REJECTS at Art Friend

Interview: Shona Bland on REJECTS exhibition at Art Friend

We caught up with art star Shona Bland on upcoming cult exhibition at Art Friend celebrating those rejected from Royal Academy’s famous Summer exhibition.

REJECTS | 27 July-3 August 2023 | Art Friend – Larch Court 2 Royal Oak Yard London SE1 3GB | Free

Tell us about the new exhibition REJECTS. How did the idea to showcase rejected art from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition come to life?

I kept seeing people posting their beautiful art on Instagram saying that they had been rejected by the Royal Academy. I saw so much effort and disappointment so decided ‘scrap this’ let’s do our own show! Royal Academy who? I really leant into the title REJECTS and put a call out on Instagram and many artists got in touch with their own rejects stories and this unlikely group of artists formed!

Interview: Shona Bland on REJECTS exhibition at Art Friend 1
Tangle Together / David Newton

Tell us about Art Friend. How did it come about and what’s your aim with the venue?

I was helping an artist with an exhibition a few years back and a friend had invited a friend, he didn’t understand what it was all about and didn’t realise that he could come to a a show opening as he didn’t know anything about art. He was alien to this world as he didn’t have an ‘Art Friend’ to invite him to things like that, and that is where ART FRIEND was born! I want to be that art friend to people who don’t have one and show people that art is for everyone! 

And, for many years I was trying to get a job in the art world and constantly being rejected so I decided to do it myself. You don’t need an art history degree, you just need a bit of passion and excitement and a goal!

Interview: Shona Bland on REJECTS exhibition at Art Friend 2
Orion Nebula 1901 / Hannah Pratt

What needs to change in the art world to make it better for artists and audiences?

I would like to make it more down to earth, informal, and create inviting spaces to encourage people that wouldn’t normally visit an exhibition to come and enjoy art. There needs to be less snobbery, art should be enjoyed, should be fun and should be accessible. I also want to create opportunities for emerging artists to have their work shown, and bought.

Who or what are you inspirations in art?

My boyfriend Craig Keenan is an artist and properly introduced me into the art world many moons ago and showed me it was for everyone. He is down to earth, extremely hardworking and makes absolutely stunning Cyanotypes.

What are your favourite London haunts? (To eat, to see art, to relax)

I really love going to the Other Art Fair to see art, it’s an artist led fair and I often discover exciting upcoming artists there! I do love to go out for a cocktail, especially a margarita, there is a super cute low key bar called the Sun Tavern on Bethnal Green Road, great margs and great vibes, and for food there’s a sexy Mexican place in London Bridge called Santo Remedio (pictured in gallery below), I can’t get enough tequila and tacos!

About Art Friend

Art Friend throws art jargon out the window and invites everyone to the gallery. A non-conventional, inclusive space run by female gallerist Shona Bland, Art Friend makes art accessible, inviting and fun by showcasing and celebrating art from artists of all backgrounds and identities. This is a safe space where everyone can enjoy art – no stuffy vibes, no admission fees, and no wankers (well, maybe a few wankers).