Thursday, February 23, 2017

118th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society 2017

I went to the Private View of 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society at the Mall Galleries on Monday.  It's different this year - and I'll highlight the reasons why below. The exhibition continues until 3pm on Saturday 4th March.

A lot of people attended the Private View
This is the first year of the new President Jeanette Hayes who seems to have had a very positive impact in terms of changes made to date. I'm certainly liking what I'm seeing.  You can read an interview with her in last October's edition of The Pastel Society Newsletter (available to download from their website)
the Society is currently enjoying real momentum, thanks very largely to the efforts of recent Presidents. I think it is really important to maintain that momentum. 
The Exhibition was opened by The Right Honourable Michael Portillo who entertained the very large numbers at the PV with his speech.

The Right Honourable Michael Portillo opens
The 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society 2017
at the Private View on Monday.
On the right is Jeannette Hayes, the new President of the Pastel Society

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

First some numbers for the benefit of those hoping to exhibit at future exhibitions.

There are 271 works in the exhibition

So far as the OPEN ENTRY is concerned..

OPEN ENTRY: 785 works were submitted by non-members for this Open Exhibition
  • 100 artworks selected from the open entry by 69 non-members
  • The ratio of members' work to non-members is 63:37 
  • The average number of paintings per non-member artist selected is 1.4.  
    • A number have two works selected
    • Those who are serious contenders to become full members have 3 or 4 works selected meaning that the majority of exhibiting non-members only have 1 artwork selected.
  • Open entries selected for exhibition: percentage selected is 12.7%. meaning...
    • Most artists have somewhere between 5-10% chance of getting an individual entry selected - based on fact some artists have 2 or 3 works selected. 
    • (Comparison: RA Summer Exhibition - chance of getting a work selected = 6.2-6.6%)
    • Probably the best way of improving your chances of getting selected is submitting more than one very good artwork in eligible media
I forgot to ask how many entries were received but will do that so I can highlight what percentage of entries were selected for the exhibition. [UPDATE: Now received and added in above]

Changes in the Gallery

The changes in the exhibition are subtle but incrementally they add up to a pleasing change in content.

The new President has introduced one new rule for the Selection Committee. Each member of the panel was allowed ONE "This has got to be included" vote (a reverse of a veto) which allowed a work in even if it didn't get the requisite number of hands raised.  I gather the rationale is that it helps extend the diversity of work on show and means people don't go away feeling that their taste has been ignored. It certainly seemed a very sensible idea to me

The Candidates Wall (in the Threadneedle Space)

I loved the Candidates Wall - which I gather is a Presidential Innovation.  It wasn't marked as such on Monday and I think maybe it should be. It makes it much easier to see the type of working being produced by people who aspire to be members. (Typically ones who have had work accepted in previous exhibitions and hence have a number of works in this exhibition). The wall also makes it a great deal easier for members when they come to vote for who they would like to see elevated to member status.

Music and Silence by Libby January
Winner of the Buzzacott Award

There's more contemporary abstract or abstracted art - however, it's not loud and brash and demanding on the eye. Instead, it sits alongside other work and fits right in - and sometimes teases you until you realise you can see a lot more in the work than you realised at first look.

Three works in soft pastels by Jeanette Hayes PPS
and a charcoal drawing by Pete Brown PS 
who is a master of street scenes in charcoal
Indeed I found after a while that the greater range of good quality contemporary work made me notice some of the more traditional work more - but I found myself preferring the contemporary work which surprised me! I have to say that I think this is very largely because of the quality of the vast majority of the more abstract(ed) art. (As I write this I'm reminded of other galleries were a lot of abstract art gets selected and/or hung but drives me demented in terms of overall quality).

The end wall in the West Gallery
There seem to be more straight drawings than usual. M most often - but not always - these are portraits of drawings of people.

The Unravelling of Now107cm x 147cm Coloured Pencil
By Art Venti £6500

There's more diversity in the media used. It's not just soft pastels, there's now much more work in coloured pencils, graphite and oil pastels. I particularly liked the large work in coloured pencil by Art venti who's an American artist whose work has been featured in the Huffington Post.

