Thursday, February 25, 2016

117th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society

This year's Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society - NOW @ The Pastel Society - opened to the public at the Mall Galleries on Tuesday. It continues until 3pm on Saturday 5th March.  The Society very kindly invited me to their pre-PV Lunch and I spent a very long time at the exhibition on Monday afternoon!
Featuring works created in pastel, pencil, chalk and charcoal, the Pastel Society exhibits abstract and experimental works alongside traditional representation.

View the images online

You can view the e-catalogue for the exhibition on Issuu. You can also see a brand new website which also has ALL the images of the artwork produced by:
I'm finding it a little slow and this might be due to the number of images but hopefully this can be sorted out with time.

View of the Main Gallery during the Private View
Thankfully the society has gone back to being known as The Pastel Society - which is certainly the prerogative of the oldest pastel society in the English-speaking world!  (The French lay claims to the oldest society - the Société des Pastellistes was founded in 1870.)

Maybe it could also go back to recording the number of annual exhibitions it has held? I'm hanging on to the count (see the title of this post) which has sadly left the catalogue and all publicity for the exhibition. IMO both tradition and heritage (age!) count when it comes to credibility and buyers!

Images of the Exhibition

Overall, the exhibition is an interesting exposition of the many different ways in which pastels (and charcoal) can be used.

Members work is typically hung in the Main Gallery - usually in sets of four or five works. There are some strong sets in the exhibition. However I was very surprised by the work of some of the artist members whose work I've liked a LOT and raved about in the past. It just did not stand out for me this time around.  This left me looking around to see whose work I did like a lot this time.....

I also find it interesting to review my photographs when I get home to see which ones 'leap off the screen' at me.  I'm not a fan of "in your face" artwork. However I'm a big fan of strong images.

Norma Stephenson has a very striking and strong set on the end wall which hung well on the wall and which I liked a lot.

A very solid set from Norma Stephenson
Note that three of the four are using slips rather than mats to separate the pastel from the glazing
(Prices range between £800 and £2,200)

The contemporary landscape theme continued with another excellent set by Keith Roper PS. I really liked the one top left "Warm Light - Keyhaven shoreline" which had already sold - and I'm not surprised it had. It really hit the mark of being both a recognisable landscape and the use of a contemporary treatment of the same.

Contemporary pastel landscapes by Keith Roper PS
(prices ranged between £500 and £650)
I loved the pastel pencil/ soft pastel drawings of food by Felicity House PS - there was so much content you could get lost in some of them.  This is just a sliver of one very delicious work!  As always the draughtsmanship is exquisite!  I also particularly liked her two drawings of fishes.

Winner of the Royal Talens Rembrandt Prize - Felicity House PS Crop of "Making Mango Chutney
Pastel - 68 x 84cm (£1,200)
I don't know if members have started working a little larger than usual but the main gallery did seem to be a little crowded to me. Also, in my opinion, some of the works suffered from very close proximity to very dominant styles.  Personally I am NOT a fan of the notion that the members all need to be seen in the Main Gallery - particularly if those members are not showing work which is the best they can do.  Some of the Societies are achieving a better mix across the gallery as a whole and these now tend to be the exhibitions that I prefer.

There also seemed to be rather more images of an abstracted nature than I remember from past exhibitions. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to experiment with hanging these together. I have a suspicion they might well complement one another better than being interspersed with other styles of working.  Likewise the more figurative work tends to sit better next to artwork which is more representational.

Pastel works on the "small works" wall.
Variety and crowded works well on this wall with this size of work
You can certainly mix up the subject matter and styles with individual paintings - and the small works wall is a very good example of this.

It's the blocks of four or five being juxtaposed in ways which sometimes detract rather than add value which I have a bit of an issue with.

One of the refreshing things about moving through to the North Gallery - which is dominated by work from the open entry - was the much greater variety of subject matter and diversity of approaches to mark-making with pastels. Plus there fewer 'blocks' of work by members.

