Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What happens to art after the demise of BBC Four?

Yesterday we had the very sad news that BBC4 is to become an "archive only" channel.

BBC4 will no longer commission new documentary series as the arts and culture channel is downgraded to a repeats-led network.... 
Executives have decided that its relatively small audience, older than the national average at 62, does not justify continued investment in commissions." (The Times | Repeats rule roost after BBC4 funding cut)

It's interesting that the BBCMedia Centre's page of news highlights makes not one mention of the demise of BBC4. 

These are the relevant BBC documents

Below I discuss what they mean and what might be an alternative. 

Let's bear in mind that this is a BBC which is well aware that it is within the targets of the current government because of its perceived antagonism towards Brexit - and various other issues over the years.

Ageism alive and well at the BBC

Apart from what appears to be an extremely ageist approach to audiences - this also suggests we have seen the end of proper / serious / educated programmes about art.

Instead, the BBC is resurrecting BBC3 for an audience which does not watch television anyway. Plus an interrogation of the current programmes highlighted on the BBC Arts platform indicates art has become very low in the hierarchy of what gets counted as culture.  Instead Books, Film, Theatre and "BBC New Creatives" (Film / Dance / Animation) get the bulk of the platform.

It looks to me as if the BBC has abandoned 

  • Art History 
  • All those that have enjoyed watching programmes about art on BBC4
  • The audience in general aged 64+ (BIG mistake!  These are the people who vote!)
My other half refers to BBC4 has what BBC2 used to be before the BBC decided it wanted to become "popular". It's the only BBC channel he watches.

The alternative to mothballing BBC4

Here are a few suggestions for the BBC in relation to its recent budget decision
  • remember that the BBC mission is to "Inform, Educate and Entertain" - which is demonstrated more clearly by BBC Four than any other BBC channel. 
  • stop paying presenters absolutely ridiculous salaries
    • start setting an example - rather than continuously inflating costs
    • stop employing people to present who will not take the equivalent of a pro-rata fee to the salary of a BBC employee
    • if you want to cut costs there is no better way to start
    • stop paying ANYBODY more than the Prime Minister - period.
  • create a better balance of arts programmes - recognising that each appeals to different age groups in different ways
  • stop being ageist i.e. 
    • reintroduction of priced television licences for the 75+ audience
    • elimination of a channel which caters to the interests of those who are:
      • not part of the "yoof" culture
      • more likely to be unable to travel for events and visits to cultural centres
  • create better equality between the age groups
  • create a channel specifically for the 22% of the population aged 60 and over 
    • in the same way as it has a channel for kids
    • recognising that more older people spend more time at home 
    • recognising that more older people spend more of their time watching television or listening to the radio

I rather suspect that the 60+ population will not take this lying down and I look forward to signing the petitions which will doubtless emerge and get the necessary number of signatures which means they must be debated in Parliament.

Indeed I've just signed LAST YEAR'S petition Save BBC Four from closuree started last May after the rumour that the BBC wanted to chop BBC Four.

If you appreciate BBC Four and its arts programming I recommend you sign it - and share it with likeminded others!

Other articles about the demise of BBC4 and the BBC's ageist approach to programming

Below are articles which focused on the decision to "archive" BBC4

Increasing repeats requires an amendment to the BBC’s operating licence, which is overseen by Ofcom.

There is likely, however, to be a clamour from older BBC4 loyalists who feel that the corporation is prioritising younger audiences. Earlier this month it was announced that the youth-focused BBC3 was being revived six years after it was scrapped, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

and this one - 
The BBC has headed off mounting criticism by announcing that BBC Four—the specialist arts and science channel known for programmes such as Life Drawing Live!—will not be closed. Instead it “will continue to have originations [commissions], with a focus on the arts”, says a BBC spokesperson.
Why this announcement merits celebration is completely beyond me! 

THEN I REALISED - this was from May 2020!!!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada was marginally better than Episode 1. That's not saying a lot. (see Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

This was filmed in Autumn 2019 and originally aired in 2020 in Canada. It's now being broadcast via Sky Arts (Freeview) in the UK.

