Friday, November 13, 2020

A Virtual New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2020 - online now!

There are three different ways of viewing the art selected for this year's Annual Exhibition of the New England Art Club right now. 

Hopefully at some point I'll get to see it in person - because it has now been cancelled twice. 
  • The exhibition was originally planned for 12-20 June 2020 at the Mall Galleries - and got caught by the first lockdown. 
  • Then it was rescheduled for the autumn and an exhibition from Wednesday 11 November to Saturday 21 November and was knobbled most unfairly by the second lockdown!
So it looks as if a bit of effort has gone into surviving lockdowns and getting exhibitions seen online if not in person.
we've been absolutely determined to put this show on Pete Brown PNEAC
That's why there are now two additional ways to view ONLINE the works selected for the exhibition
  1. the normal way - scroll down this page until you come to the first page of artworks in this exhibition. This gives you an image - as submitted by the artist - of the artwork,. But it's very slow to scroll through the pages and it's very difficult to imagine the size of the real artwork
  2. the BRAND NEW virtual exhibition provides a way to see the artwork hung on the walls. 
  3. the Filter Lists provide a partial perspective on the Full Exhibition.
View of a Virtual Main Gallery

Here's a video of Peter Brown, the President of the New English Art Club to explain what's happening. 

PLUS details below that provide you with a guide for how to view it.

I'll reserve my review until I see it on the walls for myself!  My overall conclusion about the online version is "Good effort but there's scope for improvement" - and some issues need to be addressed now.

I've provided some comments and suggestions at the end as to how technology and presentation might be tweaked in future.

The Virtual Exhibition

The exhibition showcases paintings, drawings and prints from our elected members alongside work by emerging artists whose ethos reflects its own: informed by the visual world and personal interpretation, while underpinned by drawing.
The brand new VIRTUAL Exhibition can be viewed online. You can take a walk around the exhibition in an interactive virtual tour. You get to
  • navigate around the exhibition as you choose
  • select the artworks you want to look at more closely.
It takes a little while to get used to the tools available for navigation but once you're used to it, it's easy to move around.

You can navigate to specific parts of the Mall Galleries using:
  • the Dollhouse - see icon bottom left
  • the Floor Plan - see icon also bottom left
You can view in Virtual Reality (icon bottom right) - I don't have any facilities to do this and I suspect the majority of those viewing won't either. But it's a nice idea for those who do.

You can view Full Screen (icon bottom right) - which is what I did on my 27" iMac - which makes further navigation much easier.  (The Link Corridor is not available to walk down!)

You can move your cursor to the spots on the floor and these will give you a new view of the exhibition.

You can use your zoom controls (mine are on my mouse) to zoom in and out of specific artworks.

However, unlike some virtual exhibitions, if you click on an artwork it does NOT take you to the page about that artwork.  If you want to know the details you need to scroll through alternative perspectives on the exhibition.

View where I usually start my review of an exhibition 
standing on the top step looking down into the East Gallery

I found the images generally to be overbright. Hence the brightness has been dimmed in my screendump pics above and matched to 
  • the paintings from the conventional view of selected works; and 
  • what I know of what the light normally looks like in the gallery when you take a pic
  • what I know of the colours normally used by specific artists I am well acquainted with
There are paintings in the exhibition by artists whose colours and paintings I know extremely well (eg Melissa Scott-Miller) and close inspection of her work suggests it's far brighter and lighter than it will be in reality (or on the image in the full exhibition view of the exhibition). It's a bit too "Disney" for my liking.

So in terms of what the image actually looks like, I'd trust the digital images in the conventional gallery rather than the virtual exhibition view.

The Filter Lists

  • The button which says Explore a Virtual Tour of this Exhibition takes you to this page
  • The button at the top of that page which says Work from the Exhibition is Available to Buy Now takes you to this page
It had one filter on when you open the link - that for the NEAC Exhibition.  You can add in different filters e.g.
  • view by subject/topic e.g. these are the Still Life and Interior paintings
  • via artists name - but note this is FBA Members only (see my comment below)
  • by medium - if you are a fan of a particular medium you can find all the artwork in that medium easily (with one NOTABLE EXCEPTION - see my comment at the end - which needs remedying urgently). It's a great way of being able to compare similar media at the same time - which is less easy when they are hung on a wall. 
  • by price - although I think the price ranges should reflect the common price hurdles (with £500 being a big one)

and finally......

Three constructive themed comments by me on what we've got so far.  

First let me say that I think it's really great that the way of visualising exhibitions has been enhanced. It's an investment which I'm sure will payoff even after the pandemic is a memory. 

