Friday, June 30, 2017

Interview with Antony Williams (BP Portrait Award 2017 3rd Prize)

This post includes:
  • my video interview with Antony Williams
  • more about Antony Williams and a summary of his track record to date as a portrait painter
  • more about other people who have won third prize eg Benjamin Sullivan (who won 3rd Prize in 2015) and David Jon Kassan (who won third prize in 2014)
Antony won the BP Portrait Award Third Prize of £8,000 for his egg tempera painting of Emma Bruce who had been modelling for Williams almost continuously for eleven years in his studio in Chertsey

Antony Williams with his Third Prize and his prize-winning portrait
Egg tempera on board, (690 x560mm,
You'll see from my "More about Antony Williams' section below that Antony is a professional painter who is very experienced and well regarded. He has won a number of prizes and awards and his portraits are in a number of collections, notably the Royal Collection, the House of Commons and the National Portrait Gallery.

Below is my video of my interview with Antony. I asked him about
  • the impact of being in the BP Portrait Exhibition - he first exhibited age 26 and then got caught by the age 40 limit before this was lifted - and he started submitting and exhibiting again (you can see some of his other BP exhibits below)
  • his advice for people wanting to get into the BP Portrait Award exhibition and/or a BP Portrait Award
  • the benefits of being in the exhibition
  • the interest in his use of the egg tempera media 

Antony encourage other portrait painters to also use egg tempera and submit their paintings to the annual exhibitions of the BP Portrait Award!

His technique isn't obvious from digital images so I've done a crop of the portrait to illustrate how Antony works and why people are so interested in his use of egg tempera and how he applies it - using hatching strokes. Right click the image below and open in a new tab to see his technique even more clearly.

Crop of Emma - demonstrating Antony's egg tempera technique
copyright Antony Williams

More about Antony Williams RP PS NEAC

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Arts Council and Future Funding

On Tuesday, The Arts Council went to Leicester to:
This post covers videos explaining how it all works and references links to further and more detailed explanations on the Arts Council website

The Arts Council Funding Ecology 2018-22

The National Portfolio

This video was livestreamed about the announcement for how the National Portfolio works going forward in the next four years. It lasts 46 minutes.

There are 183 newcomers within the National Portfolio and the Arts Council intends to invest £170 million (4.6%) MORE outside London.

This fulfils the promises to
  • spend more outside London
  • reach places which hitherto have received very little funding from the Arts Council
  • bring museums and libraries into the portfolio
  • fund more diverse arts organisations

Get Funding

The Arts Council website explains:

Plus there's a video which explains how the Grants for Arts application portal and process works

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Clare Harkess wins Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017

Yesterday I attended the Private View for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundations’ (DSWF) 2017 Wildlife Artist of the YearThis post covers:
  • who won which award
  • general impressions of the exhibition - plus images.
  • events on Saturday
I was at the PV early so I could see the exhibition before the hordes of wildlife artists and enthusiasts arrived - it's a very busy PV! I collected my press pack when I arrived; this included the stick of images and the announcement of the winners - but I couldn't access it! I then went around the exhibition before everybody else arrived trying to work out who might have won.....

I left before the prize-giving (steroid injection worn off + rain = everything hurts!) which is why I was ecstatic - not to mention cock-a-hoop- this morning to see that I guessed right (again!) as to which artwork won the top award.  Those who met me last night will know I was saying how much I liked it!

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I'm apt to be a bit OTT when I identify the pic which wins top prize in advance of the formal announcement. For me it always feels like my "eye" for a good picture has been validated yet again - and that's always a nice feeling!

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017 (£10,000) - Clare Harkess

Walrus of Magdalene Fjord I by Clare Harkess
Winner of:
Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017 
The Artist Magazine, editors choice award

Claire Harkess has won the £10,000 prize as Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017. She also won the The Artist Magazine, editors choice award. so you can look forward to an article about how she paints in a future edition. (the £10,000 prize is sponsored by Mr & Mrs Covey)

Clare won with Walrus of Magdalene Fjord I - a startingly simple but hugely effective watercolour painting of a walrus ( she has two in the show). The background appears plain but provides an impression of the way in which an iceberg looks like a mountain.  One also gets a strong sense of the isolation and the cold.

One of the reasons I thought it might win is because I don't ever recall seeing a painting of a walrus in this competition before. I also thought it was one of the most effective paintings of wildlife I've seen in some time.

