Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2021

Yesterday I visited the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries - the 58th Annual Exhibition of the SWLA.

The exhibition showcases the very best of art inspired by the natural world and includes drawings, paintings, original prints and sculptures from both members and non members of the Society.

It opened last week (but I was at an Online Conference for four days and Monday was the earliest I could make it) and continues in all three galleries until 1pm on the 24th October. Otherwise it's back to normal opening hours - 10am to 5pm.

The end wall of the West Gallery - with paintings by Andrew Haslen SWLA

If you aspire to exhibit in this exhibition, it's ESSENTIAL that you see the very high standard of artwork included in the exhibition - by both members of the Society of Wildlife Artists and those selected from the Open Entry (see Call for Entries: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2021)

If, like me, you're still being very careful re social contacts, then it's nice to know that the galleries are large and there's lots of space for those attending - and everybody wears a mask!

If you can't get to see it right now, I've uploaded my photos of every wall of the exhibition to three Facebook Albums - so you can see what you're missing!

You can also 
  • view the President's tour of the exhibition (above)
  • view the exhibition in 3D Online. Matterport still have not resolved the hyper-brightness of images in the Wet and East Gallery - although views of artwork in the North Gallery are much closer to reality. I think the quantity of white walls is overwhelming the 3D software!
  • see all the artworks on exhibition via the Mall Galleries website - although you see them in isolation and not within the context of something that provides insight as to size (apart from the dimensions of course!)

This post about The Natural Eye exhibition, on the SWLA website, introduces particular features of the artwork and how/why it was developed. Much kudos to the Society for actually having a commentary on their own exhibition on their own website before the exhibition opened! I've grown tired of there being rather too many Societies which are far too slow in updating their websites to provide complementary marketing of the exhibition - and the artwork of their artist members!


I'm pleased that more people are going to get to see the show this year. I saw it last year - but many people didn't travel (including many members) and the ravages of 'you know what' meant it closed early (see  SWLA's new website and annual exhibition closing early).

I'm afraid, exhibition views are now more limited for me. I always used to walk round exhibitions three times - but now I have to be careful how many steps I take before my bone on bone ankle seizes up! (see Ever so slightly distracted - from a year ago!) Plus I get very tired.... Which is partly why I now take more photos - to remind myself of what I've seen.

That said, I do jot notes and this is my take on the exhibition overall
  • the quality of work generally is very good - with some work being excellent
  • there's a huge variation in style and media used for the drawings, paintings fine art prints and sculpture on display
Some smaller works - fine art prints and sculpture in the North Gallery

  • the Hang seems different this year - with more themes and series apparent on the walls. I queried this with Harriet Mead, President of the SWLA and this year there was a different hanging team - and Harriet got involved too! The most difficult wall to hangs the end wall in the West Gallery - because it's seen from afar by everybody entering the gallery - and MUST be interesting,. This year it was almost "off the wall" with colour! (see image at top)

Screen prints of birds by Robert Gillor PPSWLA MBE
  • I thought I saw rather fewer fine art prints - which saddened me as I always enjoy seeing the prints in this show. I think it's because one member chose to do oil paintings rather than prints and another chose to do rather smaller artworks as prints compared to previous years. That said, there are some extremely affordable unframed prints to be had - so much so that I think buying groups of prints would be the best approach!
  • Part of the exhibition have a strong maritime theme
Maritime themes involving wildlife - in the East Gallery

Paintings of urban foxes and other wild life by John Dobbs SWLA
and sculpture of Wild dogs by Nick Mackman SWLA

It's also worth remembering that its' not coincidental that the name of this annual exhibition is "The Natural Eye"
  • I always used to think this was a play on visual art and nature. 
  • I'm now more convinced than ever that's just as much about the emphasis which the SWLA places on artwork conceived, started and sometimes developed to completion while observing wildlife "in the field / sea / air"
Impressionistic drawings, paintings and sculpture - from observation - in the East Gallery 

SWLA are not looking for photorealistic artworks. They're looking for artists who OBSERVE wildlife - in the raw and in its natural habitat! Indeed I'd go so far to say, with some degree of certainty, that being very photorealistic might mean an artwork in the open entry might get passed over pretty quickly.....

The Natural Eye Drawing Bursary

I wrote about how to apply for this bursary back in April - see The Natural Eye Bursary 2021 - Call for Entries

The North Gallery has a display of the sketchbooks and drawings produced by previous bursary winners. It's a good platform for getting noticed - if you produce good work.

The Natural Eye Drawing Bursary

The Natural Eye 2021 Prizes & Awards 2021

You can read about the prizewinners on this page.

