Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: "Love Pastels" - The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2012

Riverside Triptych II (£20,000) by Patricia Cain
Pastel, 170cm x 315cm (5.6 feet x 10.3 feet)
I had a very nice time at the 113th Annual Exhibition 2012 of the The Pastel Society yesterday - pastel artists are such nice people!  There was also some great pastel art on show - and this is a "must see" exhibition for all pastel artists in the UK.

You can see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries until Saturday 25th February.  The show is open 10am to 5pm but closes at 2pm on the final day.

Observations about the Exhibition

The lifeblood of any Society is its members and it's therefore essential that at any Annual Exhibition one sees new work by artists who are obviously credible as future members should they wish to join.

Fortunately for The Pastel Society, there's some impressive work being submitted for the Annual Exhibition from people who have established careers as artists, won significant prizes and have exhibited internationally!

That said, this raises the bar for all those others who are also submitting their work!  I did a spot of mental arithmetic after counting the number of entries from non-members and I reckon about 40% of the exhibition comes from the open submission of work by non-members.  So - it's a healthy proportion for those who have ambitions to exhibit - and by the look of it there is healthy competition amongst those submitting work.  Although, that said there were a few works in the exhibition which wouldn't have made my list of "definites".

I was particularly struck by non-members are submitting artwork which is large, bold and striking.  It's also good to see that The Pastel Society also has a prize and second prize for non-members.  The two works by Crawfurd Adamson and Patricia Cain were worthy prizewinners - and it's also very good to see work by two artists living in Scotland coming south of the border.

At the same time there is some quality work by other new artists working on a smaller scale and in a quieter way.  I'd seen Flower Bed by Sophie Ploeg (Sophie Ploeg Paintings) previously on the web but it is so much more impressive in real life.  Sophie has a real talent for portraying material (This isn't a particularly good image because of the reflection!  Here's a better image)

Flower Bed (£1,250) by Sophie Ploeg
This is a society which focuses on dry media and not all of the work is in Soft Pastels - there is a significant amount of work in Charcoal and pencil - with Roy Wright being a particular exponent of the latter.

I did however miss seeing the late Peter Woof's coloured pencil artwork this year.  Although not a member, Peter had exhibited with the Pastel Society every year since 1995 prior to his passing in 2011.

The West Gallery is closed for renovations at the moment.  That doesn't make life at all easy for the hangers and two display units occupied the West Gallery to help provide additional hanging space.  These in turn reduce the scope to stand away from the artwork to view it.  I certainly found myself wishing that I could back up a few more feet to look at some of those within the constrained viewing areas - Norma Stephenson and Jeanette Hayes were the two artists whose work I really wanted to be able to see from across the room as well as close up.  I'd have cheerfully swopped them with a few which needed rather less space to view - in my view!

Works I liked

I must confess I do like a good group of pastels which sit well together both in terms of subject matter and presentation.

Group of work by Matthew Draper
As always I liked work by Matthew Draper PS who paints amorphous atmosphere in pastel - and always seems to contribute a couple of works of significant size to the exhibition.  This year he also contributed two delightful small works as well.  Matthew won the PanPastel Award (see below)

I find the relaxed and calligraphic draughtsmanship of Felicity House PS enormously attractive.  Felicity won The Artist Magazine Award (for a group of work)

Group of work by Felicity House
An artist who has a striking contemporary art feel to her work is Angela A'Court.  By which I mean I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see her work in galleries as I'm walking through St James and Mayfair.  I was interested to learn that she uses Diane Townsend handmade pastels and a little bit about how they were made.  I love the Mars Yellow of the background to the chair

Group of work by Angela A'Court 
I particularly liked a striking group of drawings of water in the North Gallery by Liz Charsley-Jory (Liz Charsley-Jory Drawings), a Canadian artist who completed her MA in Drawing at Camberwell College of Art.  My camera for some reason refuses to take decent pictures of monochrome drawings - and you can see much better images on her blog.

