in central London to include open submission. The first LG Open was held in 1916 and the first I exhibited in was 2007 with Deptford Nude, having become a member in 1999.

Peter Clossick LG, Deptford Nude, Oil on Canvas

Held at the Menier Gallery after a twelve-year gap of Open’s, close to Tate Modern, a space I had previously hired for full LG group shows and looking now at the catalogue, it is sad to see members that have subsequently left and those that have died. And on the positive how many of the open submission exhibitors are now members. Also included in the exhibition were invited artists from Arti Et Amicitiae, a similar group started in 1839 with their own large premises in central Amsterdam. It was a reciprocal arrangement to try and establish an international connection which hopefully could expand for the future benefit of the two groups. Unfortunately, when their president applied to become our member the selection committee in their wisdom turned him down, a missed opportunity.

Due to the beneficence of Frank and Susan and the size of The Cello Factory, the Open submission exhibitions have been reestablished, greatly to the advantage of the group and encouraging new and exciting membership. Long may it continue.

Aude Hérail Jäger LG, GENOME, 2006, graphite on paper

Aude Hérail Jäger LG
My first London Group Open was in 2007 and I was pleased to discover exciting work alongside my own.

Julie Held LG, Posthumous Portrait, oil on canvas

Julie Held LG
After my mother died, when I was eighteen, I embarked on a series of paintings. Every year, on her birthday, imaging her as she would have aged. It was a way in which I could think about her.


The London Group Open 2009, Menier Gallery

Genetic Moo LG, Mother, 2009, generative artwork

Genetic Moo LG
Mother was an ever-changing digital animation driven by a software program we had written. We weren’t sure if The London Group could handle a generative artwork so we sent a note along with the piece explaining how to turn a computer on and off and diagrams of a special plinth to house it all. Luckily Mike Liggens, who had been using computers since the 70s, was not fazed by our instructions and managed to install and run this piece for the show at the Menier Factory. We won a £100 prize for promising newcomer at the Open awarded by Albert Irvin and after invigilating alongside Suzan Swale were nominated for membership the following year. At the time digital art was fairly new to The Group, ten years later it is an integral part of several members’ practices.

The London Group Open 2011, The Cello Factory

Jeff Lowe LG, Building Space Copper Coated No. 4, 2010

Jeff Lowe LG
Interesting for me to to look back at this sculpture shown at my first London Open in 2011. Sometimes we move on to the next and haven’t fully absorbed the last. Good to see again and see another way.


The London Group Centenary Open 2013, The Cello Factory

Sumi Perera LG, THINK OUTSIDE THE BUILDING B(L)OX(CKS) XXX, 2013, a set of 8 ‘Building Blocks’ (paper constructions)

Sumi Perera LG
The artistic license was reversed and the curators were asked to arrange the blocks in any permutation they liked. The memorable detail is when I was asked to talk about the work during the Artist Talks associated with the exhibition. I was particularly humbled as it was my very first exhibition with a group that I admired immensely.

Srinivas Surti LG
Atrium was selected for the London Group Centenary Open in 2013, the year that I began to use collage more extensively in my work as a form of sculptural activity.


The London Group Open 2015, The Cello Factory

Martin Heron LG, Loitering With Intent No.15, painted galvanised steel

Martin Heron LG
My first Open was 2015 where Loitering With Intent No.15 was exhibited and awarded The Presidents Prize: a three person show with Cadi Froehlich and Darren Nisbett.

Cadi Froehlich LG, AQI, 2013, salvaged copper

Cadi Froehlich LG
I had completed a month’s residency with the Red Mansion Prize the previous autumn, and this had really focused my mind on scale and volume of the materials I am interested in. I began making work larger than I had done for a while, as this was the only way to express the scale of the impact Beijing had made on me. I made vertical pieces, wrapped in cables which were salvaged from both China and the UK. They began anthropomorphising for me, and became a group. My first Open was in 2015.

The private view was amazing, almost overwhelming. The numbers of people I had never met before, and the variety in the works was huge. I got some really postitive feedback from members, and went on to be awarded the President’s prize, which came at just the right time, allowing me access to the gallery to work with my fellow 2 winners, to create a show on an even larger scale within the space. This has continued to inform my practice and was a great validation of my work.

Alex Harley LG, LIEDR, ceramic

Alex Harley LG
My first open was 2015. My reaction was ‘me!!?? are they sure?? how many entrants???????’ I made a cup of tea to calm down


The London Group Open 2017, The Cello Factory

Jockel Liess LG, Ephemeral, 2017, non-durational live generative, quadraphonic sound and video installation

Jockel Liess LG
At my first Open in 2017 I hadn’t realised that the new TV I was using had an auto turn-off function and kept switching itself off after 4 hours!