Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2011

The 125th Annual Open Exhibition of the New English Art Club is currently on show at the Mall Galleries until 4th December.  It focuses in particular on figurative and representational artwork. You can also see the works by both members and non-members online on the NEAC website shop (The NEAC Trading Company Ltd)

Exhibition data

This year there are 488 works in the show out of c. 1,000 submitted.  Of these
  • 372 (76.2%) are by NEAC members and 
  • 116 (23.8%) are from 84 non members.  Of the latter two watercolour paintings are by HRH the Prince of Wales and a significant proportion of the others are by members of other Societies within the Federation of British Artists and other national societies.  
I'm told that work is presented to the selection panel with no reference to the name of the artist or their status.  Hence those artists who are not a member of any of the national UK art societies should regard the selection of their artwork for this exhibition as a real mark of achievement.  (At the end there are tips for entry in 2012)

Organisation of the exhibition
End wall of the West Gallery
It's a very strong show - and very colourful in parts.  In terms of figurative art, in my view both the Society of Wildlife Artists and this show both trump the collection of works selected for the Threadneedle Exhibition.

A lot of members entered a series of works on a theme - and often had their work grouped.

The display of the exhibition is highly structured.  Works by artists are typically grouped but this does vary depending on size.
  • There are fewer and bigger works in the West Gallery - which is the "premier" gallery.  I actually sat and counted the works because I was struck by what seemed to me to be a first for art society exhibitions at the Mall.  All the works in the West Gallery were by members of the Art Society - whereas I'm much more used to seeing a clear mix between members and the open entry - with open work in the West gallery often being by artists who have impressed the selectors (and hence might be considered to be potential future members) .  I was later told that one work by a non-member had been spotted.  However I gather I wasn't the only person who noticed the bias towards members' works in the 'premier' gallery. 
Mall Wall of West Gallery
  • The East gallery has an emphasis on draughtsmanship and drawing, works are also more monochromatic.  
East Gallery
  • The North Gallery had an emphasis on smaller works.  This was where I found the majority of the works from the open entry.  I don't know whether one is meant to imply that non-members have a better chance of selection if they submit smaller works.....
A Wall of Portraiture in the North Gallery - some of these are quite tiny

There seemed to be rather fewer prizes this year compared to previous years.  However I'm seeing changes in sponsorship arrangements in quite a few exhibitions.  The links below are  as follows:
  • painting (to NEAC Online Shop)
  • artist - to their website
The Horan Prize - Slate Valley, Liechwedd by Alan Sims

The Manya Igel Prize - Flowers under a Mulberry Tree by Julian Bailey

Group of work by Peter Brown / Portobello Road (top)

The Prize of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers - Portobello Road by Peter Brown

The NEAC Critics Prize - Peter Brown (for his group of artwork)

Group of work by Julian Bailey
(right) Dorset Coast from Lulworth
(middle left) Flowers under a Mulberry Tree

The David Messum Prize - Dorset Coast from Lulworth by Julian Bailey

The Doreen McIntosh Prize - In the Night.Pieve by Julie Held

Artists I liked

I really liked Julian Bailey's Dorset Coast from Lulworth.  Although in no way flashy, it's a real "look at me" piece - you can't miss it!  Peter Brown seems to get better and better with his cityscapes - I thought the small scenes of French streets in Paris were also delightful.

One of the "standout" artists for me this year was Patrick Cullen.  I just love the way he uses colour - and I love looking through his paintings to find all the colours which work so well.

Works by Patrick Cullen

I also very much liked Michael Whittlesea's series of paintings of a pond and waterlilies.  They very much appealed to my liking for abstracting plant forms.  There again I like most of his paintings!

Works by Michael Whittlesea
Other artists who impressed include Anna Adamoiewicz.  Her etching lacks a title nut very has a presence.

Untitled II by Anna Adamoiewicz

It was also great to say Hello to Felicity House (Elephant route at Juna Mahal), Rebecca Cain (Scrapped 1950's Standard Vanguard ), Adebanji Alade and Johnny Morant at the Private View.

Tips for those planning an entry for 2012

The entry in 2012 will be via digital submission. President Jason Bowyer has an article in Artists & Illustrators Magazine this month "Celebrate the NEAC's 125th Annual Exhibition with President, Jason Bowyer".  This highlights and emphasises
"The way that we keep the exhibition current whilst keeping in line with the traditions of the NEAC is by keeping it open to large groups of people"
Jason Bowyer, President of the New English Art Club (A&I article)
When we’re looking at the works to select for our shows, we want to see pieces that make people look at the world in a different way. We’re not necessarily looking for one style but we’re looking for something well drawn, something that has good craftsmanship and an interesting concept.  We’re not against abstract painting but we’re a figurative group of artists.
My advice for anyone looking to submit any work into next year’s exhibition is be brave, keep your framework simple and remember that we look at a group of work together. Sometimes, people will submit an Impressionist work with an Expressionist in the hope that we will like one of them but it just comes across as that person having no direction.
You can download digital editions of Artist and Illustrators although I'm not sure whether they are set up to be readable on an iPad or Kindle.


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