Work by Liz Charsley-Jory

The Award Winners

I'm never very clear what the awards represent - whether they are monetary or materials or what.  I noted that as with other art societies, there have been a few changes this year.  It's very nice to see some sponsors with names long associated with pastel artists - along with some very much newer ones who are expanding the horizons of materials suitable for use as a pastel artist

The award winners in 2012 are listed below.

Winner of the Buzzacott Award
Towards Kettleness (£1,400) by Stephen Empson

Winner of the Henry Roche Pastels Award
They hang suspended until Winter takes them all (£1,500) by Cheryl Culver PS RBA

Winner of the John Longley Award
The wheel from St James Park (£450) by Joanne Last

Winner of the PanPastel Award
The air around us (£7,750) Matthew Draper PS

(note: this is a very large work)

Winner of the Purcell Papers Award
Woodland Trees II (£529) charcoal and chalk - Susan Dakakni

Winner of the Schminke Pastels Prize
Text (£3,250) - Crawfurd Adamson
Other prize winners were
  • Daler Rowney Art Materials Award - Bob Last PS (168)
  • Frank Herring & Sons Award -  Malcolm Taylor (229)
  • Purcell Papers Award -  Susan Dakakni (72)
  • The Artist Magazine Award (group of work) - Felicity House
  • The Pastel Society Award Norma Stephenson (221)
  • The Pastel Society Non-Member Award 
    • 1st prize - Crawfurd Adamson
    • 2nd prize - Patricia Cain
  • Unison Award - Sarah Bee
  • Conte a Paris Award - to be notified

Events at the Exhibitions

There are three types of events:
  • Talks: 'Moving and Exhibiting Pastels' an illustrated talk by Piers Townshend, Conservator / Restorer, Tate Britain on Thursday 16th February, 7pm to 8.30pm.  Piers Townshend, Conservator and Condition Checker for the 'Degas and Ballet' Exhibition at the RA, leads this illustrated talk. Tickets £10, booking essential 020 7930 6844 to book.
  • Demonstrations in the Gallery:
    • Tuesday 14th February 2012 (12noon to 1pm): Angela A'Court 'Talking and Working'
    • Wednesday 15th 2012 (11am to 4pm): Peter Vincent 'Work in Progress' demo
    • Thursday 16th February 2012 (1pm to 5pm): Roy Wright 'Work in Progress' demo
    • Friday 17th February (11am to 3pm): Felicity House 'Painting in the Gallery'
    • Monday 20th February 2012 (from 10.30am): John Tookey 'Work in Progress' demo
    • Wednesday 22nd February 2012 (11.30am to 3pm): Ann Wilkinson demo
    • Thursday 23rd February 2012 (1pm to 5pm): Sue Relph 'Portrait Drawing'.
  • Pastel Society Workshops - a range of workshops between 16 February and 24 february.  Please call 020 7930 6844 or email info@mallgalleries.com to book. £50 per day (or £45 per day if booking four).
How to enter this exhibition

This is my post about how to enter this year's exhibition - Call for Entries: Pastel Society 113th Annual Exhibition in 2012.  

The new information for 2013 when available will probably appear first on the "Call for Entries" section of the Mall Galleries website - see Pastel Society - Registration and Submission.  There will also be a post on this blog.

This is the page you need to read if you are seeking election to membership - it takes two years.

Previous exhibitions


  1. Thank you for the great review, Katherine. It looks like there was a great variety of subject matter and styles - excellent stuff.

  2. Thank you for your great article, very interesting!

  3. I spent a most enjoyable visit to this exhibition yesterday and I'm amazed how alike our views are. I thought the detail of Sophie's work incredible. Liz's water pictures also caught my eye. Another artist I picked out was Cheryl Culver. I loved the colours of her tree paintings. Some of the falling leaves looked almost luminous. They made a nice group and I thought the frames complemented the paintings beautifully.

  4. Cheryl's work is great - and she's agreed to do an interview for this blog!


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