Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: 3rd Derwent Art Prize Exhibition

I'm writing this review more for the record and the benefit of those thinking of entering the competition for the Derwent Art Prize (sponsored by Derwent Pencils ) in future years.

This week has seen a surfeit of exhibitions for me - and yet more problems for me with my joints! I really shouldn't spend so much time standing looking at art in art exhibitions - as it now means I can't move the next day!  Hence the delay.....

The Derwent Art Prize - selected works

The 3rd Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 2016

The exhibition finishes today at the Mall Galleries. Frankly 6 days is not enough for this exhibition. However you can see the art online and it will get another outing - and I'll let you know where when I know (keep an eye on my Making A Mark Facebook Page!)
The exhibition will tour to a number of venues throughout the UK from October - December 2016. Full details will be announced shortly.
  • First some gallery view images of the exhibition
  • then a summary of what was good and where there is scope to improve
  • finally, some images of the 8 drawings I liked by 6 artists. I also liked others - but these have all got an extra something...
I've already commented on the prizewinners in Derwent Art Prize 2016 - Prizewinners

Gallery views

There are two absolute truisms about drawings when seen online:
  • they do look different when seen in the gallery - you can't ever beat the face up cloe to the work to get a really good sense of what a work is about and how it has been made.
  • you can never ever get a proper sense of the relative size of different artwork - unless it is seen in context

That's why it's essential to go to exhibitions and not just look online - even if you end up crocked afterwards (as I do!)
Here's some context!

The large figure is drawn directly on the wall
- it isolates a dead person in the graves associated with war atrocities
where drawing was found to be much more effective than photos
HOWEVER it doesn't appear as part of the gallery of exhibition drawings!

The good points

Wheke by Pete Smith
graphite (3D) 65 x 24 x 10 cms
- no idea how he constructed this!

I've summarised the good things about the exhibition below
  • This is the best exhibition to date
    • There is significant diversity in both subject matter and techniques used - and the 3D works are memorable.
    • The favourite subjects of amateur artists are nowhere to be seen
    • it's excellent at showing what graphite can do.
  • More professional artists are now entering their work - meaning that it is growing in prestige and value to an artist's career
  • More international artists are entering - the winner comes from Albania and lives in Italy!
  • It has a very worthy winner of the top prize with a work which is very topical, very creative and it was great to see a large work in graphite!

Scope to improve

Media for selected works

I found it very odd that there were not a lot of coloured pencil or watercolour pencil entries. Or it may just be that those entered were not rated highly by the selection panel? Something for those who entered using these pencils to mull over.

It's a particular pity that there are so few pastel pencil drawings especially as I know artists who draw extremely well using pastel pencils! (nudge nudge Felicity for one!)

What's it about?

This exhibition needs to decide - or reaffirm and communicate better - what it is about.
  • Is it about pencil art?
    • What's the definition of "pencil art"?  The competition website defines the media that can be used. 
Artists can submit 2D and 3D works created with any pencil or coloured pencil as well as water soluble, pastel, graphite or charcoal pencils.
    • That's what it says it's about - but in past years it's been very clear that some works were NOT created with pencil - and it has happened again this year
    • Do judges know that it's about Pencil Art? 
    • Do the judges believe that all the work was created using pencils?
    • How does "mixed media" sit with "pencil art"?
  • Is it about drawing?
    • If it is then it starts to complete with the Jerwood Prize for Drawing (and where's the sense in that?)
    • Plus we can expect to see more pushing of the boundaries as to "what is drawing"
    • Or is it intended to mean "using hands and pencils to create drawings in 2D and 3D"? There are works in this year's exhibition that don't do that except in a remote way.
  • Is it about the use of dry media?  Are sticks eligible?
    • If it was then we'd see an awful lot more charcoal and pastel works - and they'd swamp the pencil art!
My suggestion (already made to Derwent Pencils) is that in future entries should be accompanied by:
  • a certification as to precisely what media was used - to be reviewed by those processing all entries as to compliance with the rules
  • a statement confirming it is an original work and copyright can be asserted (i.e. addressing the problem which arose in the 2nd Derwent Prize; copyright cannot be asserted when the work is derivative)
  • a methods statement - for review by the judges when short-listing artwork

Scope of Media

I think permissible media could be refined and better defined and permissable techniques could be made a lot clearer.