Commenting on the winning piece the judges said:
“Despite the softness of the painting it captures the weight and character of the animal and a real sense of place.”
Clare's watercolour paintings of walruses are on the mezzanine wall next to the steps

Dr Sally Bulgin, Editor of The Artist Magazine said:
Watercolour is a very difficult medium to master but Claire Harkess has expressed the qualities beautifully with an economy of colour to create a very understated but powerful work. I love the creation of shapes in the lower part of the picture and the quality of the watercolour in drips and splashes; the deckle edges mean that you see the painting as an object in its own right. Claire has a love of her materials which shines through with exquisite draughtsmanship and quality – and a sense of humour in expression of the walrus. The artist has left the happy accidents and drips so that we enjoy the paint as much as the wildlife she’s depicting.

About Claire Harkess

  • Lives: grew up on the West Coast of Scotland; currently lives and works in Perth, Scotland.
  • Education: graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1993
  • Works: Artist - Wildlife and the Natural World are predominant in her work. Artist-in-Residence at Edinburgh Zoo in 1998; has travelled extensively, gathering material for her paintings – Antarctica, The Gal├ípagos Islands, Australia, the Caribbean, St Kilda, Kenya and India.
  • Exhibits: elected member of RSW (Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour); exhibits widely throughout the UK
  • Other competitions: In 2011 Claire was Overall Runner-up in WAY competition

Runner Up for WAY 2017 - Orangutan by David Cooke
£22,000.00 | Size: 110cm x 260cm 65cm | Edition of 6

Wildlife Artist of the Year - Runner up (£1,000)

David Cooke for his life size bronze of an Orangutan (see below). The judges said:
This striking piece dramatically captures the character of the species – it is full of pathos – depicting a species that is literally hanging on
  • Lives: studio at Meltham Mills in West Yorkshire 
  • Education: degree in 3D Design (1992), Leeds Metropolitan University 
  • Works: professional sculptor since 1992
  • Exhibits: Widely across the UK
I also had this marked down as a possible winner - partly because of its location but also because it's a very "look at me" piece!

Wildlife Artist of the Year - Category Winners

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2017, the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition brings together the world’s best wildlife artists exploring seven exciting categories. From Earth’s Beautiful Creatures to Urban Wildlife more than 130 original works challenge preconceptions of wildlife art.

All Category Winners win a cheque for £500

Category winner: Animal Behaviour - Peter Stewart

for a real understanding of animal behaviour and a sense of character.

Category Winner: Peter Stewart – Dazzle and Dust
The judges said:
we loved the atmospheric use of light and the beautiful composition.
  • Lives: Grew up and lives in South Africa and became interested in wildlife and the African bush from an early age
  • Education: Influenced by Kim Donaldson(personal friend and mentor), Paul Bosman, Dino Paravano, Shirley Greene and David Shepherd
  • Works: ?
  • Exhibits: ?
  • website:

Category winner: Earth’s Beautiful Creatures- Corinne Zollinger

beautifully executed original artworks but also imaginative interpretation, moving away from the purely photographic to compositions with great characterisation, showing imagination, originality and genuine creativity. 
Sponsored by Gary Hodges on behalf of Joan Morley.

Weathered by Corinne Zollinger£500.00 (SOLD)
Size: 36cm x 20cm x 15cm | Clay sculpture with a rust patina
The judges said:
This is a stunning little piece with a clever use of patina to convey atmosphere
I thought it was a very quiet but delightful piece. I am not in the least bit surprised it sold very fast. Again, this is an animal which we don't see often in this competition. I think there's a lesson there for those aspiring to get selected!
  • Lives: Switzerland
  • Education: self-taught artist
  • Works: currently working full-time as a zookeeper at Basel Zoo in Switzerland
  • Exhibits: 
  • Other competitions: 
Corinne Zollinger does not consider herself a professional artist yet, it has become more than a hobby over the years. It is Corinne’s way to see the world and all its marvellous and amazing creatures. She says: “with my subjects in front of me all the time, inspiration finds me on a daily basis”.

Category winner: Hidden World - Brooke Walker

– a celebration of remote and rarely observed or lesser known landscapes and species. Presented in memory of Derek Francis.

Okapia Johnstoni by Brooke Walker
£1,000.00 (sold)
Oil painting | Size: 45cm x 55cm

The judges said:
A beautifully textural image that gives a glimpse into the life and habitat of a rare species.
  • Lives: Maslin Beach, South Australia. Childhood spent on a hobby farm in McLaren Vale
  • Education: Bachelor of Design (specialising in illustration) University of South Australia (2007-2009 plus various workshops
  • Works: an emerging South Australian visual artist; recently transitioned to working as a full time artist
  • Exhibits: in Australia
  • Other competitions: ?
  • website:

Category winner: Into the Blue - Matthew Polluk

– illustrating the wonderful world of water, be it ocean, seashore, wetland, river or stream. Sponsored by Barlow Robbins.

