Monday, June 29, 2015

The John Ruskin Prize 2015: Call for Entries

The John Ruskin Prize 2015 invites artists to submit entries in a range of 2D media in response to the theme: ‘Recording Britain Now: Society’. The First Prize is £5,000 and there's a runner up prize of £2,000 and a student prize of £1,000.

The theme - Recording Britain Now

The theme for the third year of this competition is ‘Recording Britain Now: Society’.
This year we invite emerging and established artists to respond to the theme: Recording Britain Now: Society, to re-assess their practice and focus on the prevalent social issues of 2015/16. In the same way that Recording Britain sought to map familiar townscapes and countryside under threat, this will be an invitation to engage with a society in rapid transition. (my red)

Recording Britain Now - The History

Starting last year, the competition is riffing on Kenneth Clark's initiative during the second world war to "Recording Britain Now". This was an initiative which was an extension of the Official War Artist Scheme and I guess was the artistic side of the wish to record how life was being lived in the UK on the outbreak of war.

The aim was formally expressed as:
‘secure a record of historic scenes, site and buildings which may be endangered through enemy action or by utilitarian encroachment.’
  • The collection of artwork which resulted from the initiative is now housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It includes more than 1,500 watercolours and drawings "of lives and landscapes at a time of imminent change".  If you visit the Prints and Drawings Study Room you make a request to see the artwork from the Recording Britain project (click the link to see examples of work in the collection)
  • The Scottish end of the 'Recording Scotland' project is housed in the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St. Andrews.

Recording Britain Now - now!

I think it's a splendid idea to continue with this theme! For the 2014 competition the theme was very broad
The theme of the second prize exhibition is Recording Britain Now. Artists were invited to 
...present fresh, contemporary visions of their urban, rural or social environment.
The subsequent exhibition was shown at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery for five months accompanying the V&A tour of Recording Britain. Then it moved to the gallery Trinity Buoy Wharf. in East London (next to the Royal Drawing Schools's annexe) for a second showing in November - which is when I saw it - see Recording Britain Now - exhibition and prizewinner.

Winner of the John Ruskin Prize 2014Slowly creeping by Maggie Hargreaves
Here it is (right) hanging in the exhibition at The Electrician's Shop Gallery
- the door gives some scale
The winning drawing was purchased by Architect Mike Davies, a founding partner of the Richard Rogers Partnership who has worked on the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Millenium Dome now known as the O2).

Recording Britain in 2015

What makes it different for 2015 is the emphasis on "society". I'm guessing that might be because a lot of the work in last year's show had lots of unpeopled landscapes!

The John Ruskin Prize - how to enter

Who can enter

The John Ruskin Prize is open to anyone 18 or over, resident or domiciled in the UK.

What you can enter

The work entered MUST be:
  • two dimensional 
  • relief work and book art are also eligible 
  • Time-based media, photography and sculpture are not eligible.
  • should not exceed 2.5 metres in any direction (that's 8.2 feet for the old imperialists amongst you).  You might want to note that the work which won last year was BIG!
  • how large some of the drawings are
  • how some large drawings are not framed but rather are suspended from fishing wire lopped through small bulldog clips which attach to the sheet of paper. This seems to be have become an accepted way of showing large works on paper - if for no other reason than everybody avoids the problems with weight and the risk of broken glass!
Recording Britain Now - exhibition and prizewinner
  • must be available for inclusion in the two exhibitions (see dates below)
  • made in the last five years
  • represented by a high resolution jpeg image submitted with the entry form and fee


  • Deadline for Entries: 23 November 2015
  • Notification re. selection: 15 December 2015

How to enter

  • decide how many artworks you are entering (the fees reduce as the number of artworks increase)
  • complete the online entry form at the bottom of
  • (Note you can also print out the form, apply offline and pay by cheque)
  • complete the image details - title, date, media and dimensions
  • submit the form
  • pay the fees via PayPal.

The Selection Panel

The Selection Panel's job is to
  • identify and shortlist 15 artists for the Prize and 
  • select work by them for inclusion in 2 showings of the Recording Britain Now: Society exhibition.
For the 2015 competition the panel comprises:
The competition is organised by the Campaign for Drawing in collaboration with the Guild of St George and The Pilgrim Trust.

