Friday, March 02, 2007

21st Century Watercolours at Bankside Gallery

The Célé Valley from Chateau Béduer
watercolour sketch
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday Shirley (Paper and Threads) from New York and I went to see the 21st century watercolour exhibition at the Bankside Gallery, home of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RSPP). For this open exhibition for non-members of the RWS, artists were invited to submit up to three water-based paintings on paper and work was juried in.

First the blurb about the exhibition and then my comments about this exhibition - which was showing work of both an excellent standard and interest.
21st Century Watercolour
Fri 16-Feb-2007 to Sun 11-Mar-2007

The Royal Watercolour Society’s open exhibition is a passionate celebration of watercolour as a vibrant medium for the 21st Century. The exhibition supports artists of any age and is not prescriptive about size or subject matter. The result is a breath-taking exploration of the possibilities of this beautiful medium. Take this opportunity to adorn your walls with work by an emerging artist.
I'd previously managed to get my dates mixed up, mistook Tuesday for Thursday and hence this was my second visit to the exhibition. On the first visit, I was struck by how many of the paintings were representational but also how few were realistic (in the sense of 'tending to look a bit like a photo' / more of a 'traditional approach' to watercolour). This time I got more scientific and did a count! My rough estimate is that of the 192 paintings, 21 were 'realistic' and 19 were realistic-ish making some 20% of the total. I also took a look at the webpage for the 2006 exhibition of the RWS and noted that the styles were not so different - so take a look and you'll see what I mean.

My favourite paintings in the exhibition were two small square paintings in watercolour and gouache by Ron Ford - "Winter Fields" and "Summer Fields". They subtlety of colour and texture achieved made me think that these two slightly abstracted version scenes of fields were actually a bit of a pun on 'colour field'.

I also very much liked Sue Rubira's giant and striking face of "Maggie". You can see the finished version on her blog here and also see stages on the blog posts prior to that. Given that one of her previous paintings came second in the 2006 Singer and Friedlander (watercolour) competition, I'm rather expecting to see another of Sue's excellent portraits winning a prize at the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the NPG

Fay Ballard's huge painting "Burdock" of 5 rather large burdock leaves very much challenged the conventional format for paintings of a botanical nature. Her paintings on her website would very much benefit from having their dimensions identified though if they're all on the same sort of scale as this one.

I wasn't expecting to see quite so many paintings done in pen and ink and watercolour. They had great impact and I'm now minded to try adding some watercolour to some of mine - after I've invested in some waterproof ink and a suitable pen! Shirley and I both very much liked David Birch's drawings of interiors in pen and ink and watercolour.

The Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Purchase prize was awarded to Jenny Matthews for "Whacky Irises" which you can see on her website. She studied Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art under Elizabeth Blackadder and her style is not dissimilar to that of the renowned Royal Academician.

The exhibition prizewinners were:
  • Baker Tilly Prize:Helen Slater (her painting "From Labworth Cafe Steps, Canvey Island, August15th 05" had a very strong extended portrait format. Its subject was very obviously a hot summer's day. The bottom edge comprised a small section of foreshore and small figures and the remainder of the painting was given over to a still and flat sea and an awful lot of sky with wispy high cirrus clouds. The treatment of the latter was masterful.)
  • St Cuthbert’s Mill Prizes:
    • 1st Prize - Katherine Jones
    • 2nd Prize - Bill Henderson
    • 3rd Prize - David Douglas
  • Winsor & Newton Prizes:
    • 1st Prize - Jim Dunbar (This was a very large painting of the inside of a shed looking out through the door and window. Shirley said it reminded her of the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and I have to agree - having seen a goodly selection of Wyeths at the Farnworth in Maine last September. Very reminisent both in terms of subject and manner of execution - although obviously executed in watercolour rather than the egg tempera which Wyeth tends to use.
    • 2nd Prize - Katy Ellis (Shirley and I were both very taken by her watercolour and gouache painting "Backwaters in Kerala". I wasn't in the least bit surprised to see it had sold.
    • 3rd Prize - Colin Merrin
  • The Artist Prize: Chris Myers (The painting "Broken Morning, St Kilda" challenged some of the 'rules' by having the broken car referred to in the title on the right extreme of the wide landscape format of this realistic painting.)
  • Royal Watercolour Society Award:Charles Williams (I'm afraid I was at a loss to understand why this painting got a prize - but there's at least one in every exhibition which is like that so it came as no surprise to me that there was one in this one too!)
  • Elizabeth Scott-Moore Award: George Devlin. (His painting "Farms, Donegal" contained layers of broad brush marks in autumnal colours which were placed rather than brushed onto the paper.)
When looking for links to the artists I was struck by how few of the artists had a website. It's also a pity that the Bankside doesn't have an online version of the exhibition as is now common practice in a number of galleries. I'm convinced that NEAC's move to having a virtual online exhibition at the same time as their exhibition probably had a positive impact on sales.

[Note: On the basis that all posts must have an image, I'm going to have to have a go at some more watercolours! The one at the top of the page was done in a sketchbook in 1994 while painting at Chateau Béduer. It was a 'first' in terms of being rather looser with my use of watercolour but I switched to pastels soon after and never really pursued this further.......maybe I need to reconsider?]

  • Bankside Gallery 48 Hopton Street, London, SE1 9JH. The website also contains summary information about the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Details of membership and exhibitions are available on the site.
  • Royal Watercolour Society
  • Printworks Magazine - this very informative printing website contains information about the history of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (founded in 1880) as well as masses of resources information for painter-printmakers.
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for summarizing our visit to Bankside Gallery so wonderfully. I always enjoy our "art day" together during my London visits. Thanks for another special one!

Robyn Sinclair said...

Well there goes my weekend! What a wonderful post, Katherine. I've only got as far as Sue Rubira's website - incredible! Thank you as always, for the doors you open here.

Robyn Sinclair said...

PS I love you watercolour sketches. You must be encouraged!

Making A Mark said...

Istn't she great? I just love her portraits - and her drawings are pretty fabulous too.

Glad to hear you're enjoying your daily dose!

Making A Mark said...

Shirley - many thanks for making our outings so enjoyable. It's so nice going round exhibitions with you!

df said...

Thank you again Katherine for your very infomative blog. I just want to say that your watercolor sketch is wonderful and that I love the looseness. I hope that you do more of them!

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