Monday, November 20, 2017

ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2017 - award winners and review

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of six curated exhibitions of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics.

View of one of the six individual exhibitions at the Mall Galleries
This is a review of the 2017 Exhibition which opened last week and continues until Sunday 26 November (10am and 5pm daily) at the Mall Galleries in London. It's taken a little longer than I had planned - I always forget how long this particular show takes to review properly - because there are lots of prizes and six completely different exhibitions!

If you're unable to get to see the show, you can
  • view the online artwork catalogue and 
  • also read my past reviews and view the sort of artwork which has been selected in previous years - with the different sets of curators they have each year - see the archive of my posts dating back to 2008 at the end of this post.

Some exhibition statistics provided by the organisers

This year there are 465 works by 237 artists on show
  • 75% of the artists and 55% of the works have come from the open submission. Typically if you see groups of work by the same artist in this exhibition it's a very good indication they have been "invited" to exhibit as opposed to "selected" from the open entry.
  • In terms of types of artwork selected for the exhibition:
    • Painting and drawing make up over 60% of the works, 
    • mixed media and sculpture about 15%, and 
    • printmaking about 8%.
This post covers the award winners and then reviews each of the six mini exhibitions in turn - with comments about different aspects of the show as a whole cropping up as and when!

2017 Award Winners 

This year there has been some very sloppy labelling of artwork in the exhibition and on the website. It's such a privilege to get selected and then such a disappointment when winning a prize if the right prize is not identified either in the gallery and/or on the website. The numbers are there for a reason - to get it right.

This is the list of prizewinnersThose that have numbers with an asterisk next to them were selected from the open submission.

11 of the 16 prizes went to artists selected from the open entry.  This breaks down as:
  • 6 of the 8 purchase prizes (75%) went to open entrants
  • 2 of the 2 other sponsor prizes (100%) went to artists selected from the open entry
  • 4 of the 7 regional prizes (57%) went to open entrants
Asterion by Jill Desborough
£1,200 SOLD
For those who have thought of submitting but not done so before, or maybe been dispirited by not getting selected, here's a word from Jill Desborough, who was one of the successful artists submitting via the open entry. This year she had two works selected by two different judges, won one of the top Purchase Prizes and also sold the other work that was selected
First, many thanks to the Discerning Eye for another lovely show and to Elmo Hood and Simon Tait for picking the pieces. There was such a good vibe there on PV night! Getting the prize was wonderfully encouraging. You have to harden yourself to a fair number of (kindly worded) rejections from open shows every year so it means an awful lot to get accepted and then the prize was an extra affirmation to keep on submitting!

The Purchase Prizes

These are prizes where the prize funds the purchase of the work. It's only just occurred to me that it could make a lot of sense to price your work to match the value of one of the Purchase Prizes! (Duh!)

The ING Purchase Prize £5,000

This year this was awarded to a painting by Rick Garland, one of the artists selected by Miranda Richardson.

ING Purchase Prize £5000
Rick Garland Urban 1 6/8

Acrylic on canvas, 20x20 inches,
(Invited by Miranda Richardson)

The DE Founder's Purchase Prize (in honour of Michael Reynolds) £2500 

The Discerning Eye has its own collection of works and new work(s) are added to this collection each year by purchasing a work(s) from the main exhibition - the Founders' Purchase Prize.

This year it was shared by two artists: Jill Desborough and Patrick Shart - both of whom were selected via the open entry. I confess I never saw the label next to Patrick's print Mr Hulot 2/82* which is why there is only one image below

DE Founder's Prize
Jill Desborough Danse Macabre 3/12*

17 x 19 x 12 inches, Mixed media
I am NOT overly impressed with how Jill Desborough's piece has been presented
  • Like all 3D pieces there are problems with seeing them if the background is busy - and this one has a VERY busy background. (I really struggled to get a decent picture and the one above could have been so much better with the right background). A much plainer background (or a higher plinth?) is needed to be able to appreciate the level and quality of detail in the figures.  
  • The fact that the website prize listing links to the image of the wrong piece is also very unfortunate.
  • This is compounded by the fact that the photo of the correct piece on the ING DE website is far too dark and absolutely dreadful!  
That's why the link to the work above is to her website where you can get a much better impression of the work.

The DE Chairman's Purchase Prize

This Purchase Prize was won by Camilla Dowse (open entry)

DE Chairman's Purchase Prize £1000
Camilla Dowse Sussex Place, W2
12x12 inches, Acrylic on gesso
£450 SOLD

The Meynell Fenton Prize £1000

Carne Giffiths, an invited artist, won this prize - and has a fascinating artist statement and is extremely active in exhibiting. He was opening a solo show over in Dubai last week!