The Exhibition

The exhibition can be viewed in 2016 at:
  • The New Art Gallery Walsall, Recording Britain Now: Society, 26 February – 17 April 2016
  • The Electrician’s Shop (Gallery), Trinity Buoy Wharf, London in early summer 2016.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Do Hobby Artists need to complete Tax Returns?

This weekend I got my Notice to complete a tax return from HM Revenue & Customs. It shouted at me "It's time to complete your tax return"!

My tax return - with the personal bits removed
Do you think you need to complete Tax Return?

Do hobby artists need to complete Tax Returns?

The simple answer is "it depends".

In the UK, a hobby artist can find out if they have to complete a tax return by completing a very simple questionnaire called Check if you need to fill in a Self Assessment tax return which is available on the main government website.

Here are some reasons why people who are not full time professional artists living in the UK might need to complete a tax return:
  • you were self-employed - you can deduct allowable expenses. I'm retired and self-employed (on a part-time basis) so I complete a tax return.  All serious artists should be completing a tax return.
  • you got £2,500 or more in untaxed income (contact the helpline if it was less than £2,500)
  • you had income from abroad that you needed to pay tax on - for all those selling artwork or otherwise generating income outside the UK - no matter how little money you made and no matter which account it's currently sitting in.
Essentially the first difference between being self-employed and casual income is the degree of intent and organisation. Income might qualify as casual income (eg hobby artist) if making AND SELLING art is occasional and/or not very organised and/or of very low value (say, under £2,500 per year). The second difference is the extent to which you can claim expenses. You can claim expenses related to running a business if that's what you are doing.
You are probably self-employed if you:
  • run your own business and take responsibility for its success or failure
  • have several customers at the same time
  • can decide how, when and where you do your work 
  • are free to hire other people to do the work for you or help you at your own expense
  • provide the main items of equipment to do your work
You can reference Tax Tips for Artists on my Art Business - for Artists website - which includes advice for hobby artists from those who advise about tax.

Do read my Ten Tax Tips for Artists and Ten More Tax Tips for Artists

Don't Forget

The tax year is from 6 April to 5 April the following year
If you get an email or letter from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) telling you send a return, you must send it - even if you don’t have any tax to pay.
Plus you must pay tax on all earned income (net of allowable expenses) above your personal tax allowance.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Add Value: take fewer photos and draw more

This is a video from The School of Life which is well worth watching if you've ever wondered what's good about drawing from life and why photography can get in the way of appreciating what we see.

It focuses on:
  • how cameras get in the way of looking
  • how drawing enables us to see more in the world around us
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlass by John Ruskin
Pen, brown ink, ink wash (lamp-back) and bodycolour,
47.7 x 32.7 cm.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
You can find the text of the narrative here On the Importance of Drawing page on their website
‘Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that yo u went down such and such a lane.
John Ruskin, quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
I think Alain de Botton is also narrating The School of Life video.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

BP Portrait 2015 - Artists with their paintings

Here are some of the artists who have a portrait in the BP Portrait Exhibition. I've ordered the artists by country. Click the images to see a larger version.

You can also view the websites of more of the artists selected for this year's exhibition via my earlier post Selected Artists - BP Portrait Award 2015.

Leslie Watts (Canada)

Charlotte and Emily by Leslie Watts
Egg Tempera on claybord
This is the delightful Canadian artist Leslie Watts with her portrait of "Charlotte and Emily". It's a diptych painted using egg tempera on clayboard. She had the arched frames made specially and the reverse of the portrait is padded and upholstered with beautiful red material. If you get to the exhibition take a peek - you can just see it if you put your head against the wall. Plus note the uncanny way the girls come out of their frames! This is her blog Leslie Watts Portraits and this is her Twitter account.

If you're wondering about Leslie's T shirt, the motif belongs to a new art society - the International Midnight Painters' Society - ask her about it via Twitter!

Jorge Abbad Jaime de Aragón (Spain)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2015

In 2015, the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club has moved from the "last exhibition before Christmas" slot to the "opens at the same time as the RA Summer Exhibition" slot. Which, to my mind makes a lot of sense. The NEAC were after all the anglicised version of the Impressionist revolt against the anglican and academic equivalent of the Paris Salon ie the Royal Academy of Arts. (You can read more about the illustrious history of NEAC on their website).

