Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Exhibition review: Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009

Pamela Conder – ‘Chimpanzees Reflections on Ageing’ mixed media
Overall winner and Endangered Wildlife category winner (£10,000 prize)
photograph Rebecca Thomas

‘Reflections on Ageing’ - a mixed media study of chimpanzees in pencil, pen and ink with watercolour and demonstrating a lot of character - has won Australian artist, Pamela Conder, the prestigious title of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009. The title is awarded by a panel of judges appointed by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and comes with a cash prize of £10,000 generously donated by the exhibition sponsors.

Pamela Conder is an artist, author and naturalist who lives in in Australia and was unable to be at Private View last night so got the news by phone. Her prize was presented, on her behalf, to David Shepherd by Sir Michael Parkinson, veteran broadcaster and journalist and friend of DSWF.

The prizes for exhibition category winners were presented at an extremely well attended - and very hot - evening reception at the Mall Galleries last night at a Private View. Over 100 works of art short-listed for the competition are on display in the exhibition and all are for sale, to benefit endangered wildlife. The Exhibition runs until Saturday 6th June - but the red spots were going up fast last night!

Sir Michael Parkinson, David Shepherd CBE and David Gower in front of the winning picture
photograph Rebecca Thomas

The artwork

I reviewed the online exhibition of the artwork back in April - see Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009 - the online exhibition. It was very interesting to see how fast work was selling last night. In terms of achieving sales - and 50% of proceeds of artwork sold in this exhibition is going to charity - other galleries and art societies might want to ponder on the fact that it's an awful lot easier to make a sale if people have had time to review what's on offer before they arrive at the gallery!

The beginning of the Private View - part of the exhibition
photograph copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'd say that this exhibition in general is less dominated by birds and UK animals and has more animals from overseas and categorised as endangered species than other wildlife art exhibitions I've seen.

It's also very pertinent to note that the winners in the first two years of this competition have both won the endangered wildlife category.........

Interestingly not one of the five prizewinners has produced art which could be termed highly realistic. The emphasis is very much on the artistic interpretation and rendition of the creature in ways which one might term "non-photographic". I would describe the winning artwork as a painterly drawing. The runner-up uses collage in his work, has a very strong sense of colour and pushes the boundaries. I was greatly amused by the winner of the wildlife in action category when I saw it online but it's also a very attractive piece of contemporary art. The wildlife in 3D prize went to an artist who produces stunning work in wire while the open category was won by a very large piece of batik on silk representing the pattern of snake scales.

How did my selection of artists and art do? Well - I did in fact choose the winner as one of the pieces which stood out for me so that's got my track record for this season's prizes off to a good start!
Reflections on Ageing (mixed media 56 x 37cm) by Pamela Conder - I liked the informality of this one and the suggestion that it was drawn from life by an artist who is now considered one of Australia's foremost wildlife artists
Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009 - the online exhibition
Of the remainder:
All the above were highly realistic - and that obviously wasn't the way this year's panel were leaning.

The beginning of the Private View on Monday 1st June - with Taking Off in the foreground
photograph copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Pieces which stood out for me in the exhibition included
  • Taking Off by Martin Dereham - stunning and you can't miss it as you come down the steps into the gallery (see above)
  • Late Afternoon Encounter by David Kelly is a very fine painting of an elephant
You can see my photos of fellow coloured pencil artists Gayle Mason and Jonathan Newey with their work on the UKCPS News blog in UKCPS members and their art at Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009

Click images to see larger versions of the photograph.

Who are the prize winners?

Pamela Conder - Overall winner and Endangered Wildlife category winner £10,000 prize
‘Chimpanzees Reflections on Ageing’ mixed media

Artist, author and naturalist Pamela Conder has held numerous solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally since 1977. Her work has been recognized by many awards, including 9 Wildlife Art Society of Australasia Awards for painting, drawing and sculpture, 3 Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales Whitley Awards, the Wilderness Society's Environment Award for Children's Literature and the prestigious Thomas Ramsay Science and Humanities Fellowship of the Museum of Victoria for her research on Flying-foxes. She has published widely in contexts including scientific, popular natural history and fiction. Pamela has travelled extensively studying wildlife and working for its conservation
“I was absolutely amazed to hear that I had won and so sad that I couldn’t be at the gallery to collect my prize. I’d seen the short-listed entries on line and knew that the standard was high - I didn’t think I had a chance. It’s wonderful to know that my work will support endangered wildlife, it’s something very close to my heart.”
Pamela Conder
Paul Bartlett – Overall runner-up and Wild Places category winner Prize £1,000 and masterclass with David Shepherd)
Fading Out’ collage and acrylic