The Meynell Fenton Prize £1000
3/21 by Carne Griffiths 
9x19 inches, Ink, tea and graphite on Bockingford watercolour paper
£1,200 sold

The Humphreys Purchase Prize £750 

I so wanted to move this sculpture of a Secretary Bird (hence the title) by Victoria Atkinson (open entry) around when trying to photograph it. Again, almost impossible to see against the background.....  She looks so much nicer on Victoria's website!

The Humphreys Purchase Prize £750
Miss Jones 1/1* by Victoria Atkinson
9x4 inches, Bronze
£680 SOLD

Parker Harris Print Purchase Prize £500

This prize is sponsored by the organisers of the exhibition. Unfortunately this work is NOT the work that's identified as the winner on the website link in the Prizes Table - where they have chosen to highlight 3/24. (How difficult is it to make sure that a link in the prizes table goes to the correct work?)

Kaori Homma seems to use a technique I've never heard of before - fire etching. I looked it up and I'm still none the wiser.... Kaori is an Associate Lecturer, University of Arts London

Parker Harris Print Purchase Prize £500
Under the foreign sky IV 3/25* by Kaori Homma 17x14 inches, Fire, acid and water on paper

The Wright Purchase Prize £500

Diana Evers's open entry won this prize. This was a fascinating work and it was difficult to work out how it was made. It turned out it's a digital print on what looked like an aluminium board. I think there's been a fair bit of manipulation in Photoshop or similar because as soon as I realised it was a print I began to recognise some of the techniques.

The Wright Purchase Prize £500
Tales in Freshwater
2/35* by 
Diana Evers 
Digital C.type print, 20x20 inches
I was left wondering whether anybody ever reads the labels. This is very clearly NOT a square print (i.e. not 20" by 20")

The DE Sculpture & 3D Work Prize £250 

I'm bemused as to which Jane Morgan won this prize. I can't find any evidence of a Jane Morgan working in bronze.

Discerning Eye Sculpture and 3D Work Prize
And then there was one
4/43* by Jane Morgan
6x4x4 inches, Bronze (Selenium & Copper), oils, acrylic lacquer.£12,000

St Cuthbert's Mill Award - paper to the value of £250

This collage piece by U M C Packer won this prize. No website in evidence - I was left wondering whether this name was a pseudonym.

St Cuthberts Mill Award² £250
The Sea, The Sea No 15/44* by U M C Packer 
15x12 inches, acrylic, collage on paper, £450

The Regional Prizes

You'll note that winning a regional prize often results in a sale as well - if the purchase price is a reasonable sum for a small work!

East Anglia Regional Prize £250
'In The Starting Gate' (Alexandra Park)
2/83* by Michael Smee
16x14 inches, Acrylic
£670 (SOLD)

London & South East Regional Prize £250
Untitled figure (Taya sketch) 5/21* by Andrew Holmes 
12x16 inches, Oil on paper
£1250 SOLD

Midlands Regional Prize £250
 Winter Coastline 
6/11 by Deborah Grice
19x13 inches, Oil on canvas,
£750 SOLD
Such a pity this painting wasn't labelled as a prizewinner!

North of England Regional Prize £250
Sarah Jane Bellwood Endymion 1/4*
10x8 inches, Acrylic on wooden panel
£500 SOLD
Always nice when you win a prize AND your painting sells! Sarah Jane Bellwood is one of a niche group of artists who both paint and own their own gallery.

Scotland Regional Prize £250
Allan MacDonald Fragments, Winter, NW

10x8 inches, Oil
Wales Regional Prize £250
Nathan Ford Anna 11.14

15x12 inches, Oil and pencil
I see Nathan Ford's paintings regularly in art competitions and open exhibitions - including the BP Portrait Award.

West Country Regional Prize £250
Paul McGowan The side effects of skipping

Pen, pencil, acrylic, ink on vintage Edwardian paper, 16x18 inches

The Curator's Exhibitions

The exhibition somehow looked different to me this year. I had the impression that it was more figurative with fewer abstracted works.

I couldn't work out whether it was the change in the curators or the a change in the works submitted via the open entry.  It did occur to me that maybe this analysis might have been influential Discerning Eye (1990-2016) - which artists have shown the most?

I also noticed that the pricing varied between the exhibition and websites and gallery sites for the same or very similar/sized work. Artists need to remember that we're all capable of comparing artwork online.....

Artist - Anne Magill (70 artworks)

A section of Anne Magill's display
Anne MaGill's exhibition felt quite restrained. Her palette was very muted apart from a small patch of very colourful paintings. Interesting for an artist whose paintings always seem to include an anonymous figure, most of her choices did not include figures.

