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:

  • The Haworth Prize for landscape painting and drawing (£4,000) - Cropton Forest 1  (charcoal, graphite and pastel drawing 35x38 inches) by Janine  Baldwin (graduated 2001) 
  • The Zsuzsi Roboz Prize (£5,000) - Corner of the Studio II by Arthur Neal NEAC b.1951
  • The Doreen McIntosh Prize (£5,000) - Woman at a Table by James Bland NEAC  b. 1979.  James was elected as a member of NEAC in 2014. I've previously commented on James' paintings in this post. This is his Facebook Page
  • The Winsor & Newton Award (£500) - Late January Pears by Michael Weller b.1965
  • The NEAC Critics' Prize (£250) - Clifton Suspension Bridge, Contre Jour, January by Tom Hughes  
  • The Prize of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers (£200) - Self 2015 by Michael Whittlesea NEAC b. 1938 (who could do with upgrading to a responsive tenplate for his website)
  • The Dry Red Press Award - A Walk Across the Fields by June Berry NEAC b.1924 


NEAC claims that
The New English represents the very best of contemporary British figurative painting.
Just how different they are from the figurative paintings and drawings which are now shown by the RA members is a moot point. Especially as a number of members of NEAC are also members of the RA.

Just how figurative some of the artwork is - is also a moot point.

More important is the difference between the artwork in the West gallery and Threadneedle Space (mainly members) and the North Gallery (mainly open entry). I have to say on balance I enjoyed the North Gallery more than the work shown in the bigger gallery spaces.

That's maybe because I found the feature wall as you entered the gallery to be dominated by paintings which were too grey and sombre. The flattened the whole wall. I've not included an image - but I heard from other people in the exhibition and they felt the same way. The mud grey sucked life out of the wall. Such paintings need lots of space around them and they are not a good choice for an art society exhibition. (I've made the same a comment in the past at another NEAC exhibition two years ago)

By way of contrast I remember vividly the annual exhibition in 2010 which was a complete joy. and a pleasure to walk round. My feeling is that NEAC is on its way back up from the pit it dug itself into in 2013 - but has some way to go to get back to the standards of some of the excellent exhibitions it has put on in the past.

Below are some of the walls in the North Gallery - which reminded me more of NEAC exhibitions I used to really like.

Artwork in the North Gallery #1
I liked the Borders landscapes with furrows by Donald Ritchie b.1938
and 'View with a room" by Haidee-Jo Summers (bottom right)
Artwork in the North Gallery #2
The painting in the centre is by Hugo Grenville and is priced at £15,000.
He is a non member and has to have one of the most unusual CVs I've ever read!
Artwork in the North Gallery #3
I particularly liked Felicity House's drawing of the Venice Fish Markey (top right) - as did Ken Howard who bought it
Bridget Moores blossom trees - in gouache - kept catching my eye
Artwork in the North Gallery #4
one gallery was more or less devoted to monochrome drawings and prints
I'm wondering if this is because the artwork in the North Galleries is typically produced by younger artists?  Yet I'm no spring chicken (I'm the proud owner of a Boris Card) and when I say young I guess I actually mean middle aged - meaning younger than me!

Nonetheless when a lot of the art elsewhere in the exhibition is by artists older than me then I think there's a problem which needs to be addressed.  I think I'm going to start including birth years to underline the point.

That said it's good to see that NEAC is recruiting 'young blood'. I think maybe it needs to sit down and start addressing succession planning as an organisational initiative.  After all an art society which helps artists with their careers needs to start doing this somewhere rather nearer the beginning of their careers if it is to have any sort of beneficial impact.

That said the following artists can do very little wrong in my eyes and the majority are older artists! They are:
  • Richard Bawden NEAC, RWS b.1936 - I'm totally taken with the way he combines drawing and watercolour, observation and quirkiness often within a domestic interior context
Paintings by (left) Richard Bawden and (right) June Berry
Somebody should give them an exhibition together!
  • June Berry NEAC, Hon RE, RWS RWA b. 1924 - who seems to have a prodigious output of views from her house in France with no signs of dropping off in quality despite being over 90!  She's been regularly exhibiting at the RA Summer Exhibition since before I was born and I'm the proud owner of one of her paintings!  (PS. Who knew she was a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WW2?)
  • Patrick Cullen - I really liked his contre jour oil painting of canes in Tuscany. It fairly bounced off the wall and said "Look at me" - which is interesting as his other paintings are much more subdued and full of what I call "coloured greys" (as distinct from "mud" colours which I also saw elsewhere in the exhibition!) He really knows how to make colours 'sing'!
Canes against the Light, Tuscany by Patrick Cullen (£4,250)
oil, 36 x 44 inches
  • Judith Gardner NEAC - I find that I almost always like anything painted by Judith Gardner - and there seem to be quite a few people who agree with me. She has a wonderful way of painting light in low key paintings.
  • Pamela Kay NEAC RBA RWS - I've loved her still life paintings in oil or watercolour with body paint for a long time. She always used to make me think of Chardin and Manet and has displayed a very sure touch in the past.  I was pleased to see work more typical of her past work in this show. I  always associate cherries with Pamela!  I'm not sure when she was born but her working life started in 1960!
Cherries by Pamela Kay (£1,850)
Small oil paintings by Jane Corsellis (top Left) and Pamela Kay (all the ones with the red SOLD dot)
- much beloved by some art collectors
  • Ruth Stage NEAC - I adore the colours, style and approach employed by R uth Stage when working with egg tempera to create her delicious landscapes. I like the way she tilts the picture plane just enough but not too much.
Landscape paintings in egg tempera by Ruth Stage NEAC
Finally it was sad to see the last of William Bowyer's work after his death on March. His paintings have always been good to look at.

William Bowyer - self-portrait

Past Reviews

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this very thorough write-up. I just wanted to mention that the website is currently being rebuilt, a long process. While it's disappointing it wasn't ready in time for this year's show, the NEAC now has a Facebook page and a twitter account (see below) which have been going for a few months and have provided the organisation with a point of contact for enquiries, publicity, sharing news, images of members' work.
    Another novelty - I recently made a very short film about the selection process. I hope to make further films about how prizes are awarded, new members selected and so on. I hope this content will be accessible via the new website when that's up and running.
    All the best,


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