I went to see it last week - and apologies for the late review but my broadband got caught up in roadworks which it didn't like, plus I got taken out by the tiredness associated with the severe pain from a shoulder disorder! It's not been a good week.

View of the West Gallery
More from the West Gallery
There are 397 artworks in the exhibition which is hung throughout the three galleries. A further 12 works were shortlisted for The Haworth Prize for landscape painting and drawing and are hung in the Threadneedle Space
The Prize, sponsored by The Haworth Trust is for young artists (aged 35 years and under) living and working in the North of England, creating work inspired by their surroundings.
The Haworth Prize for landscape painting and drawing12 shortlisted works selected from 100 entries

Information for artists contemplating an entry next year

Over 1,000 artworks were submitted digitally as part of the open entry. Of these some 300 were called in for further review and 94 were selected to hang in the exhibition. That means:
  • odds of being hung if you enter are slightly less than 10%
  • odds of being hung if you are asked to submit work to the gallery is a bit less than 1:3 which is pretty good and definitely worth the shipping costs.
I'll write more about the exhibition and the prizewinners below but first - for the skimmers - here are the details of the exhibition

Facts about the exhibition

Incidentally, there appears to be no specific page for the exhibition with a commentary on the website. While the Home Page provides the very basic details, the only link in the exhibitions section of the website points to the call for entries page on the Mall Galleries website. I think this is a major omission for an important event which needs to be remedied.


I noted that there were fewer prizes than in the past. On the other hand, it's worth noting that one of the things about the NEAC exhibition is that it has some pretty decent cash prizes.

The Mall Galleries website has a dedicated page for the prizewinners which includes excellent large images so I won't replicate them here.

The prizewinners are:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Video Interview with Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015

Matan Ben Cnaan, the Winner of the First Prize in the at the BP Portrait Exhibition 2015 kindly gave me a video interview last week.

Judging by the coverage of the exhibition that I've found via Google, this interview is the only one with the artist where there is anything new to say beyond what was produced by the National Portrait Gallery as part of their press release.

We talked about:
  • how he came to enter the BP Portrait Award
  • how the process worked for him
  • the difference made by the fact the first round is now 100% digital entry
  • what it was like being without the painting - until he saw it again in the gallery 

It also includes an interesting comment on looking at the painting and looking at a photo of the painting!  That's one which I hope a few people will ponder on!

Matak Ben Cnaan with his visually arresting portrait of 
"Annabelle and Guy
which won the £30,000 First Prize in
the BP Portrait Award 2915

About Matan Ben Cnaan

Matan lives and works in Emek-Jezreel in the north of Israel and he is the first Israeli artist to win the award. (I have to apologise to Matan for the fact I got the name of the valley he lives in wrong in my video!)

He initially trained as an art teacher. In 2007, he graduated with a B.Ed degree in Fine Arts and Educational Sciences from Oranim Academic College. He then went on to do a Masters Degree in Fine art at Haifa University.

Pn his website he talks about his work....
I am a contemporary Israeli painter. In my work I study and capture the local Israeli with a non-romantic yet sentimental view. The land and its people partake equally in my view of today’s Israel.... Politics as well as Historical and Biblical themes are for me like the mythological and religious inspirations for the Old Masters creations. 
This is:
You can read more about the painting in my previous two posts:

More videos about the BP Portrait

You can find my interviews with previous BP Portrait Award Winners on Making A Mark - the Video Channel on YouTube. This is my Portrait and Travel Awards Playlist

These include other Winners of the First Prize:
Plus other winners of the second and third prizes - including this year's second place prizewinner - Michael Gaskell - BP Portrait Award 2015 (2nd Prize)

The Exhibition

You can see the 2015 BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

More about the BP Portrait 2015

BP Portrait Award - previous years

I've been covering the BP Portrait Award for some years and have an extensive archive of posts relating to previous competitions which I know are much studied by those contemplating an entry!