Location of the pods: HEAT 2 - Cobourg Marina

I was tut-tutting again about the location of the pods. All I can say is that the location manager for this programme must have a very suburban outlook when it comes to landscapes

The pods in front of Cobourg Marina

The primary criteria for locations seems to be "flat ground" - with more "flat ground" nearby for the wildcards and then even more "flat ground" for the rest of the set-up re the production team. 

Not quite sure where the quality of the landscape and the view gets a look in!

The secondary criteria seems to be somewhere where they don't have to carry the pods too far! 
The pods were located next to Cobourg Marina
"This is technically a seascape" (Mark Meyer)
...except it wasn't since it was a lake not a sea!  Its water is derived from several rivers which all drain into the lake - and there are no tidal flows.

This location offered:
  • very little land in view
  • just pontoons and boats, Lake Ontario and the sky. 
  • the trees were either side of them and in the far distance. So all those who like to paint trees were out of luck!
.....and yet just around the corner was a nice little bay with a sandy beach and some rather nice looking trees - and even better - reflections and shadows!! (see top left in the above photo)

Maybe this is a case of commercial television programme-making as an advert for recreational facilities?  Permission to film dependent on those providing permission telling you where they'd like you to go?

The weather

We had the first heat with interesting weather causing complications for the artists. The morning was clearly a typical maritime low key monochrome morning with a grey sky and low cloud. To be followed around lunchtime by sweltering hot weather and a brilliant blue sky and some very interesting high clouds.

I felt for all those who were not kitted out suitably for painting plein air in changing weather.....
Especially that wild card painting in the sun with a bald head and no hat.

The Artists in Episode 2

(Left to right) Colin, Ian, Beckett, Andrew, Deborah and Anna 

Professional Artists

Four of the five artists came from Ontario - continuing the trend started last week. Maybe those who made this programme didn't provide a very big production budget for reimbursing the travel expenses of artists living in other parts of Canada. 

The standard seems to be one artist NOT from Ontario per heat! 

If I was an artist living in Canada - somewhere other than Ontario - and I had applied for this art competition on television, I think I'd be studying the law and regulations around competitions and entries and how they are treated - and maybe writing a letter to those who regulate such things.....  After all if it says "artists from all over Canada", surely there ought to be a better mix than we've seen so far!

Five professional artists took part - a listed below. There were four painters and a book artist and I'll list them in that order

Saturday, March 27, 2021

RA Summer Exhibition 2021 - digital entries start 13th April

This is by way of an alert that the 2021 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts is likely to be held in the Autumn/Winter of 2021 (subject to any government pandemic constraints).

Summer Exhibition 2021

Planned Exhibition Dates: 22 September 2021 – 2 January 2022
Run without interruption since 1769 – yes, even in 2020 – the Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission art show. It brings together art in all mediums, from prints, paintings, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and more by leading artists, Royal Academicians and household names as well as new and emerging talent.


This is the link to the Submission Page - BUT

  • entries are not yet being taken
  • full details of what / how to submit have not yet been provided
  • You can start submitting digital entries on 13 April (which is when I will do my annual Call to Entries post)
  • the deadline for submissions is 24 May 2021 i.e. completely different to usual!
I suggest you bookmark the page and check back on 13th April.

In broad terms the process will be as usual i.e.
  • register to enter the exhibition (if you don't already have an account)
  • pay your entry fee (£35 per work)
  • enter one or two works to the exhibition - by entering details and uploading images of your artwork
  • wait for the letter to tell you the outcome of selection by the Judging Panel

Summer Exhibition 2020 - Artworks in Storage

Artworks in last Year's Summer Exhibition are still in storage and cannot be released until the RA opens again - which won't happen until 18th May at the earliest (i.e. when the RA can reopen - if the date for Step 3 on the Pathway out of lockdown does not change)

Note for those submitting to the 2021 Exhibition. You have to assume that the same might happen to artwork in the next exhibition as well!

So don't submit work which you've promised to another exhibition straight after!

