Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Threadneedle Prize Exhibition 2014

I got a little distracted last week by the installation of new technology (yay - a new iMac!) and hence did not post my review of the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition following on from:

So here is a visual overview of the exhibition with my comments on what I observed.

Threadneedle Prize Exhibition 2014

The exhibition comprises 63 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. You can see them online on the website. Visitors to the exhibition have until 5pm on Tuesday 7 October to vote for their favourite piece to win the £10,000 prize.

Works by Alan Mcgowan, Michael Sydney Moore, Freya Payne and Craig Wylie (shortlisted)
There was a long discussion before the judging started about "What is figurative?"

The consensus was that the judges wanted to give much more emphasis on the figure.

I certainly found this very evident in the content of the works selected for the exhibition.  There's a very strong emphasis on the figure although not every work includes a figure. The works selected demonstrated the diversity that exists in figurative art - with some straying fairly far into the conceptual.

Interestingly, this means that when selectors are trying to achieve diversity that only the very best of paintings of a certain type will be selected. This tends to affect those who paint in a highly realistic way.

However the diversity of selected works is not just about the style of the artwork, it's also about the diversity in the materials and media used and, importantly, how they are used.

Acrylic paint on canvas and stretcher (£4,000) by James Tailor227 x 73 x 80cm
This piece is quite literally made of paint. There is no support other than the stretcher.
By using unconventional stretchers and overlooked but recognizable objects within his work, James is trying to challenge the perception of what a painting is and encompass the world beyond the gallery into his practice. The work does this by moving away from the prototypical canvas and stretcher; a conclusion which is the result of three years of experimentation
Left: The Blade (£15,000) by Shanti Panchal (Watercolour)
- it takes a while to notice the lady has an artificial leg and is wearing a blade.
Middle: Untitled by Tom Jean Webb (£4,000) - this is a drawing on sewn cotton fabric. He also another work in the show.
Right: Two works by Alastair Gordon
Work in fabric and materials seem to become more and more popular.

If I'm honest some of the work looks better as a digital print and in the catalogue than they do when seen up close. For example, I'm convinced the selectors must have thought that the two paintings on the right above were a trompe l'oeil and that the wood support was painted - but sadly it's not. Plus even the tape is tape not paint.

Beckett and Bernini (£24,000) by Kim Meredew
Marble and granite (Chair) slate and limestone
By way of contrast, some works are far more impressive up close than as a digital print. This is an amazing work in stone was very impressive. I confess I touched the chair to check it was really marble!

Not all the works are framed. A very strong shortlisted contender for the Threadneedle Prize is hung on bulldog clips and screws in the wall. One wonders whether the reluctance to frame is actually linked to cost of framing and the cost of a courier for a large frame.

The Net (£2,000) by Thomas Allen
charcoal and sanguine, 150 x 240cm
One of the shortlisted works - hung on bulldog clips
The drawing is about the relationship between the artist and his girlfriend conducted over the internet
Another way to look at it is if it's OK to hang oil paintings on a box canvas without a frame why is it not OK to hang a drawing without a frame.  Plus some drawings without a frame have more impact!

The Conductor (£6,000) by Barbara Polderman
Mixed media, 150 x 140 x 50 cm
The very orange figure in a plastic hood in the rear room reminded me very much of the images that have been created about the military prisoners kept at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and, more recently, the images of the orange suited ISIS hostages. Whether that was the intention is another matter.

The opposable big toes in orange velour was also very disturbing!

Small works were displayed extremely well on dark grey walls - and most were presented in a very professional fashion
In general, this year's exhibition has less sculpture than I'm used to seeing - although one was shortlisted for the major prize.

Works by Carol Anderson Knight, Thomas Tichy, David Teager-Portman (shortlisted) and Tom Jean Webb
Many of the works were also very big. In fact I'd say works on the whole were mostly big or small with not a lot in the middle.

Works by Suzy Murphy, Ben Johnson and Morwenna Harrison
These are all sizeable paintings - the two on the left are figurative art without the figures
The exhibition continues until 11th October. It's open every day at the Mall Galleries from 10am to 5pm and admission is free.

The Winner of the £10,000 Visitors' Choice Award will be announced at 7pm, Wednesday 8th October at an Evening Viewing (6-8pm) of The Threadneedle Prize: Figurative Art Today and The Curated Space by Sacha Craddock. Admission Free and there is a Pop-up Bar.

Previous posts re. Threadneedle Prize

The Threadneedle Prize 2014

The Threadneedle Prize 2013

Threadneedle Prize 2012 - more from Making A Mark

2011 Threadneedle Prize

    Note: The Threadneedle Prize was established in 2008 and has the continued support of Threadneedle Investments, a leading international investment manager, demonstrating their long-term commitment to supporting the arts. Through the Threadneedle Foundation, the company is committed to investing in the community, building partnerships that create positive social impact across a range of sectors, with a particular focus on art and education.

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