Wednesday, January 26, 2022

'Extraordinary Portraits' of everyday heroes

ANOTHER new programme about making art - starts next month!

  • Title: Extraordinary Portraits
  • Focus: Portraiture - with a twist! Members of the public with “extraordinary stories” are matched with a selection of celebrated portrait artists who will then capture their likeness.
  • Channel: BBC1
  • Number of episodes: a six-part series (see below for details)
  • Start Date: Monday 14 February 2022
  • Host: Tinie Tempah

When a portrait of mine went into the National Portrait Gallery I remember the immense pride, inclusion and acknowledgement I felt. It was unquantifiable - it made me feel like I was part of a change in the narrative, and so I hope the extraordinary people I have met making Extraordinary Portraits feel the same way.”— Tinie 

Extraordinary Portraits Episodes

I think one of the things I'm going to like most about this programme is it's a wonderful platform for those artists who have emerged into the limelight - but are still very much developing their careers.
I'm impressed by the range, depth and quality in the artists they've selected. Check out the links below to see what I mean.

The other aspect which struck me as I was reading the stories and exploring the links to both artists and their sitters is that this series is going to be inspirational for others. It's great to have something on television about the good news and outcomes that can emerge from difficult or challenging circumstances. It's an excellent way to think about how portraiture can be used for public good. 
“Portraiture has traditionally been a way of commemorating the figures we think of as significant or powerful. What makes Extraordinary Portraits different is that we shift the focus to everyday heroes - shining a light on incredible people whose bravery, courage and good deeds make them truly special, and who we feel deserve to be celebrated." Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts
Each episode follows the process of working in collaboration with an artist to create a portrait which captures and celebrates these extraordinary individuals, using different media. They culminate in Tinie and the artist unveiling the final piece to the sitter and their family and friends.

Needless to say I'll be watching - and reviewing the series overall.
  • What follows is the information provided by BBC Media about the different episodes.  
  • I've added in links to the websites of the artist and info about the sitters

Episode 1

artist: Roxana Halls (Instagram)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

What is art? (legally speaking)

I needed to find a definition for the question "What is art" recently while developing a new page about Money Laundering & the Art Market: Law, Regulations and Practice.

[Note: If you are selling art - but are not an individual artist who is selling their own art - and don't know about the new money laundering regulations, there is a very serious gap in your "need to know" art business knowledge. I'm hoping to publish soon.....]

So what is art?

Purists might suggest that if the artist says it's art then it's art. 

That might be fine in isolation - but it doesn't cut it as a definition in the "Art as a Merchantable Commodity Market" where there are very many relevant laws and regulations - and taxes and penalties and fines. ( for anybody in any doubt I suggest you read my Art Business Info for Artists page about "Legal Matters for Artists - How to stay on the right side of the law ​and understand all relevant legal liabilities" )

The legal definition of works of art in the UK

It's really quite simple. 

Art (in the UK) is defined for art business, tax, finance and money laundering purposes as stated below. 
Works of Art" has the same meaning as in section 21 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 and includes:
  • Painting, drawings, collages and decorative plaques executed by hand; 
  • Limited edition prints; 
  • Original sculpture or statuary and limited edition sculpture casts; 
  • Handmade limited edition tapestries and hangings; 
  • Signed ceramics executed by an individual; 
  • Signed limited edition enamels on copper (not comprised in an article of jewellery); and 
  • Signed limited edition photographs. 

By way of contrast in the USA the courts have been used to dispute and contest constraints (i.e. "the obscenity pledge" and "the decency clause") which related to censorship of what is deemed inappropriate for public funding. In doing so they referenced the First and Fifth Amendments.

NFTs are NOT Art

Interestingly, I've only just realised that last week there was a bit of a furore online because Wikipedia has decided that NFTs are NOT ART! 

As in 

  • Sales of 'art' as NFTs are NOT art sales.
  • the most expensive NFTs which purport to be art are not being included in the list of the most expensive artworks ever sold
You can read the debate on the discussion page here - under 'Separation of NFT sales and artwork sales' which cites
NFTs are not a new artistic medium in the way that oil paint, printmaking, photography or video art were. Even digital art (which is just art made on a computer) preexisted NFTs by decades. NFTs are financial instruments. They make it easier to sell digital files by creating scarcity. Washington Post
Beeple’s work has been compared to that of KAWS or Banksy, two other artists who have bypassed art-world gatekeepers to establish huge sale prices. But ultimately, NFTs are a technology used to authenticate an artwork; determining whether a work is art or not is up to the viewer. The technology can be used to authenticate other kinds of objects, too. New York Times
So we now have
An NFT is a Non-fungible token 
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger.[1] Types of NFT data units may be associated with digital files such as photos, videos, and audio. Because each token is uniquely identifiable, NFTs differ from blockchain cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. (Wikipedia)
This in turn could affect their value - and hence there's a lot of "investment" in how they should be defined!