Friday, March 26, 2021

National Art Society Exhibitions in London - after lockdown

I'm very pleased to say that life after lockdown - in terms of visiting the annual art exhibitions of national art societies - is looking brighter as information begins to appear on websites.

Below is a summary of what I've found so far.

Note: Under the UK Government's Roadmap for reopening after lockdown in England:

  • STEP 2: Commercial Galleries can reopen (alongside Retail) on 12th April
  • STEP 3: Public Museums & Galleries (i.e. primary purpose is NOT retail/trading) can reopen on 17th May
Commercial galleries come under non-essential retail and will therefore be permitted to open from 12 April.

Mall Galleries

Information has started to appear on the Mall Galleries website about when we can expect to start visiting exhibitions in the Galleries again.

the next three exhibitions which can be seen in the Mall Galleries proper

The Mall Galleries is the trading arm of the Federation of British Artists and displays their annual selling exhibitions each year - plus the exhibitions of other national art societies.

Below I'm listing each of the art societies which have details posted on the website plus

  • the link to the online exhibition
  • start and finish dates of the actual "in the Galleries" exhibition
  • note that the hours for ALL exhibitions in the Galleries are 11am to 4pm 
One MAJOR PLUS is that, following a suggestion I made (which I'm sure was something which occurred to others as well), the Mall Galleries website has been changed so that ALL the NON-MEMBER artists who exhibit in an exhibition get their artwork listed under the BUY ART section of the website.

These are the Upcoming Exhibitions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

This is a review of Heat 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 - which is currently being broadcast on Sky Arts in the UK. The second heat is tonight at 8pm.

I'm going to broadly follow the format I used to review the Landscape Artist of the Year series in the UK - but I'll be briefer.

In summary

  • it's not the UK series in either depth or treatment
  • it has some seriously overblown narrative and marketing. That might be the way people do things in Canada - but it's triggering a somewhat negative reception amongst more than a few LAOTY fans in the UK
  • as usual I will call it how I see it!

Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Location of the Pods

One major difference from the UK series is the travel involved in relation to locations. Unlike the recent UK series which was limited in scope due to the pandemic, this series was filmed in Canada in Autumn of 2019 for broadcast in late Winter 2020.

The locations for each episode are ALL in Ontario. So why not call it Landscape Artist of the Year Ontario?

Given the spectacular landscapes in Canada this is extremely disappointing.  It's not even as if they've travelled to where some of the best landscapes can be found - and then filmed in that location......

There's very little by way of wild locations. The locations are as follows
  • HEAT 1: Ontario - Somerled Farm - a rural agricultural context. 
  • HEAT 2: Ontario - Cobourg Marina - an opportunity to paint boats not a landscape.....
  • HEAT 3: Ontario - Midland Town Dock - an industrial landscape
  • FINAL: Ontario - Lake Rosseau - a recreational area some 200km north of Toronto.
It appears that landscapes in this series can be anywhere - so long as they're near easy motoring distance from Toronto.

PS Guess what? Five of the six artists in the first episode are also from Ontario.....  I rest my LAOTYO case.

Location in Heat one - Somerled Farm

View of the pods with a very funnelled view on the manicured farm. 
The wildcards were set up next to the house - in the garden - middle right

I found the location to be absolutely awful. That is I'm sure the farm is lovely and the owners too - but this is not a suitable challenge for a landscape painting competition!

View from the pods

Bottom line:
  • It was boring verging on caricature
  • The pods were lined up with a very funnelled view of a very well kept barn and some close cropped grass 
  • Although agricultural it might well be described as extremely manicured. 
  • There were horses in a fenced paddock - but a large tree and the fence meant the artists could not see them properly - and of course horses are not really keen on posing for artists!
  • The wildcard artists painted in a garden! 
Two artists - Denise and Marissa - had the good sense to look the other way and paint something other than the barn.

I'm beginning to think that all location managers for this series need a serious education in composition in art - as some obviously have no idea whatsoever of what makes for a good location. (Bearing in mind this comes on the back of at least one absolutely awful location in the recent UK series).