BP Portrait Award - Shortlisted artists on Making A Mark:

BP Portrait award 2014

BP Portrait Award 2013

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2007

Friday, June 19, 2015

Michael Gaskell (2nd Prize BP Portrait 2015) - a video interview

Apologies to those who sat and waited last night for this video interview with Michael Gaskell who this week won the second prize of £10,000 in the BP Portrait Award 2015.

I've finally found a work round for the appalling broadband problems I've been having while enormous holes are dug in the road next to the BT Street box!

Michael Gaskell BP Portrait Award 2015 - 2nd prizewinner
Michael has now won the second prize FOUR TIMES!  He last won 2nd prize in 2010 didn't submit work for five years, submitted a new portrait this year and won 2nd prize again - with his very first portrait painting in acrylic!

He is "Mr Consistent". He's also one of the artists I'd want to shortlist the person I'd want painting any children I had....

The video was filmed in the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Apologies for my "shouty" voice - there was a considerable din from artists chatting to artists in the preview! :)

In the video you can hear him talking about:
I have to confess, I think a lot of people are secretly pleased that Michael did not win first prize as it means he gets to submit work again in future! :)

By way of contrast, consider the experience of this year's winner Matan Ben Cnaan, (like Thomas Ganter last year and Aleah Chapin in 2012) who enter once - and win - and never ever return! That's because because all artists winning the prize cannot enter again.

I've got a number of other videos to share with you about the BP Portrait Award. These are:
  • a quick trot around the exhibition for those of you who can't get to London
  • an interview with Matan Ben Cnaan who won first prize
  • an interview with Lee Myles Simmonds, age 18 who has yet to start art school but has a very good portrait in the exhibition
  • an interview with Edward Sutcliffe and Katie Haber about his BP Travel Award project about the Compton Cricket Club in south Los Angeles.
I have my fingers crossed the current solution that the videos will upload and publish without a problem.

Major Broadband problems

I'm having HORRENDOUS problems with upload speed at present due to the road being dug up around my local BT box in the street. I've currently got a massive error rate on my broadband line which started earlier this week with the actions of the heavy duty diggers.

Green BT box next to a very big hole in the street!
This pic struggled to upload....
I'm not quite sure when the works end or how long it will take for BT to fix whatever problems the digging has caused.  (That big hole is where a road drain should be!)

This means that:
  • uploads of videos are proving to be impossible - and I can barely upload a photo to this blog post right now.  
  • I'm going to have to defer my BP Portrait Award posts until next week when I can include the trot around the exhibition and the interviews with artists on video.  
  • I will try and post more normal posts - but right now my broadband is close to falling over.
Apologies for my last post which I have now removed and will repost once things get back to normal.

Coming up next - if I can get it posted - is a review of the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club at the Mall Galleries - but that's after my weekend shop and a new ADSL micro filter to eliminate that as a possible fault - just to be on the safe side!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Israeli artist Matan Ben Cnaan wins BP Portrait Prize 2015

The winners of the prizes at the BP Portrait Awards Ceremony last night are as follows....

BP Portrait Award 2015 - £30,000 First Prize

35-year-old Israeli artist Matan Ben-Cnaan won the £30,000 first prize and a commission worth £5,000 for his painting of Annabelle and Guy.

Matan Ben Cnaan, Winner of the BP Portrait 2015 First Prize
with this painting of Annabelle and Guy
Judges’ comments - Annabelle and Guy: ‘The judges were struck by the engaging filmic narrative of this neo-Realist painting and the unnerving atmosphere that surrounds it. The painting’s setting and the treatment of intense light and deep shadow was much admired.’
Apparently in addition to not knowing who painted the portrait, the judges also know nothing of the story behind the painting when judging.

This portrait is a contemporary reworking of the echo of the Biblical story of Jephthah.
In this story an Israelite judge vowed on entering battle that should he win, he will sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his home-coming, believing it to be a dog. However, on his return, it is his daughter who rushes out in welcome. Realising the tragic mistake he has made, he upholds his vow and sacrifices his child.
I think it's fair to say that not everybody would be familiar with the story despite the fact that it's been the subject of many paintings over the year (check out the Internet as I just did for Jephthah's vow). However if you have renowned art historian Simon Schama on the panel of Judges it's very unlikely he didn't recognise the allegorical content.