Paul Bartlett is a self-taught artist with a PhD in animal behaviour. He is an associate member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) and won the ‘Birdwatch Artist of the Year’ in 2006 at their annual exhibition. His work has also featured in numerous publications such as International Artist, Birds Illustrated, BBC Wildlife Magazine and Wildscape magazine and several books. Paul has held major solo exhibitions throughout the UK and this year will be holding his first exhibition of new works in the US.

Darren Rees – Wildlife in Action category winner (Prize £500)
In God we Trust’ mixed media
Born in Hampshire in 1961, Darren is a self-taught artist and now paints full time. His work has attracted awards including Bird Watch Artist of the Year, Natural Fine Art Award, RSPB Fine Art Award and the Countryman Art Award. His first solo book, Bird Impressions was a runner-up in the Natural History Book of the Year Award. A member of the Society of Wildlife Artists in London, Darren has been a contributing artist to The Artists for Nature Foundation / WWF projects in Holland, Poland, Peru and Ecuador. A knowledgeable naturalist, he travels extensively leading wildlife holidays to Europe and the Americas. He is also a regular writer with Birds Illustrated.

Fiona Campbell – Wildlife in 3D category winner (Prize £500)
Dung Beetle and Ball’ copper wire and nitrate
Raised in Kenya, Fiona gained distinction at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London and a PGCE at Exeter University. She has worked as an Artist – focusing mainly on steel, copper and wire sculptures, sometimes created out of found and scrap materials. Currently living in Somerset, Fiona exhibits regularly, runs Workshops and occasionally holds Artist-in-Residence posts.
I like the concept of reusing things and the playfulness of creating forms from given shapes. I moved into steel and wire because of its capacity to produce linear structures. I am captivated by the vibrant effects that different coloured wires and copper patinations lend to my work.
Fiona Campbell
Limei Shimmen – Open category winner (Prize £500)
‘Scales’ batik on silk
Limei Shimmen was born in Singapore and is married to an Englishman. She studied oil painting and figure drawing when young but her career has been in advertising. Her batik art began seriously five years ago. A dog and animal lover, as well as an artist, she flaunts the beauty of animal skins by interpreting them in batik. She feels strongly that there is no necessity in killing animals for the sake of fashion. Her batiks are art - pieces of fine art to be worn as headscarves, shawls, wrap-a-rounds, as well as for display.

You can see the rest of the entries in the online exhibition. I have to say I was most impressed by the entries with a number proving to be even better in reality!
The quality of entries this year was quite outstanding. As one of the judges, I was extremely impressed and I am looking forward to the same high standard for next year’s competition.
David Shepherd CBE, founder and president of DSWF, wildlife artist and conservationist
Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010

Details of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010 were announced yesterday and entries are now being accepted from all professional and amateur artists over 17. To enter Wildlife Artist of The Year 2010 please click here...

Three Generations Exhibition

The Mall Galleries is also hosting an exhibition by three generations of the Shepherd family until Saturday 6th June. Original works in oil by David Shepherd CBE, FRSA, sensitive watercolours by daughter, Mandy Shepherd and contemporary canvasses from granddaughter, Emily Lamb are all being sold to raise awareness and funds to save wildlife.

David Shepherd, CBE, FRSA (Born 1931) David studied art under professional artist, Robin Goodwin, with early commissions for the RAF taking him to Aden in 1960, and on to Kenya. This trip changed his life. He was asked to paint his first wildlife subject and at the same time he became a conservationist overnight when he witnessed 255 zebra dead around a waterhole poisoned by poachers. Since then, David has enjoyed successful one-man shows around the world and has won many awards. He has been the subject of several TV programmes and published five books and over 200 limited edition prints. Recently celebrating his 77th birthday, David still lives at a frenetic pace, continuing to donate paintings to wildlife through his Foundation, to pay back "my enormous debt of gratitude to the animals I paint".

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