I also fully recognize that in doing new things that it's much more common to get most of the way there - without quite achieving perfection - first time around. 

Hence these comments are offered as ways of improving outcomes next time around! :) 

However - please note the last one re buttons and filters needs remedying as a matter of urgency!

The Presidential Video Introduction

I really like the introduction to the exhibition by Pete Brown - which sets the context, tells us what's coming up and what's available now. The camera and audio work of Pete while standing still is excellent.  I think videos like this should be made with EVERY President of EVERY Federation Art Society exhibiting at the Mall Galleries - and the rest should have long hard think about doing something similar too.

Getting a brief insight into what the exhibition looks like on the Gallery Walls is a huge incentive to get people attending.

The one thing I didn't like too much was the panning shots which on my 27" iMac screen came across as too fast and pixelated. It seemed to me as if they had also been filmed with a completely different lens. Thus although the main video is 1080HD, I'm not sure the panning was - hence the pixelation. Or maybe it was just the speed of the panning?

I say this having received identical advice when I first started videoing the BP Portrait Exhibitions. I had a very good Australian friend called Robyn Sinclair who had been a television producer prior to her retirement and her advice to me was "PAN SLOWLY!" Plus don't try to capture everything in one pan - shoot more and edit down!

The Interactive Experience

I think the Interactive experience needs a bit more explanation upfront for those unfamiliar with such technology and how it works.

The following is not enough in terms of "Help"
Discover the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2020 via our virtual tour of the exhibition.
The "Help" is not very obvious on screen and could do with a link to 
  • 'Help' located outside the interactive experience for those who don't spot it. 
  • Or a link to text (or a video) which explains how it all works in simple terms. 
  • Or Help which is on the same page which explains how it all works BEFORE people get started!
Some of us are happy to work it out for ourselves. However given a lot of buyers at these exhibitions are older people who have a computer but are not particularly techie, I'd strongly recommend a LOT of helpful advice as to how they can have a great experience by learning about and using a few tools.

Given I'm very familiar with the lighting at the Mall Galleries and photographing the exhibitions held there it does seem to me that the overall impression is overly light and bright (going towards whiteout) - altering the chroma and saturation of some paintings.

I'd review 
  • the settings on the camera used to produce the images 
  • and/or what processing occurred afterwards 
  • making sure that hue, saturation and tones are matched to accurate digital images of specific "control" paintings.

The Filter Experience

Search the Exhibition by Member Artist, Subject, Medium and Price

The BUTTON PROMPTS and Filters need refining URGENTLY! 
They are either misleading or contain errors

If you highlight that people can view an exhibition via the filters then in my opinion it needs to include ALL THE ARTISTS. 

If you highlight that "artwork can be bought now" any link needs to go the page with ALL THE ARTWORK!

Otherwise it suggests the non FBA artists selected via the Open Entry are some sort of third class citizens. 


At present the list under Artists 
  • ONLY includes FBA Members i.e. including members of other Societies based at the Mall Galleries. 
  • This means ALL the non-member artists are EXCLUDED
This means that 
  • those non-NEAC members who submitted via the open and who are members of other societies get identified 
  • BUT if you don't have a certain set of letters after your name you are ignored. 
That is NOT OK. Period.  I don't want to use the D word but I'd be very, very careful about not treating all artists in exactly the same way. It should be ALL artists in the exhibition or exclude the names of artists as a filter - but you can't have some in and some not.

All it needs is for the full exhibition to be presented in such a way that ALL ARTISTS in an exhibition can easily be identified by name - irrespective of whether or not they are members of the society holding the exhibition or any other organisation.

Other venues can do this - it's surely not beyond the capacity of the Mall Galleries to do the same.


Where is Watercolour?
Whatever happened to "Watercolours"? 
(i.e. those which are not gouache or acrylic or egg tempera). 

Were none selected - or was the filter category left out by mistake?

I surmise it is a mistake because I tested via the SWLA Exhibition which has a lot of watercolours and I tried alternative filters and it was absolutely impossible to identify watercolour paintings.
[UPDATE: I stand corrected - it now appears that a number of categories - "print, sculpture and watercolour" are NOT VISIBLE when you click the menu and can only be seen if you scroll down the menu - despite the fact there is no scroll bar to indicate the need to scroll!! Why the menu length has not been extended to include all categories is beyond me.]

So basically anybody wanting to identify watercolour paintings in (any) exhibition is NOT going to be very happy - and SALES MAY NOT HAPPEN as a result. 

Finally can I suggest an audit/review of all links and buttons BEFORE an exhibition goes live - to make sure they are doing what they should be doing - to help both artists and viewers alike.

I really don't want to have to write these comments again.

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