Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2018 #1

I'm very late with my review of the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club this year due to its juxtaposition with the opening of the RA Summer Exhibition and the BP Portrait Award exhibition plus various other personal matters.

However I visited on Tuesday (and again today) and found a good-looking and more colourful exhibition and lots of red dots.  

I will say however that this remains overwhelmingly an exhibition by members of NEAC.

View of walls in the Main Gallery

View the exhibition online too!

NEAC's Annual Exhibition 2018 continues at the Mall Galleries continues until Saturday 23rd June (10am - 5pm).

You can also view it online, although I'd much prefer a way to navigate via pages tabbed with the start letter of the surname. Having to tab all the way through the entire exhibition to get to a non-member who has a surname starting with a letter towards the end of the alphabet is tedious in the extreme.

At present you cannot buy online via the NEAC website (although I'm guessing you can after the actual exhibition closes) - but you can make enquiries about works you are interested in right now via the Mall Galleries website - where the exhibition is also online.

You can also read the e-catalogue released via Issuu online

The end wall of the Main Gallery
I'm not sure the NEAC Annual Exhibition still has that "thing" that says "This is a NEAC exhibition" when I walk in.  While good looking on first impressions, it didn't make me go WOW!
The New English Art Club is a group of around ninety professional painters whose work is based principally upon direct observation of nature and the human figure
About the New English Art Club
For a long time the NEAC Exhibition had a very distinct identity - as expressed above - and I think maybe it's lost that.
  • I'm inclined to think it's maybe because the styles of members seem to have diversified over time. Not all to my taste I must confess!
  • There again it could be the hang....
Some of the paintings hanging in the Threadneedle Space
Below you can find images of the exhibition and some observations. I went back to see it again this afternoon as my SD card ran out of space on Tuesday.  I find reviewing the exhibition again when I get home from the photos I take enables me to see things I sometimes miss while in the exhibition - notwithstanding the fact I scribble lots of notes!


Congratulations to NEAC for actually getting their prizewinners on their website during the course of the exhibition - with a link to an image to the prizewinning painting

The large study of a head is 'Selfie by Lamplight' by Tim Benson, President of the ROI
Joint Winner of the Doreen McIntosh Prize
Here are the prizewinners - 4 members and 3 non-members - with said link to the paintings
  • The Doreen McIntosh Prize (£5,000)
  • Winner of The Bowyer Drawing Prize (£1,000): Dominic KeshavarzRostrenen  (see below)
  • Winner of The Peter Ashley Framing Prize (bespoke picture frame to value of £500): Simon Quadrat NEACMan at Window
  • Winner of the Jackson’s Art Prize (£300 of art materials) : Sharron Astbury-Petit, Hanabi
Ned Drawing on the Studio Floor (£18,500) by Peter Brown
0il, 58 x 42 inches
Next challenge - how about an archive of prizewinners with their images over time?
Websites can take a lot of content these days without costing any more money.

Winter Backgardens, Islington 2018 (£5,500 SOLD) by Melissa Scott-Miller
Oil 40 X 48 inches
I really liked the painting which won the Dry Press Award. Melissa Scott-Miller and June Berry really ought to have a joint exhibition - their paintings of people doing things in gardens (in Islington and France) would appeal to a lot of people!  Their paintings certainly sell well....

The Exhibition

The exhibition has 396 paintings. These split out as follows
  • NEAC - 291 (73.4%)
  • Non-members - via the open submission - 103 (26%) i.e. just under 2% more than last year!
  • HRH Prince of Wales - 2 (0.5%) 
  • TOTAL - 396 (100%)
As I said last year, it's difficult to call this an open exhibition. It's really a members' exhibition with c.25% of the paintings from non-members, a lot of whom are already members of other FBA art societies.  "NEAC" is after all the set of initials that other FBA society members want to add on to their existing signature member status - probably because it was originally a spin-off from the RA.

That said other exhibitions might have a similar number of artworks by non-members, but the percentage of the whole if higher because the exhibition is not across all three galleries  and the overall number of works exhibited is smaller.

There's absolutely no doubt that this is an art society that a lot of people want to become a member of. It still has a certain kudos.

Maybe they ought to run a second exhibition each year with 75% of the hang being by non-members competing for future membership and 25% being latest works by members?!

Features of the Exhibition

The image below includes both the tribute to Bernard Dunstan RA NEAC who died last year....

.... but also the prizewinning painting (which won the NEAC Critics Prize) by Peter Brown NEAC PS ROI RP Hon RBA - which I have mentally captioned in my head as the "Stuff the Summer Exhibition Award". There was a huge outcry on Facebook when this painting did not get selected for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and true to the spirit of the origins of NEAC they have done the decent thing and acknowledged the quality of the painting.  (That said, having seen the Summer Exhibition, I now understand why it was not selected! Too serious - not enough fun!)