I think it's also unusual in that it's set out to be an allegorical painting of a historical story as opposed to a contemporary portrait of two people and their dog.  It's always good to see paintings with content!

BP Portrait Award First Prize - Presentation Ceremony
(Left to right) Simon Schama, Matan Ben Cnaan, Dr Nicholas Cullinan
(the new Director of the National Portrait Gallery) and Carl-Henric Svanberg the Chairman of BP
TIP for future BP entries:

  • Think about the story about your portrait - and whether that portrait tells that story
  • Think about the judges and what they might bring to the choice of content
  • There's one point about the painting which the judges don't appear to have noticed - and to be honest neither did I. However other artists who have entered the competition have keener eyes and have been commenting about the missing shadows from the chair legs. So check your shadows before you submit your entry!

Second Prize: £10,000

Winner of the BP Portrait Award Second Prize (£10,000) - Michael Gaskell
with his portrait of Eliza
Judges’ comments - Eliza: ‘The judges agreed that this is a highly accomplished portrait, revealing the influence of Vermeer and Dutch seventeenth-century paintings while also a having a seemingly modern, timeless quality.’
An audible groan went up from the audience last night when people realised that Simon Schama, who was announcing the prizes, was starting to describe Michael Gaskell as the second prizewinner.

I don't think Simon Schama quite understood the reason although many in the audience did.

The reason being - besides lots of people liking his portrait - was because Michael has won the BP portrait award second prize THREE times before. I spoke to him beforehand and he wasn't optimistic about winning and I guess that's the way to play it if you have been so near and yet missed out so many times before.

However the good thing is he hasn't entered for five years - since the last time he won second prize - and he's in the top three again!  That's quite some record!

He's even switched from oils to acrylics and believe it or not taught himself how to paint with acrylics with this painting! (I'll be checking this out with him in my interview with him this morning).

Eliza is a second portrait of his niece Eliza. She sat for him in early 2014 at the age of 14, having first sat for a portrait for her uncle when she was a very small child.  You can see a large digital image of the portrait on his blog
In a lot of significant art competitions, the first prize is £10,000. However in this competition that's the value of the second prize. It's quite some consolation for coming second.

Third Prize £8,000

Spanish artist Borja Buces Renard, 36 won the third prize of £8,000 for My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening.

Winner of the BP Portrait Award 3rd Prize (£7,000) - Borja Buces Renard
for his painting My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening.
Judges’ comments - My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening: ‘The judges were drawn to the intensity of the relationship depicted between this couple, which was assumed to be that of mother and son. There was much admiration for the loose, unfinished quality of the painting.’
This is a portrait of his mother Paloma and his brother Jaime in the living room of his parents’ house. His father who had been ill for some time passed away a few weeks after the painting was finished.

You can read more about the paintings of the prize-winning artists in my earlier blog post Shortlist for £30000 BP Portrait Award 2015 announced

Young Artist of the Year

New York based artist Eleana Antonaki, 25, won The BP Young Artist Award for a portrait of her friend and emerging artist Julie Laenkhom

Eleana Antonaki - Winner of the BP Portrait 2015 - The Young Artist Award
Judges’ comments – J.: ‘The judges were intrigued by the enigmatic, futuristic narrative of this painting, which was quite unlike any other in the competition. They felt that this portrait successfully explores the isolation of contemporary life.’

BP Travel Award 2015

French artist Magali Cazo won the BP Travel Award 2015

She proposes to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa. Magali was inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape, the architecture and the clothes on a previous visit to Bobo-Dioulasso. Her work will be displayed in next year's exhibition

Magali Cazo - Winner of the BP Travel Award 2015

More about the BP Portrait Exhibition 2015

As per usual, this week I will be doing a series of blog posts about the exhibition including:

  • video interviews with the prizewinners
  • a post about the exhibition by the winner of the BP Travel Award 2014
  • a review of and video walk around the exhibition

Don't forget to check back to read more about this very prestigious competition

The BP Portrait Award 2015 Exhibition opens to the public on Thursday at the National Portrait Gallery.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Summer Exhibition on the BBC

The BBC's coverage of the RA Summer Exhibition 2015 includes:
Plus it highlights one of the RA's own short films about the exhibition from the perspective of individuals - with Harry Hill at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition

BBC Arts article - includes an interview with Michael Craig-Martin,the curator of the RA Summer Exhibition 2015

The annual BBC Summer Exhibition documentary

To my mind the format for the annual documentary film by the BBC has become very tired. It's exactly the same every year.
  • interview with the curator
  • highlight some key feature of the exhibition
  • follow three artists as they go through the process of entering the exhibition and then finding out if they've got in
  • BBC journalists act as judges and select five pieces - and then discover whether they have made it into the exhibition
  • glitz and glam segment for the Opening Night Party

Mind you, the BBC website in one respect is better than last year when I reviewed The new BBC Arts Website (07 Jun 2014) and wrote
A review of the BBC Arts website and issues around design accessibility. ... Just try finding a link to tonight's BBC2 programme "The Summer Exhibition: BBC Arts at the Royal Academy" - it's absolutely nowhere to be seen!
This year's BBC Arts front page is below and as you can see the Summer Exhibition gets a significant profile.

BBC Arts 'front page' where there are not one but two articles about the Summer Exhibition
plus Tracy Emin thrown in for free

Documentary Plus Points


  • I do like the short interviews with the artists who got through the digital stage. They include some short sound bites which illuminate what it's like for the artist.
  • It's always illuminating for those submitting work to see how fast the works go fast the selectors
  • the hang process is always fascinating and I always love hearing Norman Ackroyd talking about anything to do with the Summer Exhibition.


  • the interviews with the serious art people e.g. Michael Craig-Martin, the RA Archivist, Norman Ackroyd and Tom Phillips are illuminating and worthwhile.

2015 Exhibition - curatorial emphasis (i.e. what makes it different!)

I also like the way the programme gives a serious profile to the emphasis introduced in the 2015 Exhibition by Michael Craig-Martin
  • the RA Schools which are funded by the ticket sales and submission fees earned from the exhibition. Michael Craig-Martin is very keen on highlighting the art education aspects of the exhibition.
  • the profile given to the great artists (Blake, Constable, Turner, Millais) who have studied at the RA Schools was interesting
  • the emphasis on the older mature artists - and the celebration of the lost generation of living artists - instigated by Michael Craig-Martin is an important inclusion, particularly the interview with Rose Hilton which was fascinating.

BBC Annual Exhibition Report Form: "could try harder"

The introduction to this year's documentary is awful, cliched and has managed to go downmarket.
Kirsty Wark and Morgan Quaintance visit the Royal Academy as it prepares for its annual artistic extravaganza. They meet the cast of people who have come together to make the show unique - Michael Craig-Martin, the godfather of Brit Art, in his role as chief curator, singer/songwriter Jessie Ware as she leads the charge at the opening night party, and a handful of talented aspiring artists from across the nation who submitted their paintings in hope of a place in this hallowed institution.
For a start, Kirsty Wark now seems to fill the role of some sort of expert art collector and the documentary no longer seems to merit a serious art journalist (e.g. Alastair Sooke, Waldemar Januszczak or Andrew Graham-Dixon) with any street cred.
  • Maybe because the format is so tired and none of them want to be associated with it?  
  • Or because the BBC is cutting costs?
  • Or because the Director decided he wanted somebody more edgy - which is why we get a contributor to several contemporary art magazines and blogs who's actually more interested in music and sound design. Maybe this then explains why so much of the programme is given over to a singer who has never been to the exhibition before whose opinions are sought and who then sings at the "celebrity party"
Next it managed to get 'glamour' and 'celebrity' into the opening sentences summarising the documentary - treating the arts audience as if it were some offshoot of the Daily Mail!

The curator Michael Craig-Martin is then portrayed as some 'Don' like figure and described as "the Godfather of Brit Art".

Three points about the cliche and tiredness of the format
  1. It's just plain BAD to keep doing the same thing year after year. The exhibition is DIFFERENT every year
  2. To my mind it's insulting to the very many artists and art lovers around the country who deserve a better and more intelligent approach.
  3. We actually get to see incredibly little of the art
Most particularly the BBC need to remember this programme is supposed to be about an Art Exhibition and not some "celebrity entertainment" or more general "arts show".

