For the first time ever, cameras have been allowed behind-the-scenes at the 196-year-old Royal Hibernian Academy, including access to the judging process for the exhibition which is fondly known as ‘The Annual’.
The seven artists have been chosen from all over the country and each has their own story to tell. From Limerick’s Brian O’Rourke, a former cannabis dealer who learned
to paint in prison; to Connemara’s Mo West who, at the age of 92, has just been accepted into Aosdána; to Mayo painters 19-year-old Hetty Lawlor, who’s never submitted before, and her father Jimmy, who’s submitted many times before, so far
without success; to Laois’s chronic depression-sufferer Aishling Hennessey, for whom painting in a freezing cold barn at the end of her father’s garden is more than just a
hobby – it’s survival; to Lucan’s Salvatore Fullam whose obsession with identity prompted him to change his name to Salvatore of Lucan; and Dingle based sculptor Mick Davis who makes work from recycled bicycle tyres and chains, most famously for Game of Thrones.
“The exhibition gives artists the power to launch successful careers, as emerging artists get the opportunity to share wall space with some of Ireland’s biggest stars,’ says documentary director Hilary Fennell, ‘however, the standard is incredibly high and, out of over 2,500 works submitted to the open call only 300 or so will be selected. Some of our seven artists have never had work in such a prestigious show before, so it will be nerve wracking to see which, if any, of them get in.”
The programme follows the artists through the process of creating an artwork for ‘The Annual’, to finding out whether or not it has been accepted. Along the way we discover why and how they make art and how they deal with rejection. And we reveal, for the first time on television, the dark art of the RHA selection process, chaired this year by its first ever female President, renowned artist Abigail O’Brien, as
well as observing the controlled mayhem of the install as the gallery team race against time to create this art marathon of a show in time for Opening Day.