Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ING Discerning Eye 2016 - award winners and review

A total of 727 works - including paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings and photographs - by 405 artists are on show at the ING Discerning Eye exhibition from 17 - 27 November 2016 at the Mall Galleries in London.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics. 
Each of the selectors has curated an exhibition from works by artists they have personally invited to exhibit, as well as artworks submitted through the Open Call for Entries. The result is six smaller exhibitions within one, each with a very distinct personality.

The unique nature of the ING Discerning Eye is that the exhibition looks very different every year - because both selectors and the way they like to hang their chosen works varies each year.

Unfortunately my osteoarthritis was playing up yet again (it's the timing - wet November evenings are never good for mobility!) and so I missed a lot of the Artists PV last Thursday - and went home before the prizes were announced as I can't stand without sitting for any length of time. However thanks are due to Parker Harris who let me photograph in the period between the end of the exhibition for that day and the opening of the PV. Which means I have photos which actually show you what the exhibition looks like rather than a lot of people's heads with paintings peeping out behind the heads!

This post will highlight:
  • something about each of the six mini exhibitions in the galleries
  • artwork I liked
  • who won which prize (and which curator chose the work!)
I'm going to do something I've not done before which is order the prizes by the selector who invited or picked the work. The link in the
  • name of the artist is to their website (or a gallery website) - where you can see more of their work
  • title is to the work on the ING Discerning Eye website.

Artist: Dan Coombs

artist and writer, currently visiting professor at Haute École d’art et de design in Geneva, 

An eclectic choice by Dan Coombs
I wasn't too sure about Dan Coombs wall to start with. It looked a lot more eclectic than most I've seen at the Discerning Eye before and without any obvious rhyme nor reason.  Some of the juxtapositions seemed very odd.

Louisa Crispin had to bend at the knee in order for me to get a photo of her
Decaying Eringium without it being swamped by the painting above!
Then I learned the story behind it.

Dan Coombs's approach to curating the exhibition:
  • he invited 60 individual artists to each select one work to submit to the exhibition - however he has no knowledge of what was arriving until he came to hang the exhibition.
  • He selected a further 78 works from the open entry and created what is possibly the biggest ever exhibition in the history of the ING Discerning Eye.
When it came to the hang he started with the orange in the middle and then connected paintings from there and worked out across the wall.

When I looked at his wall again with this in mind it made complete sense!

It makes me wonder whether each of the exhibitions should have a short narrative by the curator next to them commenting on how they selected works and hung them. I think visitors would find it very interesting.


Surge Tide, Saligo Bay (£1,750) by Chris Bushe

Artist: Chris Orr RA

Royal Academician Chris Orr RA.

He commented on the process of selection.

So what is good and bad in Art, and how do the judges choose one picture as opposed to another? In the selection process the works come at you thick and fast, brought in by a team of art handlers. You must make an instant decision. This has to be intuitive. Like going to a very large party you quickly work out who you want to talk to. There are second thoughts, for and against, but no time to do research or look for corroborating evidence. You have to trust your judgement built over years of looking. I remember the shock when I first went to Art School and was told that there was no progress in Art and that the definition of the bad in Art had changed many times. This is the last bastion of an unreasonable world where intuitive feeling trumps all the myriad orthodoxies.

Chris Orr's exhibition is in the Threadneedle Space. 
I liked this exhibition. It "hung together" for me and my eye. I also liked a lot of the pieces he had chosen.
‘I like pictures that tell a story. As well as the stories of life around us, the source may be an anecdote, the overheard snatch of conversation (mobile phones are a gift) the poem or the novel. I also have a soft spot for things that in themselves are stories. The process and evolution of a picture are part of its personality. A work might have gone through many phases of success and failure, testing and editing, clarification and mystery before it is settled, so storytelling in one form or another is the business of Art. Perhaps it all goes back to our ancient ancestors who sat around the fire repeating tales, scratching in the sand, singing songs to confirm and develop human experience.
My friend Jane Gardiner is an example of how an artist can have success if you keep submitting work of quality on a regular basis. Jane is now regularly selected for art competition exhibitions in London - despite living some distance away (Glasgow).  Last year it was Lynn Painter-Stainers and this year it was the BP Portrait Award and the ING Discerning Eye.

Jane Gardiner with her painting Under Van Dyck
Chris Orr is a printmaker and I suspect he invited Nana Shiomi to exhibit her three prints of bowls. I know I was drawn to them because I've had in mind for some time to do drawings of classical Chinese, Japanese and Korean bowls and it was really interesting for me to see how a printmaker had chosen to represent them in terms of a contemporary woodcut print.

(Left to right) Tea Bowl Universe, Tea and Tea Bowl and A Bowlful of Water each £500)
Contemporary wood cut prints by Nana Shiomi
I also loved Mychael Barratt's etching of Antony Gormley's Dog (and his website - click link in name - is just fascinating!