The Artists in the Series

Apparently hundreds applied but only c. 60 artists were chosen for the heats - although that figure obviously includes the wildcard artists. This is because:

  • there are only four episodes - of which just three are heats AND
  • there are only six artists in the pods
  • which means only 18 artists in the three heats - and the rest must be wildcards!
Six of the country’s top artists have just four hours to complete a landscape masterpiece. Each week, it’s a new group of artists in a new location, all vying to make it to the final.
One has to take issue with the description of the series. Absolutely no way are these Canada's "top artists". I say that knowing quite a few Canadian artists who paint landscapes who are considerably better than these artists.

If that sort of marketing was used in the UK I'd be reporting the series to the regulator of advertising for false claims! Surely people don't let tv companies do this in Canada?

Essentially these are people who wanted to appear on a television show - probably to increase their own exposure and to market their art. That's a perfectly legitimate reason - but there is no need to over-egg the pudding by calling them all "top artists" when what you mean is 
  • they are in your view the top artists of those who applied 
  • based on their submissions 
  • plus video interviews (i.e. can they talk to a camera / do they seem interesting?)
They instructed us to “be ourselves” but also suggested that we be our most dramatic and interestingly temperamental selves, if possible.
Yet again, it's patently obvious that the selectors forgot to ask whether they'd ever painted plein air to a time limit before......  All I ask is that we see artists who understand how to paint a view in a limited amount of time when the weather might change and the light definitely will. 

In a variation from the UK series, two artists from each heat go through to the final.

The Artists in Heat 1

The artists in Heat 1 included five professional and one amateur artist as listed below. Links in the name of the artists are to their websites.

left to right: Laura, Tosh, Marissa, Phil, Denise and Megan
(it appears coloured hair helps your chances of getting selected!)

For the most part these are artists who exhibit in open studios, local art shows and art walks rather than in galleries. As usual there is some discrepancy in the use of the terms 'professional' and 'amateur'.

Five Professional Artists

Denise Antaya (Instagram) From Kingsville, Onatario.  Had a 31 year career in Advertising before deciding to pursue her life long passion for painting landscapes on a full time basis. My favourite. Her submission was a knockout. Quiet, understated but well composed and well painted. She understands composition very well and creates nice 'feel good' paintings of real landscapes. I'm sure she sells a lot. In fact I know she sells a lot - for respectable sums - because she's got lots of red dots on her website.

Denise Antaya with her submission

Tosh Jeffrey (Instagram | Twitter) Lives in Toronto. B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of Western Ontario in 2006.  He teaches high school (presumably art). Seems to be an artist who is trying very hard to make his career work but hasn't had a lot of exhibitions to date. Likes to paint urban landscapes - in black and fluorescent paints but it's not the sort of art which impresses me. 

Phil Irish (Instagram | Twitter) - Lives in Olora, Ontario. Masters of Fine Art from York University, Toronto (2012) and his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and English Literature from the University of Guelph, Canada (1995). He's keen on climate change and environmental concerns and creates constructions and collages - which is what he did in the programme. I was unclear about the longevity of his artworks given the materials he was working with. He made it very clear he wanted to win for the money to fix his roof!  He also made a very accurate summary of the location of the pods
It's a bit cute, honestly

Marissa Sweet (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) From the Philippines and now based in Oshawa, Ontario. She's essentially self-taught and focuses on painting nature and the environment. She starts with a brush and moves on to use a palette knife. Elected Member Society of Canadian Artists' & Ontario Society of Artists. She does online workshops and interviews via Instagram. I like people who work hard at marketing their art.

Laura Zerebeski (Facebook | Instagram) - the only artist not from Ontario. She lives out on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mostly self-taught. Became a full time painter in 2008. Describes herself as a full-time expressionist painter with a surrealist edge. She likes to paint urban landscapes (which made me wonder why she was in this heat) and was painting plein air for the first time. I found her caricatured drawing and very bright unrealistic colours in her work to be a bit Disneyfied - which I'm sure will appeal to some.  She wrote two blog posts. She writes well and I found both very interesting and extremely informative. I'm sure both will also be very helpful to others hoping to participate in the future. PS I like her writing more than her art and IMO Laura should also pursue a writing career!
landscape painting involves decidedly less adrenaline so they have to put a time limit on it and amp up the drama...... 
Eventually, I was short-short listed to the finals. I’m in! My silent response when they phoned to congratulate me was a sort of dawning horror. I told them I was speechless with indescribable YAY; inside, that YAY was more like a Stephen King monologue.
They told me to make sure I kept my purple hair (summer experiment/self-colouring mistake) because the network loved it. I suspect I am the Menopausal Rebel archetype, a token Western Canada white female representative.