The Eloquence of Seduction by Matthew Polluk
Ink Pen and Paint | Size: 120cm x 180cm
The judges said:
Gorgeous tones with a real sense of being underwater with sparkles of light – it has a fantastic sense of freedom and scale of movement.

Category winner: Urban Wildlife - Paul Hawdon

– entries in an urban style or depicting the city life of animals and plants. Judges were looking for both originality in the habitat as well as the contrast between wild and urban life.

Double Glazing by Paul Hawdon
Etching (Edition of 40) | Size: 68cm x 58cm
The judges said:
Completely pared down – this really is a case of less is more – beautifully composed and well executed demonstrating great skill as an etcher.
  • Lives: based in Cambridge, UK
  • Education: studied Fine Art at Saint Martin’s School of Art (graduated with 1st class Honours);  postgraduate study at the Royal Academy Schools of Art.
  • Works: painter and printmaker; Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) since 1989
  • Exhibits: exhibits regularly with RA at the Banksdie Gallery; exhibits widely;  works in the collections of the University of Wales and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  • Awards: Italian Government Fine Art Scholarship (1985/6) and the Prix de Rome in Printmaking (1988/9).
  • website:

Category winner: Vanishing Fast - Atsushi Harada 

Showing our vanishing world – it can be any species officially listed as endangered or threatened on the IUCN Red List – or any a landscape that is at risk. 
Sponsored by Barlow Robbins.

Tomorrow by Atsushi Harada
£1,800.00 (SOLD)
Oil painting | Size: 83cm x 92cm
The judges said:
With a beautiful sense of stillness – it draws you in to the subject and makes you connect – a soft and poignant portrayal of this endangered big cat.
  • Lives: born in 1962 in the Kyushu region of southern Japan
  • Education: 
  • Works: Painter
  • Exhibits: exhibited in the United States, Europe and Japan; exhibited at 
    • the Society of Animal Artists' 57th Annual Exhibition from Sept. 2 to Oct. 29 at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in Oradell, New Jersey.
    • 42nd annual Birds in Art exhibition from Sept. 9 through Nov. 26 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin
  • Other competitions: his painting "White Ghost" was chosen as the winner in the Endangered Wildlife category of the David Shepherd 2015 Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition in London.

Category winner: Wings, Feathered or Otherwise - Pascal Chesneau

–the extraordinary variety of winged wildlife – birds and insects, in flight or at rest. Sponsored by Barlow Robbins

Manchots Empereur (£5,900.00 ex. delivery) by Pascal Chesneau
Size: 40cm x 110cm x 30cm; 80cm x 72cm x 24cm
Recycled Car Roof, Formed Sheet Metal, Welded Sculpture
Price does not include delivery

The judges said:
Instantly recognisable the sculpture shows the noisy interaction of the animals caught in the moment.
  • Lives: born in UK. Lives in Moyaux, Calvados, Normandy, France
  • Works: Sculptor
  • Exhibits: widely around France, winner of a number of awards; exhibited at Rountree Tryon Galleries, London in 2016
  • Other competitions: Winner of the Wildlife Artist of the Year 3D category in 2014
  • Website:

Highly Commended:

  • Tony Feld – Hippo Pool
  • Sophie Louise White – Kingfishers, Halcyon Days
  • Marie Antoniou – Barbary Macaque
  • Dagna Gmitrowicz – The Moment Frozen in Plastic
  • Nick Oneill – Tranquillity
  • David Cowdry – Don’t Tell Him Pike
  • Gemma Hayward – Lappet Faced Vulture – A Study
  • Szabolcs Kokay – Displaying Raggiana Birds of Paradise
  • Claudia Hahn – Crowned Cranes
  • Martin Aveling – Twocans
  • Fernando Garcia Herrara – Future
  • Nick Oneill – Reef Shark
  • Karen Phillips – Kabu
  • Paul Fearn – River Reflections
  • Tom Shepherd – Rainbow Remedy

You can see all the exhibits on the shop website

The Exhibition

The exhibition is on at the Mall Galleries until Sunday July 2 (Wed-Fri 10am-5pm – Sat 10am-4pm – Sun 10am-1pm).

Entry is by donation to the Foundation.