One of the nice things for printmakers is that although the priced work is the framed work, printmakers also have the opportunity to sell more unframed copies of their fine art prints

Antony Gormley's Dog by Mychael Barratt
ethcing 19 x 18 "


    Collector: Celia Imrie

    well-known television, film and theatre actress

    ‘I am so excited to be given this chance to invite my favourite artists to join in this vast and spectacular competition. Of all fields in the Arts surely getting started as an artist must be the hardest. So if this occasion helps display their talents to a wider audience I am very happy. 

    I really liked Celia Imrie's wall of small works below the Mezzanine. It seemed to be mostly people selected via the open entry as there were few works by the same artist - although it included a couple of pairs - including one pair in the centre by Fiona Masterton which kept drawing my eye.  There are more small works on her website which are also delightful.

    The Blackberry Bush and Little Wild Corner of Urban Life by Fiona Masterton
    My friend Felicity Flutter was very pleased to have been selected by Celia Imrie and even more pleased that her lovely painting of a wave had sold prior to the Artists Preview!

    Crashing wave by Felicity Flutter

    Winner of the DE Founder's Purchase Prize
    'Hope' Gospel Oak Station, Nocturne by Martin Brown

    (11.5 x 9.5 - Oil on Canvas) 

    Collector: Ian Mayes QC

    Master of the House at Middle Temple and Chairman of the Temple Church.

    Exhibition of works by Ian Mayes - invited works featured at the centre
    One of the prizewinners 'Loss' is on the left of low plinth
    Another "Nude on Blue" is in the middle of the wall
    It's always interesting to get a perspective from the collectors of the process of submission. It's also very educational to repeat it for those interested in submitting work to an exhibition like this who don't realise how much time there is to make a decision on an artwork.
    Being a selector meant that I could invite old friends, which was the easy part. Choosing off a conveyor belt only sixty works from the open submission of more than two thousand was a bruising process. Conducted in a well-mannered but highly competitive spirit – a bit like practice at the Bar – selectors needed to react fast and instinctively. Around three to five seconds were allowed to decide whether to include or reject a work. He who hesitated would see a prized work ending up on a fellow selector’s wall.
    I did a double take when I saw the six photographs of Bob Dylan by Ann Marie Velez Wood in the middle of Ian Mayes wall. Click the link in her name to find out more about them.

    Photographs of Dylan in camden by Ann Marie Velez Wood


    Critic: Michael Glover

    poet and art critic whose criticism is frequently seen in The Independent and The Times

    Michael Glover's exhibition in the North Gallery 
    had a very different feel due to the objects selected and the hang
    This was probably the most stimulating exhibition to view not least because of the unconventional way it was hung with pieces at odd angles and in places artwork is not normally hung. A friend commented that it was a pity one small piece was hung so high - whereas it's possible it might mean people might look rather more at it.

    Pieces from the open were punctuated by groups of 3 or 4 works from invited artists.  The most striking of these were the riff of three portraits by
    Hughie O'Donoghue of a man with a bandaged ear which I instantly shorthanded as the Van Gogh pics. This was all before I found out that he was a painter member of the RA! ;)

    Bandaged Era I, II, and III by Hughie O'Donoghue RA


    Critic: Sacha Craddock

    Art critic, writer and curator and co-founder of the Artschool Palestine.

    Sacha Craddock had the end and main feature walls of the Main Gallery for her exhibition
    Discerning Eye provides the opportunity to consider a broad range of painting and sculpture, albeit of a prescribed scale. Once immersed so much can and does emerge. I of course enjoyed choosing the artists I admire to contribute, but I also always cherish the opportunity to select from an open send-in.  The fellow selectors and I spent an intense, good-natured and often competitive day together. I wonder how it will turn out: while not pretending to actually curate the mass of work I have selected and asked for, I look forward to attempting to bring forward the quality in each.’
    I particularly liked some of the sculpture and ceramics in Sacha Craddock's exhibition.  In particular, Sheila Kelley's Gingko and Firefly Bowl. (Sheila also has a blog called Tips for the Potter)

    Gingko and Firefly Bowl by Sheila Kelley


    Exhibition Information

    Venue: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1
    Dates: 17 – 27 November 2016
    Hours: Open from 10am – 5pm daily.
    Admission: Free.
    All works are for sale: www.discerningeye.org
    The Show is sponsored by ING Commercial Banking

    Related Links - 2016 and previous years

    You can find out about the artists who have been selected in previous years - and see their websites - and see what the artwork actually looked like hung on the wall in previous exhibitions in my blog posts below.
    You can also see images of works selected in past exhibitions (2015 and before) in the ING Discerning Eye Archive. All past exhibitions are archived here. Since 2008, the archive has included images of all works. The archive is indexed by both artist and selector and there is a full site index available too.

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