Feature wall in the North Gallery - highlighting two major prizewinners
Looking left - a very pleasant corner to delight the eye in the middle north gallery
Looking right in the middle north gallery - more diversity of subject matter and approach


Interestingly all but four of the prizes were awarded to pastel works in the North Gallery - normally home to submissions via the open entry.

For me the North Gallery is where I was seeing more innovation in terms of use of pastel and subject matter.

I've divided the prizes into the different types of awards

Cash Awards

The most valuable award presented is the The Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Prize (£5,000) which is awarded to a young artist, under the age of 35 years, for traditional skills, used in an original way.
All subject matter will be considered. The Judges will be encouraged to award the Prize to an artist who demonstrates a particular excellence in draughtsmanship and innovative thought. Pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conte, sanguine, or any dry media are all acceptable. 
This was won by Peter Matyasi for all his works (see below)

The Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Award (£5,000)
all works by Peter Matyasi

Erased pastel on drafting film

The NEW Unison Colour Award (£1,500 for a young artist, under the age of 35 years, working in soft pastel) was won by Janine Baldwin for all her works on display.

Winner of the Unison Colour Young Artist Award - Janine Baldwin
Annie Longley Award - Jan Munro won the £200 cash prize for her work White Stool and Flour Pot. Jan create very striking and colourful work which have proved popular with buyers and those handing out prizes. Those wanting to work with strong colour would do well to pay a visit to her website.

This work also won the Frank Herring & Sons (Product prize)

(top) White Stool and Flour Pot by Jan Munro

The Pastel Society Young Artist Award Cash prize of £200
was won by Andrew Leatherbarrow
Iridescent Cyclone
Oil pastel - 38 x 57cm (£1,200)

Product Prizes

Product prizes are ones where the artist can either choose art materials to a specified value or one where a prize of art materials is presented at the exhibition.

sets of pastels - by (bottom to top) Rembrandt, Schminke and Caran d'Ache - waiting to be awarded
The Derwent Sponsorship Award of £1,000 was won by Michael Norman for his work Autumn Sunset, Exmouth

The Caran d'Ache Prize (Product prize) was won by Roland Corbin
Babak Graphite, 66 x 52 cm, £1200
The Daler Rowney Product prize was won by this large work
Patricia Cain PS NEAC RGI ARWS 
Thicket II Pastel - 170 x 170cm - (£9,000)
The Conté á Paris - Product prize was won by Peter Matyasi
Untitled00430_Forge of Diosgyor
Erased pastel on drafting film - 60 x 40cm (£1,350)
The winner of the Henri Roche - Product prize was Patricia Clements
Still Life with Dragons
Pastel - 74 x 54cm (£900)

Winner of the Faber Castell Product prize - Patrick Moffat
The High Window 
Tinted charcoal - 40 x 32cm (SOLD)
I thought this was a particularly effective and subtle piece.

The winner of the Royal Talens/Rembrandt - Product prize was Felicity House (see above)

The winner of the Schmincke  Product Prize was Linda Penny

A photo posted by Mall Galleries (@mallgalleries) on

The Winner of the Unison Colour Product prize is Charlie Schaeffer
Thomas Crayon - 76 x 57cm (£1,100)

Profile Prizes

There are two prizes which offer the opportunity for raising the profile of the artist via an article in leading art magazines. I've always thought these are some of the more potentially beneficial prizes if the winning artists makes the most of them.

Matthew Draper PS is the winner of the The Artist Magazine Feature Article
A View from St Paul's 16.12.2014 (the bottom picture)
Pastel - 116 x 176.5cm (£10,500)

A photo posted by Mall Galleries (@mallgalleries) on

Ancient Eyes 
Oil pastel - 36 x 28cm (£450)

The Pastel Society Awards

The Pastel Society Catalogue Awards involves a full image page in the Pastel Society exhibition catalogue. It was won by Susan Brooke and Melodie Cook

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