One Amateur Artist

Megan Hazen (Instagram ) Based in Burlington, Ontario. A 2017 graduate of OCAD University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction. She works in acrylic and has a love of colour. Has developed a somewhat odd technique of creating cutouts within her paintings where there is no content. Although I understood her concept behind why she does this when she described it - and her paintings catch my eye to start with - I'm less convinced this will have long term appeal. She obviously likes plants and animals and I wonder why she doesn't focus on these.

What I liked

Some of the submissions were good.  Others were interesting. 

Thank goodness for at least two artists who looked for something to paint other than the awful barn.

Plus another who blew up the barn with his collage. Not a fan of his work - but totally get the reason for doing it like that!

I felt a bit perverse watching the interesting dialogue between the two Judges.  

  • The woman - Joanne Tod (age 68), award-winning artist and educator - paints portraits(!) and betrayed her ignorance of landscape painting very early in the programme when she confessed she'd never heard of sky holes. What she is doing judging a landscape painting competition is beyond me!
  • The man - Marc Mayer (age 65) Former Director of the National Gallery of Canada - was obviously used to being asked to speak first - and I rather suspect he is not above saying the startlingly obvious should anybody say something really silly. Loved the way he switched into French when speaking to a Canadian wildcard who spoke French as his first language (but where were the subtitles for the rest of us?)
At one point I made a note "Mayer does not like woman judge".

Not a natural pairing - but the tension makes for interesting viewing!

I also liked watching Denise paint and her approach using a brown grisaille for her underpainting before getting going with her oils. Interesting also to watch somebody who paints back to front in terms of zones.

One of the best bits was when Ian Dejardin (who I met and talked with when he was Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery - nice man) did an overview of Canadian landscape painting - highlighting different styles and approaches across a wide range.  See my review of his Painting Canada exhibition at DPG Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Review (2012). 

The artists he featured were

What I didn't like

I really do NOT like television companies who 

  • try to make artists into exaggerated versions of themselves in order to create "interesting television".  
"I came to play and I play to win". Really? The people who watch programmes like these are much more interested in listening to their thoughts about how to develop and progress their artwork than how stressful they are finding the situation - or how pumped up they are in terms of meeting the challenge!!
  • put artists into stressful situations when they have absolutely no experience of painting plein air - and haven't got the right kit with them
  • take two artists who like painting urban landscapes and put them on a farm.
I'm also not a fan of production companies which can't find a flat piece of land on which to put the pods with a view which is not flat!

What surprised me

The artists with no formal art training produced the best submissions.
Or should I be surprised? Given what passes for art education these days......

Heat Winners

Judging the paintings

In a nutshell - from left to right
  • Marissa had difficulties finding her subject - and then painted too small for her style. I'd thought on the basis of her submission that she was more likely to be 'a winner'.
  • Phil created something interesting - which bore little relation to the view and raised questions about its longevity in terms of how it was made
  • Megan's painting underwhelmed and included a non-existent sunflower. She seemed to me to be out of her comfort zone and was painting what she knew rather than what she saw
  • Laura's painting - if less whacky - could have been interesting. She certainly knows how to lay paint down. 
  • Tosh invented a landscape by moving aspects of what was in front of him around - and went big. I really don't like his style or colours but I do think he tried hard and made something out of a difficult/boring subject.
  • Denise turned around and focused on the far horizon and created a nice calm painting. She knows how to paint and she received the best compliments of the day from Mark Meyer.
The Heat winners - going forward to the Final were 
  • Denise Antaya 
  • Todd Jeffrey
I'm looking forward to seeing what Episode 2 is like. More of the same - or something different?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Syntax of Color

I want to highlight a website called Syntax of Color which aims to focus on Art Materials and Colour. 