The exhibition displays its normal very hight standards in terms of the artwork on display. As usual, the 3D sculptures are outstanding. I'm not quite sure why wildlife artists should be so very good at sculpture - but they are!

The end wall of the Main Gallery is very striking - and also features prizewinners
1) the runner up for the WAY 2017 prize (centre)
2) the 'Into the Blue' Category Winner (right)

The winner of the Earth's Beautiful Creatures Category is in the foreground
View of one of the very colourful long walls in the Main Gallery
Small sculptures in this corner alongside some very powerful images of a variety of wildlife
One of the interesting things about the exhibition is how big or small artwork is
relative to what you imagined. The Kingfisher sculpture is BIG!
Winner of Hidden World Category is centre of the row beneath the big painting

View back up the Gallery to the mezzanine and entrance on The Mall
You can also see a short video of the exhibition on my Facebook Page.

All the artwork is for sale and the aim of the exhibition is to help raise funds for the David Shepherd Foundation which does so much to protect wildlife. The range of prices for the artwork is quite extreme.

However if you fancy something more affordable, there is a postcard wall where postcards are all priced at £60 - and they're all by artists selected for the exhibition.

One of them (#43) is being posted to me after the exhibition! 

The Postcard Wall
by Sarah Menon

There's also an exhibition in the Threadneedle Space by The Bigger Picture (TBP) - about anti-poaching anti-poaching programmes that DSWF helped establish and now supports in Zambia

Freddy Paske (artist), Dave Mackay (photographer) and Dieter Deswarte (documentary filmmaker) are exhibiting their work in this unique project combining art, photography and film created whilst in the field, to raise awareness and funds for the programme. For more about the project click here


There is a Family Saturday with opportunities to get involved in making your own wildlife art.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018 - Call for Entries

This is about how to enter The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018 for the best new figurative and representational art - in 2D and 3D. The first prize is £20,000 and a solo exhibition.

It covers:
  • Prizes and Selectors
  • Call for Entries
    • who can enter
    • what you can enter
    • how to enter
    • the timeline of key dates
  • Exhibitions
Plus you can also see at the end my archive list of blog posts relating to past Threadneedle Prize exhibitions

The Columbia Threadneedle Prize was established in 2008 as a partnership between Columbia Threadneedle Investments and Mall Galleries. Over the years it has changed but has become more and more important. It now brands itself as the UK’s leading competition for figurative and representational painting and sculpture.  

I've been with this prize from the beginning - I cast the very first vote in the very first exhibition - and picked the winner! You can see an archive of my posts about the exhibition at the end of this blog.

Prizes and Selectors

Awards announcement at Threadneedle Prize 2016


There are a number of prizes
The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016 Winner - Lewis Hazelwood-Horner


This year’s Panel of Selectors include
The chairman of the panel is Lewis McNaught, Director of Mall Galleries (web page)

Call for Entries

Who can enter

To enter this exhibition you need to be
  • an artist of any nationality,
  • aged 18 or over,
  • presently living or working in the UK or Europe (i.e. Artists living / working outside the UK and EU may NOT submit to The Columbia Threadneedle Prize)
Those who have previously won a prize can submit up to five works but are not eligible to win a prize for at least three years after their award.

If you live in Europe you can submit work but if your work is sold at exhibition you have a responsibility to register and account for UK VAT with H.M. Revenue & Customs and you need to do this before you submit your entry.

What you can enter

Monday, June 26, 2017

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2017 - Video and Review

This post about the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition includes:
  • my video of the exhibition
  • my commentary on what I've noticed has changed in this year's exhibition
The exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery until 24 September 2017 - admission is free.

The entrance to the National Portrait Gallery with the two feature banners

Video of the BP Portrait Exhibition 2017

Those used to my annual videos of the BP Portrait Exhibitions will know I'm literally walking around at the least busy bit of the evening devoted to the Awards Ceremony - and trying not to annoy the team of staff by going too slowly. So apologies to all those who would have liked a slower video. Also, where I'm getting up close to certain paintings it's because I'm squeezing into the tiny space behind the podium used for the speeches and presentations! Plus there's no sound because there was a copyright music track playing so I had to lose the audio to get it viewed on YouTube.

If you click the bottom right hand corner you can go to YouTube or click to view full screen. It's in HD so the quality is OK.

