Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Pastels Today" - The Pastel Society Exhibition (#1)

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
19.5" x 24.5", soft pastel
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday, I visited "Pastels Today", the annual exhibition of The Pastel Society (February 28th - March 11th 2007 at the Mall Galleries) and saw all 346 works being exhibited by members and non-members.

I'm splitting my posts about this in two and this one is about the exhibition as a whole. The one that follows (today) is about some of the artists whose work I liked as I want to do the highlights justice. I'm also going to be cross-referincing Vivien Blackburn's post about the exhibition on her blog 'Paintings Prints and Stuff'. [Update - here is Vivien's post with links to the work she liked.]

You can see some of work in the exhibition if you press the new button in the Mall Galleries menu 'Pastel Society Works for sale' or the 'Annual Show' menu item on The Pastel Society website. Having an online version of an exhibition seems to be very much the new thing that Societies need to do for annual exhibitions. It would be great if the whole exhibition was on-line. I guess this will only ever happen if submission ever switched to being via digital image - which would mean that all works had to have a digital image created for viewing. Digital submission would also help make submission to the exhibition more accessible. I know that quite a few people are put off by the costs involved in getting a work physically dispatched to London for viewing and selection and then returned again - irrespective of whether it is shown. Final selection could be from a shortlist compiled from digital submissions.

When writing about the exhibition last year, I included comments about the type of working being exhibited and was interested to see whether this had changed. I've included them again below - prefaced by DITTO meaning 'no change' and CHANGE meaning some sort of change has occurred. Any observations from this year in italics.
  • CHANGE: In my opinion, the hang this year was very much improved. Most of the members had their individual work hung together as a group in a more defined way than previous years. In my view it created a much better impression of the overall scope and impact of their work - which may then create added value in relation to galleries which come looking and individual collectors. In addition, each small group had a brief CV for each individual member so displayed artist listing art education , society memberships, galleries etc. which I thought would interest visitors. However, I wasn't at all clear why this method of presentation wasn't used for all members of the society.
  • CHANGE: The overall standard seemed to have improved.
  • DITTO: usual emphasis on the representational and observed subjects; but many more abstract, or semi-abstract, paintings than I remember seeing at past exhibitions. (Abstract works remain only a small percentage of those displayed.)
  • DITTO more of an emphasis on the impressionistic rather than the realistic - very little 'photo-realistic'.
  • DITTO lots of landscapes and few (I think) florals (Not a lot of still life either. Very few florals this year)
  • CHANGE: not a lot of conventional portraits (not unusual). (I had a general impression of more portraiture this year and there were a lot more figure works)
  • DITTO: very few (pure) drawings (meaning without any attempt to complete a 'background')
  • DITTO: very little use of coloured pencil - which is a permitted medium (Guess who forgot to reread her own post before submitting CP work for this year's exhibition!)
  • DITTO: an awful lot more use of solvent? Some of the more 'painterly' paintings seem to have brush marks which aren't about a gesso underpainting on the support - are people trying to make pastels look like oils because pastels do not sell as easily as oils? (The impasto nature of some of the brush marks in some paintings suggest that the definition of 'acceptable media' may be is being stretched. At the very least more clarification would be extremely helpful)
  • DITTO: some interesting framing solutions - more being framed as if oils (ie no mat) (Neutral frames and mats were favoured by a lot of artists. I also noticed a lot more where the frame had been painted to match the colour of the mat. This generally seemed to work well but is really only suited to certain types of work. There were also some dreadful frames - including ones which were not well made on very expensive works.)
  • DITTO: very few sold after the Private View and first day - which I would guess is prime time to make sales. A reflection on the artwork or the marketing? (Same again this year after the first 4 days. Maybe time for the Society to get organised around an Internet site exhibiting all works for sale? If Society exhibitions are only focused on displaying the best pastel work will they actually succeed in getting the best on offer for sale? )
If would be great if further change and similar improvements could be made for next year. My suggestions would include:
  • an open exhibition for non-members along the lines of 21st Century Watercolours - the exhibition run by the Royal Watercolour Society which was featured on my blog last week. Any society exhibition which is dominated by the work of members always runs the risk of minimising exposure of interesting new work by emerging artists and other non-members. I think Societies as old and as esteemed as The Pastel Society can afford to follow the admirable lead taken by the Royal Watercolour Society.
  • a catalogue which is more complete - detailing both dimensions of the picture and media used. It was very apparent that some were mixed media. I'd much rather have proper data than a glossy presentation.
  • an online version of the complete exhibition with merchant facilities - displaying digital images of all works with complete data on either the Mall Galleries site or The Pastel Society site. At present there are limited images of members work only.
  • links on The Pastel Society website between awards and an image of the work which got the award. It's just a list at the moment. There's no link to the people providing the prizes either.
  • clearer guidance about photography of work within the galleries - I noticed several people using cameras to take close-up shots of artwork.
  • better signposting within the gallery by the Mall Galleries. I didn't see the usual 'key' (map) to where works are hung this year. I wonder how many people will miss all the works in the room at the rear.
  • a Pastel Society website blog with some content (the site has a blog but no content!). I think this might be because they're using a template design.
[Note: I tried coloured pencil for my submissions this year and wasn't successful. I should read my own posts! But they didn't like my pastel either - see image at top - c'est la vie! Apologies if the image for this is not great - my 'busted' computer has finally returned from the computer clinic but is not yet hooked up again so I can't access the original image)

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