Highly recommended for art materials nerds like me - and those wanting to expand their knowledge of the art materials they work with currently - and might like to try in future.

This website is actually resurrecting an old site with updated and new material. 

After a considerable hiatus, the art materials website devoted to pigment history stories, interviews with artists and manufacturers, reviews of art materials and items of interest in the world of ASTM will be refreshed and renewed. Also a MAJOR name change has taken place. The old Grammar of Color is evolving into the Syntax of Color. We're back.....

"Syntax of Color" aims to educate artists and share information about art materials by exploring:

Syntax of Color
The Syntax of Color - Home Page

Michael Skalka - author of Syntax of Color

The website is the idea of a chap who I've been corresponding with on and off for some years.  

Prior to his recent retirement, Michael Skalka was the Conservation Administrator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington for very many years where - among other duties - he looked after The National Gallery's Art Materials Collection.
Since 1993, I have been engaged in learning and sharing with others the love I have for art materials

Michael Skalka has an MFA in Museum Studies, expertise in Art Materials, and has been the Chairman of ASTM subcommittee D01.57 (re. Artists' Paints and Related Materials) for some years - which is how I got to know him.  (Note for new readers: I have been known to bang on online about lightfastness of art media at length - and I'm also a co-opted member of D01.57!)

Bottom line Michael is genuinely interested in increasing awareness of issues relating to colour and art materials - and has no axe to grind other than being somebody focused on quality issues. He also knows many of the technical people from the various art manufacturers.

Content of Syntax of Color

Here's a sampler of its content to date - with some quotations to get an idea of content. 
  • Michael writes well and with authority. 
  • If there is one thing I'd like to see him add it's shorter paragraphs and spaces inbetween! (i.e. techniques for writing for online as opposed to printed papers)


He focuses on old as well as current colours - as one might expect of a man who has worked in conservation for over 25 years.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

and now for Landscape Artist of the Year CANADA!

For all those who are suffering withdrawal symptoms from the end of Landscape Artist of the Year in the UK, I have news of another series - this time in Canada.

I don't watch adverts so wasn't aware this was happening until today. Campbell Morrison from Scotland very kindly told me about Landscape Artist of the Year Canada. (which I THINK is actually Landscape Artists of the Year 2020 - Canada - and this is because I do lots of searching online and I picked up a few clues!)

How to watch Landscape Artist of the Year in the UK

The good news is I can start from the beginning - so long as I watch Episode 1 which is being broadcast in the afternoon next Tuesday on Sky Arts on Freeview.

Otherwise it's 8pm every Wednesday night for four weeks. (I've just finished setting up the "record" buttons)

This is because the programme is being broadcast as follows:

  • Sky TV Entertainment - Wednesday 8pm - for the next four weeks (also available on demand)
  • Sky Arts on Freeview
    • Wednesday 8pm starting 17th March - for four weeks (but NOT on demand)
    • Tuesday 3pm starting 23rd March - for four weeks (but NOT on demand)
  • NOW TV Entertainment - NOT AVAILABLE - BOOOOOOOOOO!!!  I pay my subscription - where's my SKY TV Entertainment content?

Landscape Artist of the Year Canada

This is how it works. It's exactly the same - same format, same music, same pods - with a few differences (see below)
The programme brings together the country’s top professional and amateur artists, in a battle of the brushes to see who can best capture the country’s most iconic landscapes. Working in their own mediums,using their own supplies, the artists must create a spectacular rendition of the landscape in front of only four hours! 
The programme is licenced by Sky Arts to the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CBC) and is made by Makeful.

As per usual, the Judges decide 
  • which artist deserves the $10,000 grand prize and 
  • who will have the honour of being put on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
The landscape this time incorporates views of Canada - and celebrates the diversity of Canadian landscapes. Watch the video below to see the sort of landscapes in the series.

It will also feature famous Canadian landscape artists.
If you want to get ahead on this topic why not read my past blog posts about Canadian landscape artists?