Personally, for me, an NFT is a digital token not art - and won't ever be art until it enjoys copyright protection - which NFTs do not.

Here are some of the articles discussing Wikipedia's decision to define NFTs - as NFTs!

I suspect some of the rationale might also relate to law and how art is defined.
An NFT (and, if applicable, the associated license to use, copy or display the underlying asset) can be traded and sold on digital markets. The extralegal nature of NFT trading usually results in an informal exchange of ownership over the asset that has no legal basis for enforcement, often conferring little more than use as a status symbol.
There needs to be parity in terms of the marketplace in terms of what is being bought and sold before you can start making comparisons about "what is the most expensive?"

There again it's entirely possible that there are also some considerable suspicions about:
  • inflation of NFT sales/receipts due to "wash trading"
  • use of NFTs for money laundering
BECAUSE at the moment there is no regulation of NFTs in terms of robust and regulated financial systems - which will very definitely NOT last forever.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Winter / Spring Art Society Exhibitions in 2022 - at the Mall and Bankside Galleries

As a lot of the constraints are removed, I thought I might as well list all the upcoming exhibitions at the Mall and Bankside Galleries which I'll be missing while 100% non-weight bearing on my right leg and mobilising entirely on my leftleg with a very dodgy knee and various aids.

I am of course being masochistic. It's an anxiety diversion tactic about the ankle fusion surgery next Monday. Oddly, the surgery does not bother me - it's the 12 weeks of not being able to walk / staying at home. On the other hand I wonder how long it will be before I can walk to a gallery in London, walk around the exhibition three times and then get myself home again. It's certainly been a long time since I've been able to do that easily and/or not be absolutely wiped out the next day. People keep telling me it takes about a year before you're back to 'normal' except I can't even remember what 'normal' feels like.....

I'm going to have to decide whether I can review from the Virtual / Online exhibitions - which I absolutely HATE doing. The difference between an exhibition online and in the gallery is ENORMOUS!

National Art Society Exhibitions at the Mall Galleries

Venue: Mall Galleries, The Mall, St. James's, London SW1Y 5AS
  • FBA Society Exhibitions: £5
  • Concessions for people with disabilities (with free entry for one companion), Students, Registered Unemployed and Group Bookings (over ten in a group): £3
  • FREE to Friends of Mall Galleries and Under 25s.

Below I'm including overviews of some of my photos of the different exhibitions last year which you can find in albums on my Making A Mark Facebook Page - by art society and gallery

FEBRUARY - Pastel Society

some of my photos of the Pastel Society exhibition last year

MARCH - The Royal Society of British Artists

some of my photos of last year's RBA exhibition

APRIL - Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

MAY - Royal Society of Portrait Painters

This one I might make - depending on whether or not I'm 100% weight-bearing - and how far I can move....

Read my review of lst year' exhibition to see what to expect

National Art Society Exhibitions at the Bankside Galleries

Venue: Bankside Gallery, Thames Riverside, 48 Hopton Street, London SE1 9JH (next to Tate Modern)
Admission: FREE

FEBRUARY - Society of Wood Engravers

The Society exists to promote wood engraving, but also embraces all forms of relief printing, which makes this show a fascinating and affordable collection of images inspired by a wide range of subjects.
This year's featured artist is Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers member, Ian Corfe-Stephens


Established by the Royal Watercolour Society, this annual open-submission exhibition explores innovation and experimentation in all forms of water-based media. Exhibiting artists range from established art professionals to those completely new to exhibiting.

MARCH - APRIL - RWS Spring Exhibition

I've not been a fan of this exhibition in the more recent past - when it seemed to want to become "edgy" ditch traditional watercolour and reinvent itself as a genre for contemporary art - which in my opinion was not very good. It seems to have changed following the very welcome change of President.

