Thursday, July 15, 2021

Review: 122nd Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society

This is a review of the 122nd Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society - as in the hung version - currently on view in all three galleries at the Mall Galleries in London.

I'm going to start with a number of comments about the exhibition and then highlight a number of artworks I liked - by Gallery.

I'll be referencing artworks by linking to the photos I took yesterday.

Portraiture featured on the end wall in the West Gallery
- with different dry media, different styles and different approaches to
making a mark with dry media

Overview of the Exhibition

There are some exhibitions you like a lot and some which include art you like but overall the exhibition somehow just doesn't quite grab you as others have in the past

This is one of those. I'm wondering if this is because it does NOT include all the artwork which sold when the exhibition had to be "online only" at the beginning of the year. 

That said I'd still recommend a visit - because some of the artwork on display is very good and I'd certainly recommend a visit for anybody who aspires to be in next year's exhibition!

I made notes while I was in the exhibition (thanks to Evernote!) of things which I noticed and these are as follows....

I think this was my favourite wall - in part because of how it was hung

Positive Notes

  • There are some large and very colourful artworks by non-members which I regard as a very good thing.  Many will not remember the works on Mark Leach (who died while President Elect) but I still miss his large and colourful artworks. It's good to see others contributing large and interesting pieces which embrace colour.

Winner of the Young Artist Award
The Beast's Negative Space by
Charlotte Bullock

  • There are lots of artworks in this show which show off the breadth and scope of what's possible when using pastels and other dry media. I always enjoy the artwork which really shows off the unique characteristics of the media employed i.e it's trying to look like pastel and not an oil painting!
  • There seems to be much more abstracted artwork than hitherto - which is no bad thing
Pastel drawings by Fellcity House
  • I ALWAYS like to see good drawing - and there's very definitely examples of good draughtsmanship within the show
  • There's some examples of an innovative use of pastel. I saw my first (I think) pastel and thread artwork by Marsha Roddy
  • The exhibition includes rather less lockdown art than I was expecting - however what is included is unusual. Sometimes keeping it simple says a lot.
Face to Face by Peter Vincent PS

Less Impressed

  • I saw rather more of artists trying to mimic leading members in this exhibition than in past exhibitions.  I'm not impressed by this - in part because I've never quite understood the point of trying to emulate leading members.
  • The exhibition includes some artwork which is trying to be photorealistic without quite pulling it off. I'm quite picky about photorealism. I tend to have an attitude of "don't show it until it's excellent". It's a notion worth pondering on for all those who try to reproduce photos.
You can see my photos of the exhibition - in sections, as if you were walking around the three galleries - on my Facebook Page (whether you are a member of FB - or not!). Links are at the end of each Gallery section below.


East Gallery - artwork I liked

Set of landscapes in pastels by Norma Stephenson

The standout artist for me was Norma Stephenson PS - who produced a knockout set of pastels. I think I maybe like them a lot as I very much like the palette she used for the works which seems to me to be lighter and more cheerful than some of her paintings which have always seemed to me to be quite grey. What I like about Norma's work is that she produces what are recognisably landscapes while making them semi-abstract by playing with colours and mark-making in an impressionistic way.

It's obviously working as the red dots indicate that two have already sold after the preview on Tuesday - helped I think by realistic prices!

By way of contrast, the set of landscapes in bold saturated colours by Tony Allain PS ARSMA were also impressive. I particularly liked this one which has a pleasing composition which just sucks your eye in, bold use of pastel strokes of varying widths and finally demonstrates the effectiveness of a tiny spot of red pastel.

Bennybeg Farm, Crieff by Tony Allain PS ARSMA
Pastel 50 x 65 cm (71 x 87 cm framed)

MORE PICS IN Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2021 - East Gallery on my FB Page

West Gallery - artwork I liked

It was good to see Felicity House with her artwork on a feature wall. I absolutely LOVED this drawing of a meal - and this isn't just because I've been dieting for over a year while getting fit to mobilise on one leg for 3 months! I'm a foodie with a long term interest in how people portray food - and Felicity is without doubt one of the best. It always looks fresh and good enough to eat - and what more can one ask?

Tastes of Tuscany in a Dorset Kitchen by Felicity House

Curtis Holder, Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 has a large coloured pencil portrait drawing - in his inimitable style - on the end wall. This demonstrates conclusively that coloured pencil can create artwork with impact from a distance and much interest when looking at it close too. This is a link to the work on his website and the image below is a crop of the artwork which I took yesterday.

Curtis has been collecting awards all year. I was rather surprised to see he didn't pick one up in this exhibition.

Nasim (crop) by Curtis Holder
coloured pencil on paper, 594 x 841 mm

MORE PICS IN Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2021 - West Gallery on my FB Page

North Gallery - artwork I liked

This is a stunning drawing in graphite by Eleanor Mill - who appears to be a Russian artist who was born and grew up in St Petersburg and who draws architecture in pencil using traditional techniques. She has an interesting account of her life and art on one website.

What I liked about this drawing - besides the impeccable rendering - was the tremendous sense of volume and depth produced by the control over tonal values and rigorous attention to different ways of drawing the foreground, middle ground and background.

A Gateway to Source, New York by Eleanor Mill
Pencil on paper. 60x60 cm 2020

MORE PICS in Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2021 - North Gallery on my FB Page

Finally, I'm very sad to see works by Victor Ambrus and Bob Last for the last time. It's not usual to have an exhibition where three of the members have died since the previous exhibition - but we live in unusual times.

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