What's different about LAOTY Canada?

The variations are:
  • it's only four weeks long
  • just ONE host: Sook-Yin Lee - who is apparently a famed arts broadcaster in Canada. 
Sook-Yin Lee 
  • just TWO expert judges:
    • Marc Mayer (age 65) Former Director of the National Gallery of Canada. (I'm already impressed - that's heavyweight kudos!) He's currently, strategic adviser at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto
Marc Meyer with Marissa Sweet

    • Joanne Tod (age 68), award-winning artist and educator. She is a Canadian contemporary artist and lecturer whose paintings are included in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. She seems to specialise in portraits so I'm guessing was selected for what I assume is a companion series.
Joanne Tod with Laura Zerebeski.

There's a nice video on YouTube called Landscape Artist of the Year Canada: Tips and Tricks - see below. 

Note how I worked out it was the programme for 2020? :) 

What about my reviews?

I'm still under lockdown so television programmes provide a great opportunity to review art and I'll be continuing my reviews - in the same way as for Landscape Artist of the Year in the UK.

The first will be published before Episode 2 airs next Wednesday - after I've watched Episode 1 on Tuesday!

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Friday, March 19, 2021

View 'Hockney in Normandy'

You have a few hours left to view "Hockney in Normandy" online - which closes later today at the Richard Gray Gallery at 1018 Madison Ave, New York.

The presentation features recent iPad paintings and a suite of landscape prints made from original ink on paper drawings. This new body of work highlights Hockney’s singular sense of line and form and his longstanding commitment to exploring perspective as mediated by technology.
Hockney in Normandy
Gray Gallery, New York (22 February 2021 - 19 March 2021)

There is a Viewing Room for Hockney in Normandy in which there are:

  • excellent views of the artwork on display
  • a video about the exhibition - worth watching
  • a commentary on Hockney's continued prolific output and his continued use of a wide range of media - including technology - to draw and paint
It reflects the intimate interior spaces of his Normandy home "La Grande Cour" and its scenic surroundings.
In 2019, while familiarizing himself with the surroundings of his studio in Normandy—a seventeenth-century building with thick timber, red shingles, a reflecting pond, and plenty of blooming brush—Hockney set out with ink and concertina sketchbooks which would result in a series of works on paper depicting the idyllic countryside that surrounded him. Drawing the viewer into an amble through his gardens, Hockney in Normandy presents the suite of prints produced from those paintings on paper. Gray Gallery 
"We do not look at the world from a distance; we are in it, and that’s how we feel… I tend to like the thought that I’m in the world. I don’t want just to look through keyholes." David Hockney

Hockney has always been inspired by great artists - notably Picasso. There is a sense in this exhibition that he's now examining the work of Monet who was the first great artist to feature Normandy in his paintings.


Yesterday's post has been updated with the details of the new book Spring Cannot be Cancelled by David Hockney and Martin Gayford - which will be published by Thames and Hudson on 25 March 2021. My copy is already on order!

You can read more of my blog posts about David Hockney over the years via my "David Hockney" label.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

They can't cancel Spring

"They can't cancel Spring" started last March with a message from David Hockney.

He posted the iPad drawing below to Instagram - from his base in Normandy where he was under lockdown.

The Art Newspaper (and various others) took it up and published A message from...David Hockney: 'Do remember they can’t cancel the spring' exactly a year ago today.

Jonathan Jones followed up in the Guardian with his article on 2nd April How David Hockney depicted a spring for self-isolationists

Spring Cannot Be Cancelled

Spring Cannot be Cancelled
by David Hockney and Martin Gayford will be published by Thames and Hudson on 25 March 2021. (The link above goes to Amazon UK - my copy is already on order!)