It was very refreshing to see Nicholas Verrall (of highly coloured paintings of Mediterranean scenes) submitting a large graphite drawing of a still life.  Those who want to submit graphite works to an exhibition and ask a significant amount should visit this exhibition and pay attention to the very smart but restrained frame on this work. Absolutely perfect for graphite!

The Potter's Yard by Nicholas Verrall ROI RBA93cm x 105cm Graphite Pencil
I also liked the Cityscapes from a high perspective by Richard Rees - which are all done in oil pastels

Three paintings of cities (Edinburgh, Riga and Lucca) by Richard Rees
This year the exhibition is in all three galleries and I think works much better as a result. Pastels certainly hold their own in the contemporary rigour' of the environment of the Threadneedle Space

A corner of the Threadneedle Space.
A significant number of the prizes were won by non-membersDavid Brammeld's trees below will be the subject of an article in The Artist magazine as he won that award. He's also one of the candidates for membership and has been getting at least two artworks selected for this exhibition for a number of years.

Trees by David Brammeld RBA
Three portraits by Melodie Cook
the two with white background are on A1 paper.
Melodie Cook's work is very striking and has a huge impact in the centre of the Candidates Wall. Samuel Froggett with Peonies (on the right) also won the Henri Roche Award (lucky girl - the prize is pastels by Roche!) Do have a look at her work on her website as she cleverly provides close-ups of crops of her portraits so you can appreciate how she works.

If there was one criticism I had it was that there were lots of artworks which were all of a 'medium' size. The exhibition could have done with just a few more larger artworks (ie larger than A1) to help punctuate the hang.

That said the hang was nicely done and a number of 'conventions' were broken with walls treated in different ways.

The New North Wall (see below for explanation) for small works

Finally there was the innovation by the Mall Galleries - and the introduction of "The New North Wall". The archway through to the two rear rooms in the North Gallery was blocked off and a new wall created (temporarily). It completely transformed the room - somehow it felt bigger - and also made for a wall with great impact - and a great place to show small works.

Changes in The Pastel Society online

Other art societies please take note. The Pastel Society has well and truly raised their game.

For one thing it meets a number of the standards I suggested were appropriate for art societies having open exhibitions in my blog post Calendar of Major Art Society Open Exhibitions in 2017 - and the need for change!

  • It has a website dedicated to the exhibition - which is bang up to date as the exhibition opened to the public
  • You can see the e-catalogue for the exhibition on Issuu
  • There are comprehensive virtual exhibitions online - on the Pastel Society website for:
    • Members Gallery Last year it was just thumbnail images without any text and this year it's a proper listing on the first view - plus a larger image on clicking it. 
    • Non-Members Gallery It's very refreshing to see the same standard applied to non-members' work.
    • the Award Winners 2017 - meaning I don't feel obliged to highlight the award winners to ensure there is a virtual archive of their work and achievement!
  • you can download their flyer for events at the exhibition - which include workshops in the Learning Centre every day except the last and five demonstrations in the main gallery.
The Co-Pilot by Stephen King
Winner of the Winner of the £5000 Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Award for a Young Artist
and The Pastel Society Catalogue (First prize)

It's also very pleasing to see that the images displayed in the virtual Galleries have both the dimensions and the media listed as well as the price. For those thinking of submitting work next year, that means you can see what sort of prices people are asking for different types of work by members and non-members.

Artwork I liked

Two pastels by Louise Diggle
I always like to try and highlight works which have not won a prize, are not by a member and I liked a lot.

Two small and muted works by Louise Diggle - of the Tuileries and Parliament Square - caught my attention. Although I'm a great lover of colour I do admire people who can make muted colours work well.  This post on her blog A Week in Politics - Pastelling in Parliament Square describes how she got permission to pastel in Parliament Square in one of the most momentous weeks of British Politics!

My eye kept coming back to this pair of paintings by Christine Watson.  Surprise, surprise, when I look at the non-members website both have sold!

Two pastel works by Christine Watson.

More posts about the Pastel Society

For those interested in entering next year's exhibition, you might want to take a look at this post - The Pastel Society - a final Call for Entries

1 comment:

  1. Just loved 'The Potter's Yard' and Two pastel works by Christine Watson.

    great post; thank you


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