The Main Gallery included a tribute to Bernard Dunstan RA NEAC
and the 'Stuff the Summer Exhibition Award'
As always there are lots of small paintings - on two walls in the main gallery - surrounding the tables and chairs where people have a drink and a bite to eat - and survey the walls!  By putting all the small paintings together it also means that there is more space to spread out the larger and medium sized paintings.

Small works in various media surrounding those sitting down
HOWEVER I found it incredibly difficult to read the numbers and words on the 'invisible' labels against the dark grey wall. It might look better to not have white labels on a grey wall - but the invisible labels cannot help sales if you can't see the number of the painting!

How about a numbered listing - attached to the white side wall - with the full details of all small paintings and a dot with the catalogue number on it clearly visible next to the painting itself? (i.e. not under the painting in the shadow of the frame!!)

Small paintings on the messanine wall

More small paintings on the wall adjacent to the cafe area
Obviously white labels have had to be attached to the ones at the top
as even people with good eyesight couldn't read them
There are LOTS of paintings of snow. Obviously the Beast from the East prompted painters to start making the most of the change in the weather this year. I almost got the point where I yearned for a snowy corner!

URBAN: Snow in Islington, March 2018 (£3,800) by Melissa Scott-Miller
oil, 40 x 32 inches
RURAL: Snow Fields and Rising Moon, Dorset (£2,600) by Richard Pikesley
oil, 27 x 33inches,
SUBURBAN: Winter (£2,100) by Genevieve Draper
oil 24 x 20inches
By way of contrast, there was cope for a "hot spot" within the gallery - as there were also quite a few paintings of Asia e.g. India and Vietnam - by Patrick Cullen, Ann Shrager and Peter Brown, which were both colourful and interesting

Paintings of India by Patrick Cullen
Life has not reset button (VT Illuminations Mumbai) Watercolour 52 x 60inches £7,000 SOLD
Busy Street, Paharganj, Delhi
Oil 32 x 40 inches £4,250
Refreshing the Fruit
Early Morning, The Market, Hoi An, Vietnam (£3,850) by Peter Brown
Oil, 18 x 24inches
That made me think that maybe those hanging this exhibition might want to think occasionally about
  • what themes have emerged from drawings, prints and paintings submitted and available to hang and 
  • whether - like with shop windows (and what is an exhibition of art for sale but a glorified and very large shop window) - it works better if you group items which have an underlying theme so that the impact of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
(i.e. I'm not talking about asking people to work to a theme so much as recognising themes which emerge from paintings submitted and selected for hanging)

This approach to hanging certainly worked particularly well in relation to the monochrome prints and drawings section in the North Gallery which I thought looked excellent - and also contains much to admire.

The Mall Galleries has not developed bendy walls!
This is my panoramic shot of the monochrome section of the exhibition
Dominic Keshavarz is also a very worthy winner of the new Bowyer Drawing Prize sponsored by the Bowyer Family in memory of William Bowyer RA RWS RP PPNEAC (1926-2015)

His draughtsmanship, skill in executing line and stipple drawing in pen and ink and control over tonal values is phenomenal - and this is a drawing which should be studied closely by anybody who wants to become at this particular style of drawing using pen and ink.  You can also see a lightbox image of the drawing on his website

Winner of The Bowyer Drawing Prize
Dominic Keshavarz, Rostrenen 

1550mm x 580mm, pen and ink

I spoke at the beginning about maybe NEAC having lost its distinct "look".

Well there were certainly artists whose work stood out for me as being what I always think of as "the NEAC look".

For example, Jacqueline Williams' paintings stood out for me again and again.  It's that emphasis on figurative work which is underpinned by good draughtsmanship - but also displaying an immense talent and expertise in using a colour palette which finds the colour in light.  Particularly if highlights and vibrant colour punches through a muted background

It is of course a recipe which has always been popular with both buyers and collectors!

Glancing Sunlight (£2,600 SOLD) by Jacqueline Williams
oil, 37 x 31inches
However, I did see a number of artworks which I would have expected NEAC to have edited out in the past.

My own view is that I don't think it's acceptable to show weak works by members if running an open exhibition and asking those submitting work to pay a fee to enter.

Sales and Prices

I'm going to do another blog post about this - once the exhibition is over.

I analyse sales by size and price range - and then by members/non-members.  Last year there was a very clear pattern to the sales and I asked some very serious questions about pricing by members

This year there's an interesting pattern emerging and I'd like to see how it turns out by the end of the exhibition before commenting further....

One thing I'm clear about is sales seem to be better this year - which is good!

More about the New English Art Club

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My past blog posts about past exhibitions - and this year's call for entries can be found below:

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