This is 
a new book of conversations and correspondence between David Hockney and his long-time friend and collaborator Martin Gayford, in which the artist reflects upon life and art as he self-isolates in rural France.
Hockney moved to Normandy after he became 80.
when Covid-19 struck, it made little difference to life at La Grande Cour, the centuries-old farmhouse where the artist had set up a studio a year before, in time to paint the arrival of spring. In fact, he relished the enforced isolation as an opportunity for even greater devotion to his art.
The book is illustrated with images of Spring drawn and painted on his iPad. Many who viewed his major exhibition at the RA in 2012 (see my post Review: David Hockney RA - A Bigger Picture) will remember how much Hockney said he exalted in the arrival of Spring and loved to paint the foamy blossom on the Hawthorn bushes in in the East Yorkshire Wolds west of Bridlington where he lived at the time 'on location".

This time we'll see what he makes of Normandy!

They Can't Cancel Spring also the name of the Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society. See They Can't Cancel Spring on the RWS website

This opens this evening - with a virtual evening reception on Instagram....

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Current Art Shows on Channel 4

This is a post reflecting on art programmes on Channel 4. Specifically:

The Programmes

We would like our arts films to change the way we think about the world now. Commissioning Brief 
Channel 4 is a public service commercial broadcaster that commissions original programming and online content from independent production companies.

Interestingly Channel 4 does NOT have a category for Arts - despite its stated purpose - and despite having a commissioning brief for the Arts.

Of the programmes highlighted above:
  • The first two programmes are listed among the top 20 shows on Channel 4.
  • The last two are listed in the "Lifestyle" Category!

Grayson's Art Club

Grayson talks to artists, creatives, celebrities and viewers about art and lockdown
Grayson Perry has been at the heart of Channel 4's arts output for some time now - with various programmes having been made and broadcast on various topics dear to the artist.

For example - from a press release in late 2018 
For Grayson Perry being an outsider is at the heart of "Culture Wars" (w/t), which sees the acclaimed artist and broadcaster travel across the US, applying his unique artist-anthropologist’s eye to unpicking the tribal and cultural conflicts that underlie this deeply divided nation. Channel 4 announces line up of new arts programmes (November 2018)
In the last year, he has emerged, with his wife, as something of a creative saviour for all the angst and time on our hands associated with the pandemic and lockdown and staying at home and wondering what to do after baking banana bread!

Lately, this is what Channel 4 have had to say about Grayson - who's beginning to resemble a bit of a 'golden goose'
We have been looking for a popular returning arts series for the last 18 months and hope we’ve found one in the fantastic Grayson’s Art Club.

What I like about this programme

  • This is absolutely the perfect programme for lockdown
  • everybody outside his studio seems to participate via Zoom
  • Grayson Perry has serious art credentials - but is possibly the most unpompous member of the Royal Academy of Art ever
  • we all get to see the real version of an artist' studio and get to see how Grayson Perry makes his very popular artworks - and in particular his drawings and ceramic art / sculptures (although this time it's going to be cast in iron)
  • It involves both television personalities used to speaking to an audience - alongside members of the public talking about their experiences and their artwork
  • it displays both hidden talents (who can forget Joe Lycett's painting of Professor Chris Whitty in the first series?) and amazing creativity
  • I like the fact that Philippa Perry - who is no slouch being both a psychotherapist and author of #1 bestseller "The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read" - also gets to make art and her contributions are also very interesting
  • it combusts the notion of what is "proper art" and embraces the notion of "contemporary folk art" i.e. the art made by a community - in this case one experiencing a pandemic
  • as such it's also a vehicle for story-telling and community a well as making art. 
  • I'm guessing that a lot of people get comfort from the things they hear as well as see
  • There's going to be an exhibition at the end of it!!

This time the themes were announced in advance and people have had the opportunity to send them in with a digital video of themselves telling the story behind 

I have no doubt this programme will be written about and archived as a way of understanding the social history of what the pandemic meant to many people.


Previous blog posts - in date order - include

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Twelve of Britain's best home potters compete to be crowned best at the wheel

What prompted this post was the Final of Series 4 of The Great Pottery Throwdown on Sunday night.

This programme started out on BBC2 in 2015 and 2017 - and then transferred to Channel 4 - which seems to be doing rather well in picking up programmes that the BBC don't want to invest in. 

Interestingly ceramic art links this programme and Grayson Perry. 

Participants, Judges and Presenter in Series 4 of The Great Pottery Throwdown

What I like about this programme