Is the BBC really not aware that art and art exhibitions contribute significantly to the economy - particularly in London where they are a major generator of revenue streams?

To illustrate my point - very little of what I heard during my introduction to the exhibition by Michael Craig-Martin and others who curated the show and organised the rooms bears any resemblance to what's in the film.  I heard serious contributions in the Main Galleries. In the documentary the only serious contribution comes in the interviews with the RA people - but it's hitting headlines and soundbites for the most part.

Somebody also really needs to rewrite scripts which describe "a couple of surprise celebrities" who "submit their work every year".  If you featured one of the celebrities in the programme last year it's hardly a surprise is it?

Here's a challenge for the BBC

  1. Why not revisit the format and give it a makeover and refresh - and make it less dumbed down?
  2. Why the emphasis on amateur 'kitchen sink' artists re. those submitting work? 
    • Why not feature more of the professional artists who aspire to get into the exhibition? 
    • Why not show more of their processes for creating art - and in doing so provide the kitchen sink artists with some free education?
  3. Why is it a good idea to highlight three artists who create their representative artwork at home with no reference subject in front of them apart from a photograph? 
    • Are the BBC saying this is a normal way to create art?  
    • Is it a balanced perspective on the art on display in the exhibition?
  4. Why is it a good idea to highlight a celebrity creating a portrait based on the cover of Time Magazine?  Did anybody mention whether or not the photographer gave his permission?
  5. Why misrepresent the content and only focus on only drawing and painting? 
    • Given that the prints are always one of the most popular rooms in the exhibition, why not look at what it takes for non RAs to produce a good fine art print 
    • or a sculpture 
    • or an exhibition quality photograph? 

and finally......

I reread some of my past comments about the exhibition in doing this post. It appears that a number of the weaknesses of the Exhibition which I've highlighted in the past (and I'm sure I wasn't the only one!) have been addressed this year by the RA.

It's now time for the BBC to do likewise!


My previous blog posts about this year's exhibition

Exhibition details

  • The exhibition is at Burlington House in Piccadilly, the home of the RA until 16th August 2015
  • It's open Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm and Friday 10am – 10pm
  • Admission is £13.50 (without donation £12). Concessions available. Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Last of the Tide: Portraits of D-Day Veterans

HRH Prince of Wales has commissioned twelve portraits of D-Day veterans which can be seen in an exhibition called The Last of the Tide at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace until 17 June 2015.

The idea behind the exhibition is to pay tribute to those extraordinary men who played a role in the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June 1944.  The title of the exhibition comes from a message to the troops.
On the eve of D-Day General Eisenhower sent a message to all troops in which he declared, 'The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!'.
Twelve leading portrait painters were selected for the commission - one for each portrait. They include:
Other artists are: Clara DrummondPeter Kuhfeld (painter of "The Last Tommy"), Jonathan Yeo and Martin Yeoman

The exhibition opened on 6th June - the 71st anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. The D-Day Landings involved  some 7,700 ships and 12,000 aircraft  and began the slow process of liberatingGerman-occupied France. It was and still is the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Prior to this in 2010 HRH The Prince of Wales commissioned 15 portraits of surviving servicemen by alumni and faculty of The Royal Drawing School (previously known as The Prince’s Drawing School), to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Admission to the exhibition is free.

Below you can see the portraits and hear something of what the men were involved in.

My thanks to the Press Office of the Royal Collection for the images you see in this post. Obviously not everybody is going to be able to get to see the exhibition - however this important series needs highlighting - hence this post.

The portraits - the men and the artists

'I am delighted to introduce this exhibition of portraits of veterans of the D-Day landings and very much hope that all who see it will share my belief that this wonderful collection of paintings captures the spirit, resolve, warmth and humanity of these remarkable men. It seemed to me a tragedy that there were no portraits of D-Day veterans, hence this collection of remarkable old soldiers from the regiments of which my wife and I are Colonel or Colonel-in-Chief.'HRH The Prince of Wales 
The 12 veterans all served in regiments with which HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have a formal association.

They are all shown wearing their medals win during WW2.