Changes I would make are:
  • add in carbon pencils as they were clearly in use in the works exhibited this year - and they are excellent pencils (even if Derwent don't make any - as yet!)
  • be clear whether pencils includes sticks (BUT recognise that if it does then the whole exhibition will change!)
  • state whether videos of artists drawing using pencils are eligible. Videos have been acceptable entries in drawing competitions for some time - and I'm sure they would be submitted if the conditions SAID they were eligible. In the context of this prize I think the pencil in the video needs to be VISIBLE!
  • be clearer about grounds and substrate - and identify these in the labelling! In particular, are prints of drawings used as supports for pencil drawings acceptable or not? Does it matter what percentage of the drawing is printed? This is not hypothetical - it's a question which clearly needs to be addressed.......

Artwork I liked

One of my favourite works is Return by Sarah Gillespie. So much so that a larger version actually appears in my book! (see page 43 and Tip 62 of Sketching 365 - available in the Mall Galleries, good bookshops and online)

Return by Sarah Gillespie
mixed media 
Nobody can get matt black like Sarah can - or make light dance and dapple.  The great thing about exhibitions is that you can of course get up close and look at how she does the magic.

Here's a very small cropped image of her work where you can see the individual strokes of open hatching angled in a variety of ways.

Open hatching to moderate tone by Sarah Gillespie.
I really liked a small wall of portraits - and I'll explain why. First the artworks

How not to be photorealistic and have a bigger impact!
(top right) 
Mother Widow Wife Spinster by Kevin Smith (graphite)
(right) Dance and Dance 2 by Adrianna Szwedkowicz (graphite)
(bottom left: Lying Doggo by Emma Davis (graphite)

At least three of the drawings are based on photographs. However they have risen above the photograph and created an artwork which adds value in the format chosen.

The work top right isolates the individual from the photograph and reproduces the individual so that you actually focus on her. The title says it all....

Dance and Dance 2 by Polish art student Adrianna Szwedkowicz on the right have been reduced down to the essentials and losing the detail actually makes them far more interesting images - and graphic so they read well at a distance.

Lying Doggo (neat pun!) - the line drawing of the dog on his back by Emma Davis is a welcome change from very detailed drawings of dogs which can dominate some open competitions for pencil art.

The next couple of drawings I assume have also been drawn from photographs given this perspective of the Thames and London. Plus the skyline and buildings seem to be from a few years ago (I know the area well). Or maybe the artist has done some editing out of existing buildings? I can't tell (and I've had Google Maps out!) However the sketchy treatment of London, the river and the barges and boats creates an interesting picture - especially when they are shown together as they are in the exhibition.

I loved this small drawing of Margate by Frances Chapman (Twitter: @FrancesChapman_) It's subtle, it reduces everything to big shapes and tones and yet it still reminds you that Margate is one of those places with special light.  The tone is achieved through very fine smudged hatching.

Margate by Frances Chapman

You can see a much better version in her tweet

You can see more of her drawings on her website and I commend them to you.

However there's also a twist to the tale about Frances. It's not the first time she's featured on my blog although I hadn't looked at the name of the artist producing the drawing of Margate until I sat down to write this blog post - see below.

I also very much like her landscape oil paintings and I hope she'll enter a few more competitions! Then I got to her portraits and realised I've already seen and admired her watercolours before 
This small portrait 'Journalist' caught my eye. Frances Chapman demonstrates excellent draughtsmanship and character in her portrait plus her painting is impeccable. The tones are built up using a pointillist technique using optical colours.  She has previously exhibited at the 2008, 2010 and 2011 exhibitions of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and I can well understand why. Her drawings are also delightful.
Frances Chapman looks to me to being the nearest to being somebody who may well become a member - if she applies. She has a unique and very distinctive style and demonstrates considerable understanding of colour and technical skills as well as producing paintings which are interesting.
I look forward to seeing more of her work in whatever media she chooses to use!

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