Friday, December 04, 2009

Exhibition Review: New English Art Club - Annual Exhibition 2009

I always look forward to visiting the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club (NEAC) - but for various reasons have visited rather later than usual this year. The 2009 exhibition finishes at the Mall Galleries on Monday 7th December (at 1pm) and I recommend visiting if you can before then.

This year the exhibition includes 410 works of contemporary British figurative art - drawings, paintings and fine art prints. If you're unable to visit in person you can see work of NEAC members in the online shop of NEAC's trading arm - there's lots to look at!

I started by reviewing the catalogue which was wholly admirable with lots of pages of full colour plates of work in the exhibition. If you have ever thought of submitting work to this exhibition I recommend trying to get hold of a copy of viewing the work in the online shop as both give a very good flavour of the type of work which is favoured by this exhibition.

Changes this year

I noticed a few people displaying:
  • triptychs and similar series demonstrating how colour changes with the light during the course of a day. Charlotte Ardizone had a triptych of the view out of a window while Ken Howard produced a series of paintings about the different Light effects in Calle Larga Galliana in Venice which made a great display when hung together. Such a pity that these are being sold singly rather than as a group.
  • either the stages that a work goes through from sketchbook to painting to print. I particularly liked Richard Bawden's work in this respect- and his drawings, a watercolour painting and a linocut print of a view out an an Aldeburgh window
This year, possibly in an attenpt to emulate the Summer Exhibition's Small Weston Room of small figurative paintings, they've created a new room within the gallery called The Small North Room in which are hung a lot of small paintings by members and non-members.

Personally I think this is a much better approach to the presentation of small paintings which can sometimes be swamped by larger works if hung in the main gallery. The Small Weston Room always enjoys good sales. Personally I think that's not just because they are more affordable prices. I think it's also becaause there are paintings hung from waist to ceiling which means people stay longer and scan and look more than in other rooms. It's always inteersting to see how really good work always stands out even when surrounded by similar sized works. My view would be that NEAC should experiment and try hanging even more work in here next year.

I also noticed that the sponsorship has changed. Two smaller galleries have pulled out but they now have a major new sponsor in Messums.


The exhibitions includes feature displays of work by:
  • Honorory Life Members Bernard Dunstan (artwork) b.1920 and his wife Diana Armfield (artwork) and
  • the late Leslie Worth PPRWS. I always looked forward to seeing any new work he produced. It's always sad to view work 'for the last time' ie when you know you won't ever see any new work and may indeed have difficulty seeing any work at all in the duture.

The prizwinners were:
Artwork I Liked

I particularly liked the attention that had been given to provide a large display of drawings and monochrome fine art prints. It's always really interesting to compare how an artist draws to hoiw they paint.

a wall of fine art drawings and prints (various artists)
copyright the artists

Although there was a lot of work I liked, I noticed that a goodly proportion of it was done by women artists - both members and non-members.

(Left) Girl in Shallows (egg tempera) by Ruth Stage
(Right) Jakob's Ladder (oil) by Charlotte Sorapure

copyright the artists
  • I'm completely intrigued by the technique that Ruth Stage NEAC uses for her contemporary and very appealing egg tempera paintings. There appears to be some sort of resist involved given the effects she gets.
  • Jakob's Ladder by Charlotte Sorapure NEAC was quite simply intriguing. I particularly like the perspective she uses for some of her landscape subjects.
  • Ann Wright's oil painting of Hot Street, Santorini which positively radiated heat
  • I found small oil paintings by Judith Gardner RBA to be very atmospheric in a very low key way (you can see more examples on the RBA website)
  • June Berry RWS NEAC's wonderfully colourful paintings - as always appealed to me. I think it's the fact that I always spend time looking at them pondering the narrative element which they always have - coupled with the sense I've personally just spotted this scene from over a hedge or a wall.
(top) Picnic by the river
(bottom) The Photo
copyright June Berry RWS, NEAC
The exhibition also provides an opportunity to view two watercolours by HRH the Prince of Wales.

The artist who puzzled me the most was award-winning portrait artist Benjamin Sullivan RP, NEAC who produced three watercolour landscape paintings of English scenes (two of Oxford and one of Finchingfield) whose colours seemed to me to be veering very close to the "chocolate box". I like both his oil paintings and drawings a lot - and have previously highlighted them on this blog. However these watercolours just left me wondering whether he's an artist in search of a subject outside his own home.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this visual feast with us, Katherine. I'm based in Scotland so I often miss out on the chance to visit this type of exhibition in the flesh. I thoroughly enjoyed your tour and shall certainly spend more time browsing on the NEAC site.

    I totally agree with your comment about Ken Howard's work - it seems almost criminal to split these up!


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