Thomas ‘David’ Burke (b. 1924) - Sergeant with Royal Signals and later the Cheshire Yeomanry
Artist: © James Lloyd | Photograph: © Royal Collection Trust
Mr Burke landed with Canadian forces as a signals sergeant and served through France and Germany until the Nazi surrender. He subsequently worked with the Allied Joint Signals Unit at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, and became part of the Cheshire Yeomanry after the war.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review - Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition 2015

I've had an ambivalent relationship with the Society of Women Artists in the past.
  • In principle, I support the idea of an art society intentionally made up of women as too often the artwork of women artists has been overlooked. 
  • On the other hand, I'm also an unequivocal advocate of art societies being rigorous with their selection process and only showing the best work submitted - irrespective of whether it was by members or from the open entry.
A few years back I used to go to the annual exhibitions of the Society of Women Artists - but stopped going as, to my mind, the exhibition was little better than the annual exhibitions of some rather more parochial art societies. In other words it offered no great merit or reason to attend and I certainly wasn't motivated to review it.

View of the 154th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Women Artists at the Mall Galleries
Last month I had an invite from the Society to attend their private view of the 154th Annual Exhibition.

Last week was a very sad one for me and I needed some time out so I didn't go to the PV but instead visited yesterday afternoon instead.

I'm pleased to say that the exhibition is much improved 

View of the West Gallery towards the end of the afternoon
and has a healthy contribution from both its open entry....

A very sensible approach to hanging work from the open entry
 on what is a very pronounced blue wall in the North Gallery
.....and the young artists section.

 Artwork by Young Artists exhibited at the Society of Women Artists Exhibition 2015
Artwork by Young Artists
exhibited at the Society of Women Artists Exhibition 2015
At the same time, like others I have commented on in the past, it's very clearly the case that there is still scope to improve further and some of the comments made in this post are made with that in mind. To those on the Executive, you should know I have made similar suggestions to other societies in the past! Most of which seem to actually act on them! :)

Below you will find:
  • my commentary on the exhibition
  • the prizewinners
  • the artwork I liked
  • details of the exhibition and the remaining demonstrations

The exhibition challenge

The challenge for an art society like the SWA is that the only commonality is all the artists are women.

Monday, June 08, 2015

10 reasons why the RA Summer Exhibition 2015 might surprise you

People are going to be surprised by the Summer Exhibition 2015 which opens today at the Royal Academy of Arts

It's changed and it's better lit and some galleries are a lot more colourful.

Captcha No.11 (Doryphoros) by Matthew Derbyshire
Applied Projection Rig by Liam Gillick
I saw it last week and below you can find a summary of the reasons why this year's exhibition is different.

It's a really difficult exhibition to get right. That's in part because it continues to be the largest open art exhibition in the world.

What's the best way to display and show 1,131 artworks - some of which are by very celebrated (and very expensive) artists while others are by people who are less well known - and sell for a lot less?

On top of this the Hanging Committee don't have much of a clue as to what they will be asked to hang until they start.

That's because they only know what has come through the open entry. They don't have a clue what members are going to submit!

Plus each Co-ordinator likes to 'make their mark' on the exhibition - and this year a number of artists were invited to make work for the show or create an installation specific to the galleries.

The stairs up the Summer ExhibitionZobop - an installation in coloured vinyl tape by Jim Lambie 
It seems to be making a habit of visiting art galleries....
There's got to be an infinite number of ways it can be done (You can see how this installation was put together on the website.) and inevitably it's quite likely that some parts work better than others. That's certainly the case this year - as I will reveal below.

However, put simply, I found it one of the most pleasing Summer Exhibitions I've seen in a while. I liked the fact that somebody who understands structure and colour has co-ordinated what it looks like.

Below if you click the link embedded in the Gallery nameit will take you to a view of the artwork on display in that Gallery

1. The layout of the exhibition and rooms have changed significantly

Michael Craig-Martin RA was appointed co-ordinator of this year's summer exhibition. He's apparently a big fan of the main galleries in Burlington House and wanted them to be used in a classical way with big feature pieces at the end of the eyeline when looking along lengthy views across and through the galleries

Richard Long's large artwork Mississippi River Blues is the feature on the far wall as soon as you enter Gallery III
He also felt that the traditional layout for different categories of work was also not working as well as it might do.