If you're unable to visit the exhibition, my video is particularly relevant to:
  • getting a much better understanding of the relative size of the individual paintings
  • appreciating more about the choice of subject, size, style, palette and approach to painting a portrait for this exhibition.
If you want to find out more about the individual artists:
  • on the NPG website - see exhibitors. Click the individual images to see a bigger image and read about the painting and the artist
  • in my blog post BP Portrait Award 2017: Selected Artists. This organises the names of the selected artists by country and includes links to their websites (where one can be found).

What's different in the 2017 Exhibition

If I had to sum up the 2017 exhibition in a few words it would be that it's like 2016 - but more so.
  • there's an increasing trend towards paintings getting smaller
  • consequently there seem to be more head orientated portraits than ever before.
  • most paintings are realistic but fewer are photorealistic
  • the celebs are much less well known
  • the models are much more likely to be a self-portrait or close family or friends - with children continuing to be popular subjects. As last year, the choice of subject is much persuasive that the portrait involves observation and painting from life - which is a criteria for selection.
More small paintings - and a lot of wall space unfilled

In the Friends Preview - which is my first opportunity to really view and analyse the exhibition, I did my counts for size as well as type of portrait. and then crunched the numbers.

Below you can view the results.

What sort of portraits get selected?

Friday, June 23, 2017

BP Portrait Award 2017: Artists with their paintings

Portrait artists with portrait paintings selected for inclusion in the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery can expect the following benefits:
  • your portrait will be seen by well in excess of 250,000 visitors in London this summer - and even more around the UK over the course of the next 12 months (see the end of this for details of the exhibition)
  • your CV is greatly enhanced by selection for this prestigious exhibition - and it helps to interest galleries in showing your work
  • your website will get enquiries about commissions for future work. Assuming you remembered to get your website into good order - with a page devoted to commissions - in advance of the show!
Friends Preview

This post is about some of the artists whose work was selected. Let's also not forget the friends and families, many of whom sat for the portraits - and some of came to the press view yesterday!

Previously I've written about the artists selected for the BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2017 - which contains mini bios and links to their websites

You can see all the works of the exhibitors on the NPG BP Portrait Award 2017 website

Artists with their Paintings

The selection of the artists photographed for this post is not scientific. They are those who were at  the Press View yesterday morning and I managed to spot their label declaring them to be an artist. (Tip: never ever hide your label at a Press View!)

However, in a way it's also a mini profile and nod in the direction of the 2,580 artists from 87 countries around the world who submitted work for the show.

Not all artists are experienced and/or professional - a number are enthusiastic amateurs while others are starting out on their careers.

The painters in this post are:

  • UK: England - Martyn Burdon, Rowanne Cowley, Estelle Day, Raoof Haghighi (from Iran / now a UK citizen), Hero Johnson, Laura Quinn Harris, Lucy Stopford, Khushna Sulaman-Butt,
  • UK: Scotland - Hannah Laws 
  • France - Julian Merrow-Smith (born UK; lives in Provence),
  • Israel - Anne Ben-Or
  • Lithuania: Laura Guoke
  • Israel - Anne Ben-Or
  • Turkey: Mustafa Ozel
  • USA: John Borowicz, David Stanger
  • Canada: Ross McCauley (currently living in Glasgow)
  • South Africa: Emily Stainer

At the end of this list is a section called Other artists I missed for "the ones that got away" but somebody else was sensible and took a photo!  These are
  • UK: Anastasia Pollard
  • USA:  Noah Buchanan
The narrative below includes large pics - but you have to click them to see the large version - and a link to the artist's website. The artists are also organised by country of origin (with a note of where they are living at the moment)

Click the images to see a LARGER VERSION

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ben Sullivan wins BP Portrait Award 2017

Benjamin Sullivan has finally won First Prize in the BP Portrait Award 2017 - after winning Third Prize in 2016 and being previously selected for the BP Portrait Award 12 times.  

Team Sullivan - portrait painter Ben Sullivan with the BP Portrait Award (First Prize)
his two models - wife Ginnie and daughter Edie
The winning portrait was selected from strong competition - 2,580 entries were received from 87 countries

Below is a list of the Awards and who won what.  You can read more about each of the artists in the profiles contained in BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist

Giving the BP Portrait Awards a final polish
Interestingly, all the sitters for the main prizes were women and the First and Second prizes were both portraits of new mothers.  All the winning portraits are also very precise paintings - with both the second and third prize winners using very small hatching marks.

Admission to The BP Portrait Exhibition is free to the public. It can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 22 June until 24 September - when it will get about 300,000 visitors - after which it will then travel to Exeter, Edinburgh and Sunderland. (see below for details).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2017

The 2017 Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club (NEAC) opened at the Mall Galleries last week and continues until 25th June  (10am to 5pm; closes 1pm on final day).