The Birdwatch and Swarovski Optik Artist of the Year Award

A prize of an ATS 80 HD spotting scope with 25-50x zoom eyepiece (with a value of £2,430), plus subscription to BirdGuides/Birdwatch

Across the bay by Liz Myhill

Across the bay by Liz Myhill

Liz Myhill is a Scottish artist and a native of the Isle of Skye in Scotland
....whose observational works span a wide range of subject matter, gathered through working directly from life. The act of walking, watching and recording numerous facets, whether fleeting or through lengthy study, allow her to gain a connection and sense of place. Although often an end in themselves, these field works are also developed into paintings and printmaking.
Liz exhibits her work throughout the UK, regularly showing with societies such as the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. She has also received a number of awards.

The BIRDscapes Gallery 'Conservation through Art' Award

Steve and Liz Harris have decided to increase the prize fund for this year to £1,000.

The Decline of Eels by Julia Manning SWLA

This is a simply STUNNING series of images of the life cycle of the eel on its travels - with some very cautionary tales of what can happen to the eel en route. (You can see a number of pics of this series in my East Gallery album)

The Decline of Eeels by Julia Manning SWLA
I started this project in response to being part of a funded project for The Somerset Wildlife Trust, called The Somerset Brilliant Coastline. Quite by chance, last September, Andy Don, an International Eel Expert came to my studio to buy another print for his collection. Over a cup of coffee he told me about what he did for a living and how eels had declined in the last 40 years and especially here in Somerset. This was a perfect subject for me to explore for this project.
I wanted to make people from Somerset and further afield aware of what we could be losing, by impediments to eel migration, such as weirs and other man-made structures, also the mortality caused by being drawn into lethal intakes such as pumping stations, hydropower plants and nuclear power stations.
This PDF file provides an explanation (at another exhibition)
  • how the series came about
  • all the individual pieces in the series
Julia Manning is an artist and printmaker based in Somerset. She studied fine art at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham and "for over 40 years I have earned a living with a paint brush!" She's a member of The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Somerset Printmakers, The Society of Wildlife Artists and of The Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

This is the background to the award
The Conservation through Art Award, sponsored by The BIRDscapes Gallery, acknowledges an artist’s efforts in using their art to help conserve the natural world. It also directly benefits wildlife by the prize money being shared equally between the artist and a nature conservation body of the artist’s choosing. This year’s Award goes to an exceptionally deserving candidate.

Her powerful body of work is both visually exciting and dynamic, leading the viewer to look more closely at what is portrayed. Her thought-provoking commentary on the plight of a threatened British species and its environment, is a huge conservation message contained within the appealing images of a skilled printmaker.

RSPB Award

Smew sailing through by Ben Woodhams SWLA

Smew sailing through by Ben Woodhams SWLA

Ben Woodhams
is an English artist and illustrator currently living and working on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. His practice is founded in direct observation and he specialises in birds, working primarily in watercolour.

Larson-Juhl Award

To celebrate drawing or dry media, draughtsmanship and capturing ideas as an art form, £500 worth of Larson-Juhl materials to the winner and a feature in their '4Walls' magazine

All works by Tianyin Wang

Three large charcoal drawings by Tianyin Wang - the shoal of fish and the two birds.

Tianyin Wang is an artist working primarily in charcoal drawing.

Born in 1986, he is currently based in London, UK. He graduated with a BA (Illustration) from Arts University Bournemouth in 2009. Between 2009-2015 he worked as a digital-based editorial illustrator. From 2015, Tianyin started to develop his unique charcoal drawing technique using a combination of different charcoals to achieve a distinctive look. 
You can follow him on Instagram

Dry Red Press Award

The winning work reproduced as a greetings card

Great Crested Grebes with Yellow Water Lilies and Banded Demoiselles by Brin Edwards SWLA

Great Crested Grebes with Yellow Water Lilies and Banded Demoiselles 
by Brin Edwards SWLA

Brin Edwards works from his straw bale studio in Assington near Sudbury in the heart of rural Suffolk. He has been a member of the SWLA since 2005 and has served on SWLA Council for many years

Panorama of the exhibition in the West Gallery

REFERENCE: Society of Wildlife Artists

My blog posts include:

2016 - Review - Society of Wildlife Artists 53rd Annual Exhibition
2015 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artist's 52nd Annual Exhibition (2015)
2014 - Video: 2014 Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - Review: 50th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - If you want a lot of people at the Private View......
2013 - Society of Wildlife Artists - a new book and a bursary
2012 - Review: 49th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2011 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition
2009 - Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition 2009
2008 - 45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2007 - Society of Wildlife Artists at the new Mall Galleries

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