Artist Wendy Freestone on taking her work to the Royal Academy

My work is very much influenced by people watching. I enjoy observing people in a group and seeing how they interact, as well as the space they take up and their presence.

As humans we’re naturally inquisitive about ‘the other’ and I believe to a certain extent we’ve become obsessed with watching people, helped in part by the rise of reality TV and social media, where even the most mundane subjects or tasks are the topic of conversation with our friends and colleagues.

New technology, and in particular social media, means we have become accustomed to always being connected and contactable, but this in turn can present its own set of problems when it comes to real-life interaction.

This is a theme I explore in my Watching collection for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I specialise in figurative sculpture and my work was chosen from thousands of submissions to feature alongside established artists including Tracey Emin and Sir Anthony Gormley.

When faced with a crowd we feel a multitude of emotions, including anonymity, hostility and judgement, but also a connection, group identity and feeling part of a team. Watching aims to combine these themes to reflect the aspects of the individual and the group, and remind us that, regardless of race, colour, beliefs, religion, we’re ultimately all the same.

I studied BA Fine Art at De MontFort University part time while my three children were young. I currently work in my studio near Bicester.

Alongside my practice, I undertake commissions from small scale figures in bronze to large scale garden commissions and bespoke pieces for industry clients.

Increasingly, I am working on bespoke commissions where I sculpt family groups, effectively capturing a moment in time and a stage in family life. The pieces are both decorative, but are also unique to the family in question.

The work explores themes of diaspora, community, and sense of belonging. The anonymity of the crowd, with their broad spectrum of acceptance and tolerance share the underlying fear of difference with the individual being met with suspicion.

The solitary figure, separated not only through distance but in its ostensibly different material of gold plating, in fact conceals the very same material of the onlookers.

The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open-submission competition and receives over 12,000 entries every year. It’s also the only exhibition that shows a selection of works by unknown artists alongside collections by established artists.

Watching features alongside work by Eileen Cooper, Yinka Shonibare, Tracey Emin and Gilbert and George.

I was completely elated to be selected and the response to my collection has been fantastic. It has also been fascinating to hear people’s interpretations of the sculptures. The Summer Exhibition is a great way to showcase and support unknown artists and seeing my work alongside established artists has been a definite career highlight.

  • Visit
  • The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition runs until 20th August at Main Galleries, Burlington House, London. Tickets start from £14. Further information can be found at