I was unable to get to the PV for the NEAC Annual Exhibition and visited on Sunday afternoon instead. It was delightful to be able to see all the pics in comfort and I think I might want to make more Sunday visits! (Note I do most of the wide shots towards the end of the afternoon when fewer people are present)

This post provides:
  • images of the exhibition
  • my conclusions about 
    • the exhibition overall
    • the OPEN exhibition having viewed it in full three times and done some counting
    • sales - and sizes and price points
  • a listing of the main prizewinners

The Exhibition

The exhibition has 413 paintings, drawings and fine art prints (excluding work by members those not listed in the catalogue) plus 2 watercolours by HRH Prince of Wales. Paintings include oils, acrylic, watercolour and mixed media. Drawings included charcoal, pastel and graphite.

One thing NEAC may want to rethink is this statement. It might have been true once but I'd be happy to debate with the society whether it is still true.
Our Annual Exhibition held at Mall Galleries is now firmly established as a fixture of the London Summer Season, exhibiting painting and drawing made from direct observation.
 Generally the exhibition looked good. I'll be curious to see whether it performs as good as it looks. My notes indicate:
  • obviously a new guiding hand as there is a lot more colour - and then while drinking my cup of tea noted that Richard Pikesley is the new President so that explains that!  I note also that Richard sold extremely well in the exhibition - so he's obviously doing his bit to drum up both traffic and supportive buying collectors.
  • the 'hang' hung together - and presents a very pleasing contrast to the RA Summer Exhibition which I saw earlier in the week - where my eye kept getting 'lost'
  • the artists hung seem to be different - and I can't quite work out what I mean by that. I speculate that it's probably artists I'm used to seeing in the exhibition do't have work included and there are probably some new members whose work I've less familiar with. There again - there's the issue of who got selected for the open...
  • The exhibition is odd in terms of what gets hung where - of which more in the next section
  • The sales are not representative of the exhibition - of which more in the sales section.

The Main Gallery

Almost all the work is by NEAC members.

There were two small works walls in the Main Galleries and both had generated a few sales.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Columbia Threadneedle Prize returns

The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018 for the best new work of figurative and representational art launched today - however I was out and most of the rest of my week is committed with the BP Portrait Awards and exhibition reviews so I'll be reviewing the new exhibition website and doing my Call for Entries post a little later.

You don't need to worry - the deadline for entries is 22 September 2017!

However you can see
  • the launch video below 
  • images of selected works in previous exhibitions in the Archive on the website
  • past winners and my reviews and photos of past exhibitions (which give you a perspective on size of artwork) in my blog posts below

Plus you can see in my blog posts below.......

who has won the prize previously

So far the gender ratio in terms of prizewinners is 6 women and 2 men (or 7 women if you count both of the double header win in 2013!)

what previous exhibitions looked like 

PLUS the solo exhibition by Lewis Hazelwood Horner, the last winner in 2016, can be seen in this post Impressive solo exhibition by 2016 Threadneedle Prizewinner

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Does the RA Summer Exhibition still have the WOW factor?

I went to see the 2017 Summer Exhibition of 1,092 artworks at the Royal Academy of Arts on Monday - and this post should have been written sooner (but for an event this week).

This blog post is going to
  • show you how you can see the exhibition - even if you can't get to London
  • examine why this exhibition wowed me less than others and
  • identify pieces I really liked.
Friends Review on 12th June - Gallery III complete with Pimms Bar
This is how you can see the exhibition - without visiting:
  • a video on YouTube - which lasts 74 seconds (how many years has it taken for the RA to catch up with YouTube for promoting what an exhibition actually looks like?)

  • a Summer Exhibition Explorer website - where you can see ALL the exhibits - and create pages for different categories and price points. It started last year and seems to have been refined this year
  • for example, for those seeking more affordable art - there is an art for under £500 website option - which tends to include a lot of prints. 
You can see the exhibition in person in the Main Galleries at Burlington House, the home of the Royal Academy of Arts until 20th August 2017 (Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm; Friday 10am – 10pm). Entrance is £15.50 (without donation £14). Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free.

Has the Summer Exhibition lost its WOW?

The Summer Exhibition this year has certainly lost its WOW related to oversized works and/or statements by artistic testosterone flaunting male artists - whether that be pink walls and stripey staircases or massive paintings almost covering an entire wall in Gallery III

It's altogether a gentler exhibition - quite possibly because it was put together by a female curator Royal Academician Eileen Cooper who wanted to explore themes of discovery and new talent.

