Monday, February 28, 2022

Elisha Enfield wins Landscape Artist of the Year 2022

This is about the Final of Series 7 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 at Levens Hall in Cumbria - which was won by Elisha Enfield.

The Final

The Prize

The prizes are:
  • a £10,000 commission for the Manchester Art Gallery to create an artwork celebrating the heritage of the North West of England.
  • £500 of materials from Cass Art.

The location

The location of the Final of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 was Levens Hall - an Elizabethan Manor in Cumbria, which is privately owned but open to the public during the summer months. It also markets itself as a location for filming purposes.

Levens Hall, the Topiary Garden and the pods

The subject for the final paintings was the Topiary Garden which is over 300 years old. (There's a World Topiary Day on 12th May!)
Topiary is the shaping and cutting of small-leaved trees and bushes into geometric shapes and forms which resemble common objects and people.
The Pods set up looking east towards the Topiary Garden

The pods were set up between the Hall and the Topiary Garden.  Although I think somebody forgot that since this particular perspective faced east, the artists would be painting into the sun all morning! Just look at those shadows - and where the sun is!

Not so much "contrejour" as "blinded by the light"
- and they wondered why Elisha took her time getting started!

Below is a view of very nearly the same bit of garden on a more overcast day. 

The Topiary Garden

In addition, there are times when I think there needs to be a serious discussion about what landscape painting is really about. We haven't had one single naturalistic landscape in the entire series - which in my view is simply appalling. The Location Manager really needs to work harder!

The Weather

They were extremely lucky with the weather - in the sense that it was blue skies, warm and sunny all day long.

Although whether the artists welcomed that sunshine in the morning is debatable!

Here's a tweet from somebody who caught the film crew filming! Hiding in the shade behind the vegetation so they didn't get the sun in the lens of the camera!

The Artists

The artists in the final were:
  • Elisha Enfield  [Instagram] a figurative and landscape painter working between London and Berlin. She graduated from the University of Brighton in 2011 with First Class Honours in Fine Art Painting. Some very impressive paintings on her website. Born in Milton Keynes and comes from High Wickham.
  • Thomas Macgregor (Instagram) - a painter and printmaker living and working in East London
  • Afsheen Nasir [Instagram] - Comes from Karachi in Pakistan and now lives in Surrey. She is self taught and works as a civil servant. She paints landscapes in oil and loves skies - but this was her first time painting 'en plein air'. She exhibited at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2019 and previously appeared in "Show me the Monet". This is her submission.
Afsheen did an interview with BBC Radio Surrey in which she talks about what reaching the final meant to her

    Elisa Enfield, Thomas McGregro and Afsheen Nasir

    The Final

    The Final programme comprised:
    • pod painting within 4 hours at Levens Hall
    • commissions - of three locations - within London
    • followed by the announcement of the winner.
    Line-up waiting for the announcement....

    I'll deal with each in turn.

    Pod Paintings

    The thing which was most obvious from the off was that each of the paintings were going to be on a very different scale from the others. There is maybe a natural assumption that "biggest will be best" - but that's not always the case - and I'm sure many people were surprised when Elisha won her heat with a painting which was much smaller than others in the heat.

    The artists were given an extra half an hour to walk through the garden to see it close up and understand what it looks like in more detail. Personally, I thought maybe it was because they were all standing in their pods complaining about being unable to see the topiary because of the sunshine shining directly into their eyes!