This is how they describe it.
Reconsider your ideas about watercolour with the Royal Watercolour Society’s spring show. Expanding from traditional genres of watercolour painting, today members of the RWS explore the boundaries of this medium and use a wide variety of water-based media such as gouache, ink and acrylic. Be prepared to be delighted by modern work that is beautiful, exciting and distinguished.

MAY - JUNE - RE Original Prints

This is a society which generates an exhibition which I regard as well worth a visit - except I keep forgetting what the dates are!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 - Compton Verney Grounds

This review of the second episode of the latest episode of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 on the Sky Arts channel is a little bit different.

There are two reasons for this:

  • the shortlisted artists were ALL of the three amateur artists - and I can't remember that every happening before (which is not to say it hasn't)
  • I bang on every week (it seems) about the need to remember 
    • NOT to focus on just the heat painting re. who should go forward to the semi-finals but rather to pay particular attention to the submissions too.
    • AND SO.... I decided to set myself the challenge of writing down right at the beginning - after the review of the submissions by the Judges - who I thought would be in the Shortlist at the end of the Heat
SO THIS WEEK I'm paying particular attention to what the Judges say about an artist - and you will see a lot of quotes.

This review also focuses on:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won.

Episode 2: Capability Brown designed ground of Compton Verney

The landscape was designed by Capability Brown

The episode happened to be at Compton Verney

However the star of the show for the purposes of subject matter were the grounds designed by Lancelot Capability Brown - the English gardener and landscape architect. I didn't count how many times he got name-checked in the programme - but it was rather a lot.

"Totally fantastic - and fake as hell!"

The challenge is how to improve a view which is already an artistic creation.

[Note: Compton Verney is also the location for the exhibition celebrating Portrait Artist of the Year - see my blog post EXHIBITION: Portrait Artist of the Year (2013 - 2021) ]


It started off cloudy, then looked a bit glum, followed by a short period of drenching rain - and then sunny skies with clouds.

Of which more later.....

The Artists

The artists in front of their view - with the bridge in the background

You can see profiles of the artists on this link. For some reason they don't set these up in advance and then press the "publish button" once the episode has been broadcast.

What struck me - while doing my version of their profiles below - is how much LAOTY left out in terms of what these artists have been up to in the past!

Five professional artists took part. These were:
  • Brian Hindmarch [Gallery | ProfileFacebook] - a printmaker for over 50 years - he also worked as a designer and teacher and was a lecturer in Graphic Design at Bradford College School of Art for over 20 years, from 1992 to 2013. Currently he works from a studio in Ilkley and applies a wide range of graphic design techniques and processes, including photography, etching, letterpress, lithography, screenprint and relief print. He has a particular interest in interpreting natural history, environment and landscape in his work, which includes original mixed media artwork and limited edition prints.
  • Chloe LeTissier [Instagram | Twitter] Moved to London from Guernsey  in 2002 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art (2002-2006), where she specialised in painting. In 2010 she was offered a place on The Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School. In 2012 she was selected for the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition and in 2016 she won second prize  selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition. (I KNEW I knew the name!). She works (when not on maternity leave) as the Office Manager and PA to the Head of Courtauld Gallery.
  • Síle Walsh [Instagram] - a self taught artist from Waterford in Ireland who returned to her full time professional art practice in 2017 after raising her children. She participated in Portrait Artist of the Year in 2018 - broadcast in 2019. She likes graphic blocks, precision and straight lines. You can see examples of her landscapes here
  • Angela Webb - [Facebook | Instagram] a Scottish artist (and former architect), living and working in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. She regularly takes part in art festivals and Open Studio events (eg Warwickshire Open Studios) and teaches workshops for schools and art societies. She works mainly in oils, likes structure and perspective and often works in a square format. These are examples of her landscapes.
  • Patrick Wilkins [Instagram]- Born in Rochester and now lives in Broadstairs in Kent. Had a career as a technical illustrator and worked in engineering product design for over 30 years. His career changed in 2012 following a serious illness and he is now a pencil artist, working in coloured pencils (and technical pens and acrylic gouache) and an associate member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art (SGFA). He's also exhibited widely in juried / open exhibitions in the UK including UKCPS, RBA, RBSA and the Margate Turner Contemporary Open Exhibition. This is his submission
So I'm on this tonight, Sky Arts 8pm. Filmed quite a while ago in Compton Verney in Warwickshire, my one request was 'Don't give me green fields and a lake to draw', so that went well. (Patrick's blog alert)
Three amateur artists were also in the LAOTY Pods.
  • Mark Bonello [FacebookInstagram]- Originally from London he now lives on the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. He's a self-taught artist who works as an HGV Driver and contrary to his teacher's comments at the time, he actually "looks out a window for a living". In 2021, he exhibited with the ROI. He paints plein air using his HGV cab as his studio. Having four hours to paint is his idea of a luxury - but a bucolic landscape would not have been his first choice for a subject. This is his submission - which looked better on television.
  • Afsheen Nasir [Instagram] - Comes from Karachi in Pakistan. She is self taught and works as a civil servant. She paint landscapes in oil but this was her first time painting 'en plein air'. She exhibited at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2019 and previously appeared in "Show me the Monet". This is her submission.
  • Justine Warner [Instagram] - She is a textile and mixed media artist and is also known as "the lady who paints with ties". Her brand name is "Pearl loves Paisley" She creates unique, nature-inspired works crafted with vintage ties, textiles and found objects. She has progressed from exhibiting at the village show to open call exhibitions, art festivals, an art gallery in Helmsley and the North Yorkshire Open Studios. Plus has been artist in residence with the Yorkshire Arboretum and you can see a video about her on YouTube. Those interested in what she does and how she does it will be pleased to know she does Zoom Courses online. This is her submission