That does however mean that the Courtyard is positively disappointing. The Wind Sculpture VI by Yinka Shonibare work is simply not big enough - and it's not helped by the cones off to the left, the "pavement cafe" scene out front and the cranes out back. You only notice all these things when your eye is not totally absorbed by a massive something or other.  (Looking at the pic of it in the online website, it looks much better in a domestic setting.)

If it wasn't for the colours you could blink and miss this installation.
Looking back after nearly a week, I'm finding it difficult to remember anything much about the exhibition apart from the Western Union: Small Boats (edition of 3 £200,000) video by Isaac Julien which was very impressive.  It also won the The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017

This is the challenge of the Summer Exhibition - making sense of it.
This year I was somewhat preoccupied by the fact my steroid injection for my arthritis has worn off and I was more interested in whether or not a gallery had a seat to sit down on. (There were some but nowhere near enough considering the age of a lot of the visitors - the RA could be a LOT more disability friendly). My solution was to see the exhibition in two halves - with lunch over the road at Fortnum & Masons inbetween (the art on my plate was much more to my taste!)

So 10 reasons why the Summer Exhibition has lost its wow are:
  1. nothing made me say Wow!
  2. disappointing entrance to Burlington House (see above) and the exhibition (an exhibit at the entrance which stops you moving forward is not good for circulation and the colour of the walls was vile - like sick!)
  3. the small paintings are lost or swamped - why it's OK to hang similar smaller sized photos together but not small works is beyond me.  I used to love the crush in the Small Weston Room as we all tried to see all the small works - typically entered by the public.
  4. no models in the architecture section - it was literally and metaphorically too flat
  5. some galleries are crammed/swamped with strong images making them indigestible (eg the photography) and the gallery difficult to view.
  6. a certain lack of punctuation or good design on the walls - eye-catching statement pieces were either competing with one another or located in corners - making it difficult for the eye to 'read the room'
  7. too few good figurative paintings - by which I mean of the relatively realistic variety. There were any number of the more fantasy oriented or "I can't draw" variety.  I see a lot more paintings I like better on a regular basis in the open exhibitions and art competitions exhibiting at the Mall Galleries. 
  8. too few drawings - in past exhibitions we're seen a lot more drawings
  9. the prints seemed to lack something - I love the print rooms and yet this time prints seemed more amorphous - lacking colour or size as punctuation and scattered across a number of rooms
  10. Overall, it seemed as if the exhibition lacked a good "Edit"
I thought the galleries with coloured walls had more impact - but I wasn't a huge fan of the colours chosen.

See what I mean below

Friday, June 16, 2017

If you're interested in drawing - in London

For those interested in drawing, the Royal Drawing School is offering some opportunities to improve your drawing via

  • The Foundation Year
  • Free Life Drawing events
  • Summer Schools

The Foundation Year

Next Tuesday is the Open Day for The Foundation Year - A free one year, skills-based foundation course in London's creative Docklands
  • full-time course - five days of teaching a week 
  • structure of the course progresses from set assignments towards self-directed study
  • a limit of 50 places to ensure one-to-one tuition
  • free to 18 and 19 year olds 
  • some bursaries available for over-19s.
  • located at main campus at Trinity Buoy Wharf
You can book for Open Days on Tuesday 20 June 2017 @ 2pm
This is a link to the event announcement on Facebook re. the Open Day on 20th June and the same on the webite

Plus 2017/18 Open Days will be held on:
  • Thursday 12 October 2017 @ 2pm
  • Thursday 26 October 2017 @ 2pm
  • Saturday 25 November 2017 @ 11am
  • Wednesday 17 January 2018 @ 2pm
  • Saturday 27 January 2018 @ 11am

Applications for The Foundation Year 2018/19 will open in September 2017 and close in February 2018

You can see The Foundation Year End of Year Exhibition 2016-17 at Trinity Buoy Wharf between Wednesday 14 June – Thursday 22 June 2017 (Open 11am–6pm daily)

FREE Life Drawing

Every first Thursday of the month, during term time and the holidays, there is a free life drawing session, in collaboration with Time Out and the Whitechapel Gallery, 6.30-9pm. Places are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and basic drawing materials are provided free of charge. This month we will be drawing in the studio with a life model.
See the website for more details about dates and venues for the First Tuesday events at:

Other public courses

More information about other public courses can be found on the website. You can also download our Public Courses brochure.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Let's celebrate the work of Khadija Saye

Very often when a tragedy happens, it's one person who makes it very real.