    We had a very short interlude which focused - without much comment - on how each artist got started. So we had
    • Afsheen with her ruler and geometric approach to composition. You can tell she's read all the analysis of how great paintings of the past have a very geometrical structure underpinning the painting
    • Thomas had what looked to me as if it might be a pantograph out to measure and scale the topiary onto his very large canvas
    • Elisha had some very big sunglasses on and was using a compositional device which I always call "a picture finder". This involved holding up a card with a rectangle cut out - adjusted to the ratio of her panoramic support - to check out what works best in relation to where the crop and four lines should go. 
    Elisha with her panoramic picture finder - and her sunglasses

    The big topic which took up a lot of time was when was Elisha going to start painting. She waited a long time working out how she was going to approach it - and made a lot of people very nervous by her ability to do this in her head rather than 


    The Commission Paintings in the Final

    The three artists were asked to spend a day visiting a location in London to collect material and do sketches for a commission painting which they then had two weeks to produce
    As you can see the difference in size very much follows the size differentials to date in this series - for these three artists.

    The Final Paintings

    The final judgement takes place in front of this set-up of six paintings by the three artists.
    • the pod painting created during the Final; and
    • the hitherto unseen commission painting done over two weeks prior to the Final.
    The programme always suggests the judges have never seen the commission paintings before. I've always wondered whether that's true.

    The key thing - and one of the very first observations relates to whether a continuity between the two paintings is apparent - or not. Every artist painted "to type"

    Pod paintings and Commissions - by Thomas, Elisha and Afsheen

    Paintings by Elisha Enfield

    Her commission painting
    • demonstrates she can paint contemporary London
    • Kathleen is not sure whether she's painting the past or the future
    Her pod painting surprised the Judges. Comments included
    • maybe we imbued her with too many expectations
    • the colours and tones take it back to an almost traditional landscape painting
    • a very striking painting - with a very reduced colour palette
    • the mistiness makes it quite pretty
    I thought her pod painting lacked both colour and contrast. It's OK but not sure it's more than that. Her commission painting was well composed and executed - however I have to confess I am neither a fan of the mistiness or Kate and Kathleen's personal interpretations of what it all means.  I'd have loved to have seen less mistiness and more colour. Especially since she has demonstrated with her fire paintings that she's not afraid of colour

    I think Elisha is a good and painter who paints with thought and consideration - but I like her painting of fires (and interior paintings) much more than her landscapes in this competition.

    Paintings by Thomas McGregor

    Commission and pod painting by Thomas McGregor

    Tai was critical of the pod painting with respect to
    • the "toytown" description of the topiary (or at least I read it as a critical comment!)
    • but the impact of the topiary and the painting was reduced by the amount of sky in the painting 
    Kate liked the fact he had cranked the colour up to #11

    Kathleen liked the horizontality (?) of it all

    Kate liked the fact he went large and showed the absurdity and personality of the topiary without going too far.

    Really? I didn't like the topiary garden painting at all - in much the same way as I disliked the heat painting of the gardens at the Eden Project.  

    I thought his commission painting was much more accomplished and had proper impact - perhaps because he is actually much more accustomed to painting urban architecture?

    Paintings by Afsheen Nasir

    Commission and pod painting by Afsheen Nasir

    The Judges commented on her commission painting
    • how the commission demonstrates her ability with painting skies and reflections
    • her commission has romantic light and warmth
    • however, in trying to render the buildings she's become a bit tighter and donenot used her luscious brushstrokes
    "she's absolutely brilliantt at reflection"
    Their view on the pod painting included:
    • her painting of the garden was extraordinary - and gives a sense of the mood of the place
    • she hadn't painted any of the shapes in full
    • the painting gives a sense of the richness and intensity of the space - the painting takes the viewer right in
    • she doesn't fall straigth in to the greens
    Afsheen commented that she hoped they could see she can paint a variety of things - but in the way she prefers to paint.

    I hoped Afsheen was going to "knock it out the park" - and I thought her pod painting was the best of the three. To my mind she came up with a good strategy to give a strong sense of the place and the way the topiary looms over people. She also had the best developed and most accurate greens - which to my mind is an essential skill of any decent landscape painter!

    However in my opinion, her commission painting was the weakest of the three. I didn't like the composition at all - and I agreed with Tai's comments aboutt the tight rendering of the buildings which jarred.