    The Wildcard Artists

    I'm not surprised that some people bring trollies.
    The trek - carrying all your stuff - can last a while sometimes

    The wildcard artists gathered around the lake but out of the eyeline of the pod artists

    The Submissions

    I'd love to be able show you the submissions given I bang on and on about their importance - but for some reason the person directing the cameras and the one taking the photographs haven't yet got this message. 

    Hence we rarely see a picture which gives us a view of the landscapes all lined up next to one another - much as happens at the shortlisting stage - where we don't get to see the heat paintings next to one another. All we see is them hiding behind the artists while they wait to be shortlisted.

    In a competition, you make decisions by comparing one image with another - so I'd regard a view of all the images together as a critical part of the programme.

    We NEED to see the submissions lined up AND the heat paintings lined up.

    Instead, at the submission stage this is what we get

    Tuesday, January 18, 2022

    Plus Ça Change - Art on Mondays on BBC4

    Be forewarned - this is a bit of a rant - PLUS Quite a lot of information about "Art on Monday Nights" on BBC Four

    At a time when art programmes seem to be burgeoning and successful (or soon to be) on Sky Arts, Channel 4 and Channel 5, we are faced with a BBC which is producing archive only programmes on BBC4 which has, traditionally, been the art channel. (Of which more below - including 'Art on Monday Nights on BBC Four)

    I wrote about the planned demise of BBC4 as an originator of art programmes back in March 2021 - as did others - see 

    It's maybe even more pertinent now that Nadine Dorries (who I want to be very rude about but will instead ignore her) has "got her teeth" into The BBC Licence Fee. This is the woman who announces this will be the last licence fee settlement and then announces there will be a discussion and no decisions have been made as yet. Yet more political lies and dissembling??

    A statement has been made by the Director General and the Chair of The BBC about the proposal for the Licence Fee Settlement - which has for of code for "more cuts to come' 

    As a result recent news coverage includes some significant criticism - and I want to add to it!

    Art on Monday Nights on BBC4

    What we're getting on BBC4 at the moment is what I'm calling "Art on Monday Nights" - which is basically a lot of REPEATS or compilations of REPEATS

    So this was yesterday evening

    The title of the first episode of Art of France "Plus Ça Change" was, in the circumstances, very pertinent!

    Yesterday evening we had 

    Links you may need to be aware of (if not already) are
    The main problem with the BBC website is it doesn't have a way looking up ART programmes - as opposed to "Arts" - and this is what The BBC means by Arts, Culture and Media

    The main issue is NOT that it's not worth looking again at programmes in the Archive - If they were good programmes the first time then they're definitely worth another look. 
    BUT but access and choice both need to be improved
    • they need to be available ALL THE TIME via iPlayer (i.e. we've already paid for these!)
    • they need to contained in a list so that people can identify what's worth watching
    The only bright spot on the horizon is that there seemed to be a significant lobby of MPs in the debate yesterday who recognised that certain aspects of The BBC should not be externalised - and the arts was one of them.