Saturday, November 24, 2007

ING Discerning Eye at the Mall Galleries

Visual language
8" x 11", pencil and coloured pencil in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I went to see the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries yesterday. It's a unique art event insofar as it is the exhibition of pieces which have been chosen by two artists, two collectors and two critics who act as selectors for what are, in effect, six individual parts of the same exhibition.

2,300 contemporary artworks are submitted by artists from all over the UK. Artists in the process of establishing their careers can display work alongside well known artists.
...the Discerning Eye Exhibition presents the work of artists, both unknown and established, working in every discipline, in all styles and at varying levels of execution, to the widest of audiences. The work can be challenging, but essentially it is engaging, accessible and affordable. Something, it is said, for everyone
John Penrose, Chairman Elect, Discerning Eye
This year the very interesting mix of selectors were
The individual preferences of the six individuals were clear to see. For example Davina McCall's choices were almost entirely paintings of people or animals. I think I spotted one still life in her selection!
I found myself using one criterion only in my selection; that is would I give the work house room?
Charles Saumerez Smith, (Discerning Eye 2007 catelogue)
Winners of the prizes were as follows:
  • ING Purchase Prize (£5,000) Susan Angharad Williams 'Still Life with Artichoke' - chosen by Charles Saumerez Smith (I can't find either artist or painting anywhere on the internet, so I'm assuming she is 'unknown' and without a gallery (or a gallery with a website) - and yet I really can't believe that. Does anybody know different?)
This is a realistic painting of a still life which incorporates high quality painting of very fine detail and beautiful subtle colours (although one wouldn't know this from the reproduction in the catalogue which is atrocious). The composition is both restrained and intriguing. This is a painting which quietly demands attention. The artist also had a small and very fine drawing chosen by Drusilla Beyfus.
  • The Discerning Eye Chairman's Purchase Prize (£1,000) - Mathew Draper 'Calm Seas, Bass Rock'
Draper is a pastel artist who trained at Falmouth College of Art. You can see his studio and pastel table here and read a description of his method of working with pastels here. His work had reminded me somewhat of Whistler and his Nocturnes (studied back in May) and I therefore found I started to smile as I read about his work!
  • Meynell Fenton Prize (£1,000) - Michael Fenton 'Study of Juliette' - chosen by Davina McCall
This is a portrait I'd love to own - although I suspect it was a commission. I think it's been done in a very washy oil paint - almost like a watercolour. The painting style appears casual and relaxed and yet is also acute in its observation of form, tone and colour. Very accomplished. (I found a website for Michael Fenton - but the work is dissimilar in style, so I'm guessing this is another unknown artist without a gallery)
  • The Penrose Prize (£1,000) - Jason Walker 'Self portrait study - happy thought' - selected by Jennifer McRae
Jason Walker graduated from Falmouth College of Art, Cornwall in 1992. He has been selected for various national exhibitions including the Hunting Art Prizes Exhibition at the Royal College of Art in February 2004, The Discerning Eye Exhibition and the BP Portrait Award Winner of The Holburne Portrait Prize 2004, elected to paint Michael Eavis, founder of Glastonbury Festival and winner of the South West Portrait Prize.
You can see more of Jason Ward's work at the Lemon Street Gallery here. Besides his portraiture work, he is also painting classic and yet contemporary still life paintings.
I have to confess that I like his paintings on the website link (above - of a 2006 exhibition) better than this one.
  • The Arts Club Prize - Clare Bigger 'Dancing Queen' - chosen by Dame Stephanie Shirley.
This is a wonderful metal sculpture of a cat. Check out her website - really wonderful work. I'm only surprised that I can't ever remember seeing it before.

There's an awful lot of very impressive sculptural work in the show. In fact I'd go so far as to say this exhibition had more sculptures that I liked than any other I've been to this year. I particularly loved the sculptures chosen by Charles Saumerez Smith.