Artist - Elmo Hood (76 artworks)

A very busy looking display by Elmo Hood
This included some very colourful work - there were some very vibrant works as well as some quieter corners

To me it felt very crowded. I think he really needed the whole of the Threadneedle Space - but I suspect he got walloped by the need for somewhere to put coats on event evenings.....

Collector - Ellen Bertrams (70 artworks) 

I was rather distracted by the fact Ms Bertrams had selected a not very good "trying to be like Antony Green" artist and a rather better "trying to be like Peter Doig artist". I'm not a fan of artists who try to be like other more popular artists and seeing them tends to make me switch off. This probably accounts for the fact I can't remember a lot about this exhibition.

Ellen Bertram's exhibition
Other than a beautiful lyrical bit of hanging in the middle....

I LOVED the line drawings on the left by Jonathan Polkest

....and I quite liked the books - because I'm a bit of a book fiend! The ones on the left are by Ian Robinson. Ian worked in the Oil & Gas Industry until moving to London in 2007 when he started at Wimbledon College of Art to study painting. He graduated in 2011 with 1st Class Honours.

Books selected by Ellen Bertram

Collector - Miranda Richardson (52 artworks)

I liked Miranda Richardson's exhibition the best. It was the smallest and felt more coherent than some of the others.

She also had an exhibit of work by Rick Garland who won the top prize - plus an awful lot of sold work.

I reckon Miranda aced it - despite (or maybe because) she had the smallest number of works in her exhibition. I had a strong sense of a discriminating as well as a discerning eye!

Well hung wall of artwork chosen by Miranda Richardson
Five paintings or urban landscapes by Rick Garland

This gallery of small works selected by Miranda Richardson includes paintings
by Felicity House and Ilaria Rosselli del Turco
I loved the landscape paintings by David Scott Moore which have been selling very fast and I can well understand why!

Critic - Nicola Coleby (105 artworks)

Part of the exhibition of a VERY LARGE number of artworks selected by Nicole Coleby
Nicola Coleby reminded me slightly of somebody in sweetie shop - who keeps wanting to have more......

This was by far the largest exhibition- it's more than twice the size of Miranda Richardson's and it did feel a little bit crowded - as if the final edit was something that never quite happened.

It used up the whole of the end of the Main Gallery and was coming quite a long way up the gallery as well. It made me wonder if this exhibition needs a "selected but not hung" or clearer guidance to the curators as to what's an ideal range in terms of numbers eg more than x and no more than y.

That said it's evident that a number of the works were "late entries" by invited artists since the works do NOT appear in the catalogue and the works are labelled properly on the wall ONLY.

Which makes me think this exhibition must actually be a LOT MORE than 105 artworks as it had a lot of "labelled on the wall only" pieces.

Definitely an exhibition in need of a curatorial edit!

The other thing that was odd was that a former ING Purchase Prize winner (Susan Angharad Williams 2007 had a work selected for this exhibition - and yet it was hanging very low on the wall....

Flower Heads, Fabric, Stones and a Fragment from Bosch 1/101 by Susan Angharad Williams
19 x 7", oil on linen

Critic - Simon Tait

View of part of Simon Tait's exhibition

Maybe it's because Simon Tait is a critic that he's chosen to include rather a lot of invited artists - and this exhibition felt some way adrift of the ratio of "invited artists" to "selected via open entry" artists.

Isn't it odd that it's the two art critics who have deviated most from the 'norm' in terms of what makes for a successful ING exhibition?

That said I did like a lot of the work by the people he'd invited to exhibit.
The artists I have asked are all painters, but they include one of the finest painters of miniatures in the country, an inventive portraitist, a lino-cutter whose achievements defy analysis, a landscape painter with the power to shock, another whose grasp of texture is uncanny, a figurative painter who found a new path after a life change and a pop artist who has done the impossible to move the genre on.
I particularly liked these five linocut prints of trees by Andrew Carter who works in East Dulwich and at the Artichoke Print Studio Brixton, London.  I may just have to go and revisit them....

Linocut prints by Andrew Carter
£350 each
The positioning of three of his 3D works was - in art critic technical terms - "naff". They were pushed together in a corner - almost as if they were queued there while waiting for their moment in the sun - and somebody forgot they needed proper sized plinths in the right place!

If there's one thing that didn't work in this exhibition - it was the placement and spacing of the 3D works.

More about the ING Discerning Eye

The Discerning Eye website maintains an archive of:
The following are all posts on Making A Mark over the last 10 years.