For me, in the case of the tragic and incomprehensible fire at Grenfell Tower that person is the photographer Khadija Saye - who is missing. [Update - see postscript at end]

Khadija Saye and her camera
(Photo credit: Lauren Frame | Facebook)
40 years ago, when I first came to London, I lived on the 15th floor of a "hard to let" GLC tower block in the East End. It was badly in need of updating and those entitled to a council tenancy were refusing to live there.

Living there had its benefits - I was able to save the deposit for the flat that I later bought - and I made some good friends at the time, some of whom were recent graduates from the Royal College of Art who were starting out on their careers - who lived on the top floor.

However the reason the tower block was "hard to let" was because things didn't work. The lifts broke down on a regular basis and the heating and hot water facilities were poor - until they broke down altogether. So hot baths took forever to prepare and I did an awful lot of walking up and down stairs.

I also used to be really, really worried about fire - because I knew that the ladders of the firemen wouldn't reach the fifteenth floor where I used to live.  I knew the notion was that if there was a fire in the block you should stay in your own flat because - being concrete - it was compartmentalised from the rest of the block and the front door provided fire safety of at least an hour.

However, the fire at Grenfell House has had a profound effect on me - partly because o
  • my fears from the past 
  • I know how difficult it would be for anybody to climb down from the 20th floor - where Khadija lived with her mother in such circumstances
  • I've filmed her work and shown it on this blog.
Khadija Saye is a photographer and an emerging artist of Gambian heritage. She and her mother had a home on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower.

In May, Khadija posted on Facebook and Twitter about exhibiting at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Her photographs of, ironically entitled Dwelling: in this space we breathe are in the Diaspora Pavilion.
Dwelling: in this space we breathe is a series of wet plate collodion tintypes that explores the migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices and the deep rooted urge to find solace within a higher power.
She's listed in the exhibition catalogue at #15 right next to Yinka Shonibare at #16 whose work I saw featured in the courtyard at this year's Summer Exhibition on Monday.

You can read below how absolutely thrilled she was about exhibiting at the Biennale. Note who she is standing next to...

Back in November 2014, she was exhibiting her series Crowned at the Mall Galleries in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition - having been invited by one of the artist curators Nicola Green

In fact you can see her work in my video of the exhibition. Her series "Crowned" which I remember very well comes into shot at 34 seconds

Today the tweets are about her - for a completely different reason.

She and her mother had a home on the 20th floor of Grenfell House. At the time of writing she was last heard of when messaging at 4am on Facebook.
'Please pray for me. There's a fire in my council block. I can't leave the flat. Please pray for me and my mum.'
Her mentor, Nicolea Green , the wife of David Lammy MP, posted this on Twitter.

I am so very, very angry today.

Last night I was at a PV and when I got home I fell asleep in my chair before I made it to my bed. When I woke up I checked the news and was confronted with pictures of the fire as it accelerated across and up the building (check George Clarke's Instagram for how it progressed)

I was rooted to my chair. It was all my worst nightmares and worse.
  • 40 years it took very considerable effort and the formation of a Residents Association to get the GLC to pay attention to what action they needed to take regarding looking after the health and safety of residents. (Our block subsequently made it on to Dan Cruickshank's television series "At Home with the British" - The Flat - however they missed out the grind involved in getting the work done properly!!!)
  • A few years back I helped neighbours when there was a major refurbishment of their ex-Council estate. Another Residents Association was set up and we ran a campaign which went on for a few years. I KNOW exactly how much contractors duck and dive and ignore the conditions of planning permission and the law and regulations relating to building and health and safety in order to save time and money - or because they are just plain incompetent. It took online outing via blogging, videos, documentation and a call I made to the London HQ of the Health and Safety Executive to start bringing them into line and to get the Council to read them the "riot act". 
I am just so absolutely utterly appalled to find that the same neglect for the health and safety of residents has quite obviously occurred at Grenfell House.

That fire has extinguished so many homes and, we all fear, so many lives as well.

It's about time councils started listening to residents of tower blocks and paying more attention to what is required to keep people safe!

In the meantime let's celebrate the work of Khadija Saye. This is her Facebook account and this is her Twitter account for her photography. Why not 'follow' the latter - by way of support?

Apparently the latest is that those living on the top three residential floors - which includes the 20th floor - are unlikely to be among the survivors. However we can always hope she is found.....

UPDATE 16 June 2017

a tribute from David Lammy‏ MP @DavidLammy
May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman
Plus articles in