Other artists who caught my eye are:
  • David Gould - had three paintings of swimmers split between two judges. They reminded me of those film strips of stop frame photography. They certainly made me want look closer.
  • Sophie Levi - had a couple of pencil drawings in the show. You can see more of her action drawings on her website here.
  • Gareth Reid - is the winner of the BP Travel Award for 2007 and has four works included. They're small square brownish paintings - which reward close attention as the painting is very fine, even if the colour is a bit odd and reminiscent of sepia photographs. The painting on his website intro page is executed in a simialr style.
  • two attractive paintings by Louis Turpin caught my eye and somehow seemed familiar. However it was only when I got home that I realised that I'd bought some of his art cards during the summer because I liked the way he painted! I'd not seen his work before and will now look out for it again.
  • Glenys Barton's sculptures of Heads were fascinating - wings sprout from skulls.
  • Tessa Traeger has produced an absolutely amazing facsimile collage/photograph/fine art print(?) of Monet's painting on the bridge at Giverney - but composed of tiny cucumbers, cauliflowers and lettuces! I'd not come across her work before but I'm impressed by the photography of more conventional subjects on her website.
I'm struck by how many of the artists that I've identified have a connection to Wales and the West of England and in particular Cornwall. Which also means I can't not mention that the Prince of Wales (and Duke of Cornwall) has two works in the exhibition at the invitation of his cousin, painter and selector Sarah Armstrong Jones.

I've seen examples of his watercolour paintings in London exhibitions on a number of occasions. His work is very accomplished (he does wonderful skies!) - you can see some examples of the lithographs produced here.
The Prince is a keen watercolourist and paints whenever his schedule allows. Lithographs of his paintings are sold and all proceeds go to The Prince's Charities Foundation.
The Prince of Wales website
The galleries also included an exhibition of the works by the shortlisted candidates for David Gluck Drawing Bursary. For me there was absolutely no question - the work which I found most intriguing was that by Michael Shaw. He is exploring the use of CAD software to produce what he calls animated drawings which both create the illusion of a three dimensional world in two dimensions but also simulate the act of drawing and act as a surrogate for drawing in a physical form. You can see 'There but there' and 'Doodle' on his website here (scroll down). 'There but not there' has already toured the UK with the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2006. I find it absolutely riveting - and I'd like to see more work like this!

Finally - two notes. One is that show closes tomorrow - I'm only sorry now that I didn't visit earlier. Plus an interesting 'fashion' note for those submitting framed works for society exhibitions. I'm seeing more and more frames which are painted very neutral colours. Lots of ivories and creams. I also saw many drawings floated in a deep frame rather than placed behind a window in a mount. In my opinion this suited work with deckle edges rather more than those which had been cut.

About ING and Visual Art

ING sponsors the competition and exhibition. It's a pleasure to be able to highlight a company with such a significant commitment to visual art and in particular British art.

ING has art collections in a number of different countries. Its City of London offices are home to a significant art collection featuring work by British artists such as LS Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer and Samuel Palmer. Its collecting policy initially focused on 18th and 19th century British watercolours and modern figurative works by British artists but purchasing now focuses on the latter. ING welcomes art interest groups to its offices each year to see the collection. The headquarters of ING are in Amsterdam the company also plays a major part in sponsoring the Rijksmuseum. ING's imaginative art programme also has a strong community outreach element which includes sponsorship of a community arts centre in Shoreditch, East London.



  1. The first two Matthew Draper links are crossed-up. I think the first one is meant to link to the second destination and vice-versa.

    I really liked the info on him, and the best part is the roll of duct tape. I like the easel-less throw it up on the wall move.

  2. What an absolute treat to return from a trip and a long time away from your blog and find another inspiring, informative post! I love Diane Levi's work-- is that the right name? Her action drawings are fantastic. I wish we could see more of them than just the tiny thumbnails on her website. I also like very much the brown square pieces by the artist whose name disappeared from my mind in the writing of this post. I'm eager to get caught up on all you've been doing and saying while I've been otherwise engaged!

  3. What an absolute treat to return from a trip and a long time away from your blog and find another inspiring, informative post! I love Diane Levi's work-- is that the right name? Her action drawings are fantastic. I wish we could see more of them than just the tiny thumbnails on her website. I also like very much the brown square pieces by the artist whose name disappeared from my mind in the writing of this post. I'm eager to get caught up on all you've been doing and saying while I've been otherwise engaged!

  4. Casey - I very nearly wrote 'Casey's going to enjoy this one' at the end of the blurb about Draper!

    I agree - the more we can see how other people work with pastel the more it will help to 'spread the word'

    Thanks for the 'heads-up' on the links - they're now fixed.

  5. Laura - thanks for the comment. It was Sophie Levi.

    Gareth Reid was responsible for the small sepia tint pieces.

    There's masses of really good stuff on all the websites of all the artists mentioned. it took me ages to write this post as I kept getting distracted!


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