    I'm hoping to see more of Afsheen's paintings in thefuturee and have no doubt she'll have more success when she's able topaintt the type of subject she enjoys painting in the way she likes paiting.

    Decision Time

    The Judges said they found the decision very difficult.

    The winner of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 was Elisha Enfield.
    "It was a complete shock to hear my name called out!"

    All of Elisha Enfield's Paintings

    All of the paintings for Landscape Artist of the Year 2022
    by Elisha Enfield 
    (left to right: semi-finals; commission, final, submission, heat)

    The one thing that concerns me - which was never discussed at any stage - is the size of Elisha's paintings relative to the size of the Commission Prize.

    What I mean is I've absolutely no problem with people choosing to paint small. However I'd like to be confident that they can rise to the challenge of painting bigger when required,

    A £10,000 Commission is not something that a small painting can satisfy.

    Next Week - the Commission (and a shock)

    Fortunately - it looks like Elisha has gone big for the commission! I'm left wondering if there was a bit of a discussion at some stage about expectations.....

    The Commission involved Elisha taking a ride on a narrow boat on the Rochdale Canal  through the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire to see some of the industrial landscapes associated with the heritage of the North West.

    PLUS surprise, surprise - Stephen Mangan goes "au naturel" for the final episode - and reveals he's been dying his hair for years - as if we hadn't already guessed! 

    (I must confess one of the most entertaining aspects of lockdown for me was finding out just how many male "celebrities" and television / film died their hair and pretended they were younger than they actually are. Turned out to be quite a lot. It also revealed not many are very good at home dying......)

    Call for Entries for the Next Series of Landscape Artist of the Year

    In my blog post - Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year (Series 7) - I provide
    • my overview of the call for entries - plus tips
    • links to my reviews of past episodes - which also contain quite a few tips (also see below)
      It includes:
      • Key Features of the competition
      • So you want to paint landscapes on television?
      • Who can enter
      • Eligible Landscape paintings - for submission
      • Your digital entry (and what will disqualify you)
      • What are the Judges looking for?
      • My Reviews of Previous Heats in 2018 and 2019
      To help you prepare I RECOMMEND that you
      • Take a look at my reviews of the last THREE years (below) - which include lots of pics - to help you have a think about whether you want to enter.
      • Watch previous series in a major binge on Sky or Now TV - where all episodes are available.

      Past Blog Posts

      Below you can find
      • the link to my reviews in the current and previous series
      • THEMES for each of my reviews are highlighted under the link for each review of the episode
      • links to blog posts written by the participants - always very helpful!

      2022: SERIES 7

      All the reviews includes themes for reference by future participants - or plein air painters working to a time frame - in terms of problems experienced and challenges overcome.

        2021: SERIES 6

        EPISODE 1

        • Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at Chartwell + themes
          • Artist profiles
          • Composition and completion
          • Simplification and what to leave in and what to leave out
          • The importance of shadows
          • Highly Coloured Grounds
        • PLUS participant blog posts
          • Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 | Stuart Jarvis
          • Preliminary drawings of the day. | Stuart Jarvis

        EPISODE 2

         EPISODE 3

          EPISODE 4
          EPISODE 5
          • Review: Episode 5 of Landscape Artist of the Year at West Wycombe House
            • Working in different media - silkscreen printing and marker pens
            • Give the artists a proper chance to do well (one for the production team!)
            • How to use a frame to find a picture
            • Coping with the weather
            • What the artist likes to paint - and what happens if you avoid aspects you don't like
            • The darkest darks and the lightest lights

          EPISODE 6




          2019: SERIES 5

          EPISODE 1

          EPISODE 2

          Finding clothing / kit solutions for extremely challenging weather

          EPISODE 3


          EPISODE 4

          EPISODE 5
          EPISODE 6


          2018: SERIES 4

          HEAT 1

          HEAT 2

          HEAT 3

          HEAT 4

          HEAT 5

          HEAT 6 




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