Wednesday, October 08, 2008

45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists

View of part of the SWLA exhibition in the West Gallery, Mall Galleries
Annual society exhibitions have a habit of stagnating if innovative work is not encouraged and so the judges of Capmark Art Award have sought to find works that are original and thought provoking. Our society is steeped in traditional representational talent,but we are fortunate to also have artists who are prepared to stretch their skills and step out of their comfort zones. It is this art that adds an exciting edginess to the exhibition and challenges the viewer to engage with rather than just admire the works on show
Andrew Stock - President's Foreward to the catalogue for the 45th exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
I visited the 45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists last week. Although I'm not an artist who draws wild life I always find that this exhibition makes me want to try! What I most enjoy is the huge variety of ways that artists find to portray animals and birds. It's very much an exhibition of contemporary art inspired by the natural world.

I mention birds - as birds are pretty popular in this show - a fact to be noted by anybody thinking about applying to exhibit in future! Birds have their own prizes, birds are everywhere throughout the show - and birds bring in collectors who love owning original pictures and sculptures of birds. That said of course I guess it also produces stiff competition for all those seeking to portray birds! All good stuff!

360 works were on display in the exhibition (which closed last Sunday). This year the exhibition changed and the number of works which could be displayed by the 76 member artists was limited to six to enable more submissions to be accepted from members of the public.

Of all the art, I have to say the artwork which stood out for me were the sculptures and fine art prints. The processes of selection and refinement of characteristics and features of animals are an essential part of the process of producing fine art prints and sculpture and seems to be particularly helpful in producing some really excellent work. There were certainly some very impressive prints on display and what's more many of them were selling in respectable numbers.

SWLA exhibition: a wall of prints - West Gallery, Mall Galleries


The major prize is the Capmark Europe Art Awards which went to:
Work by Esther Tyson SWLA, first prize awarded to the painting in the centre
Early beginnings - moorhen nest building

Although all three were representional paintings, they all shared a painterly approach to their subject matter. The final shortlist also included the following works by these three artists: Katrina Cook, Chris Rose SWLA andAdam Binder.

Annabel Harris won the PJC Drawing Prize with a pencil drawing of Longhorn beetle movement. If you like insects I suggest you take a good look at Annabel's website - it's fascinating! She explains why she loves insects and creepie crawlies here.

Max Angus won the St Cuthbert Mill Award with a linocut Seventy two find the harvest plentiful (Pinkfoot) created from observation at the Washington Hide, North Norfolk.

Nick Derry won the Langord Press Award with Garganeys and Teasel (collage)

Jane Smith won the Birds Illustrated Printmaker Award with White-fronts - a screenprint

The 2008 winners of the Society of Wildlife Artists Bursary Awards are Jethro Brice, Kate Joanne Aughey and Li Lian Kostler.

Other artists - who work from life

Three flying Swallows by Celia Smith
copper wire

There was lots to like and I've got a catelogue full of notes. However, three people who stood out for me are all artists who work from life.
  • Celia Smith was featured in my blog post last Sunday. She makes wire sculptures of birds. You can read on her website about how she creates her sculpture after spending time making studies from life.
  • Carl Ellis SWLA creates drawings of fish using wax oil crayon and pastel. They are faithful and representational - and verge on abstract at the same time.
'Drawing fish from life has encouraged me to completely re-evaluate how I now capture them. . .you could say I’m taking a fresh look at fish.’
Carl Ellis
  • Darren Woodhead SWLA produces bold and calligraphic watercolours on whole sheets of watercolour paper - working outside all the time.
All of Darren’s work is produced outside, directly from life. There is no studio. Instead he responds to what is happening before him, keeping an immediacy and spontaneity to his work. Working quickly, within the theatre of the outdoors, wind may buffet the pages, rain or snow may stipple the paint, but this is all part of the events of the day’s outing and helps provide authenticity to the resulting images.
Darren Woodhead - From Dawn to Dusk
I had a jolly good look at each of their exhibits and I'd love to see them create their work.

Finally, if you're a big fan of wildlife art - or are maybe even a wildlife artist yourself, I'd very much recommend trying to get to see this exhibition each year. Also check out the galleries of the SWLA member artists - just click the image next to the name of each artist to see a further page with images of their work.

A wall of small works in SWLA exhibition in the East Gallery, Mall Galleries

Membership of the Society of Wildlife Artists is by election - however Friendship of the Societry is open to all.


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