Thursday, September 14, 2023

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023 Exhibition

This is about the David Shepherd Foundation's Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023 Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, which I visited on Tuesday. It provides:

  • announcement of the artwork winning the top prize
  • comments on the Exhibition
  • my photos of the exhibition - plus links to more images of the artwork - including all the Category Winners
  • comments on pricing and sales

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023

"The Journey" by Karen Laurence-Row
(Abstract World category)
oil and gold leaf 113 x 113 cm framed

The winner of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023 Prize is Karen Laurence-Row for her oil and gold leaf painting titled "The Journey" (Abstract World category) 113 x 113 cm framed.

It's the story of a giraffe. It's much more abstract than most winners have been in the past. I can't tell you anything about it or why it was chosen as there's nothing on the website and, despite a request, I've not been emailed a press release.
Born in Uganda, daughter to a civil engineer, her family lived almost a nomadic existence, moving around East Africa to wherever a road or a bridge was needed. With no towns or cities around for hundreds of miles, Karen and her siblings would draw to entertain themselves. These memories of Africa’s virtually unspoiled landscapes, teeming with game and magnificent views, were to influence her subject matter as an artist in later years. (her website)
The Judges for the Awards in 2023 were made up of
  • PR and advertising experts: Karrie Goldberg (Founder of The Kagency and Outernet)
  • artists: Hazel Soan Gary Hodges, Mandy Shepherd and Emily Shepherd
  • conservationists: Melanie Shepherd, Chair of the DSWF Board of Trustees
  • gallery owners: Simon Trapnell (founder of Nature in Art)
  • art expert / agent: Rita Alay Libera Del Curoto Askernasy (Founder of MT Art Agency)
  • interior designers: Wendy Feess.

Category winners

The categories have been revised this year. They now include:
  • Abstract World and 
  • Environmental Activism.
The latter category was won by Ophelia Redpath the winner of the Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 with her painting Not in a Million Years. Below is my photo of her two stunning paintings and her habit of creating paintings with a story seems particularly apposite for this competition and the Environmental Activism category. She also won The Artist Editor's Choice Prize as well - so expect an article about Ophelia's wildlife paintings in an upcoming edition of The Artist

Two paintings in the Environmental Activism category
by Ophelia Redpath

As things stand at the moment there's no listing of the category winners on their website - but you can see them on my Facebook Page (see link below)

You can also see a solo exhibition by Cy Baker in the East Gallery. He won last year when the exhibition was online only. I'll be doing a blog post about him later this week and he also gets a mention below.

The Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition 2023

There has been no physical exhibition for three years so I was very pleased to see a very welcome and very impressive sight when I walked in to the Mall Galleries - and I commend this exhibition to all lovers of wildlife art.

Very sadly, as the exhibition has switched away from online only, we are left with a conundrum. The website now appears to be entirely focused on sales and is removing all sold images from view - so you cannot see the artwork which won the major prize and many others which have sold

[UPDATE: I've now found both the 2023 Exhibition Online and the Finalists Artwork - where you can vote for your favourite in the People's Choice Award]

You can also see my album of photos of the exhibition on my Facebook Page - where you can see the winner AND all the category winners!!

The DWSF Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition 2023 is on at the Mall Galleries 

  • until 16th September - from 10am - 5pm every day. 
  • Entrance is FREE. 
  • There is an excellent catalogue available at the front desk 

DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year is an internationally renowned wildlife art competition and exhibition, which each year attracts entries from some of the most talented artists around the globe, who come together to celebrate the beauty of the natural world.

The exhibition fills the West Gallery of the Mall galleries and looks simply splendid. Observations I noted during my visit include:

  • The biggest difference for me was in the range of artworks in terms of treatment - which now includes more abstracted artwork - like the winner. Plus artwork I'm not used to seeing in this exhibition.
    • The introduction of the new categories has certainly broadened the approach to wildlife art which now has more variety in terms of subject, media and style.
    • there's certainly more landscapes and more focus on trees in the Earth's Wild Beauty category than I remember previously - although I found at least one a questionable selection by a well patronised non-wildlife painter.
    • I'd say there's maybe more variety than in the excellent annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists (which is in November this year) - although I think I prefer the latter has they are not keen on artwork done from photos whereas this exhibition is very much dominated by artworks which have been developed from photos.
Just trees - no wildlife?
Two finalists in the Earth's Wild Beauty category
- straying away from Wildlife into wider Environmentalism?
  • I was very struck by size of the artworks. There are some exceptionally large artworks and also some very small ones too. This is not an exhibition which has preconceptions as to what size artworks come in!
  • The hang is excellent. 
    • While there are a lot of monochrome artworks in pencil or other media, there are also a lot of very colourful artworks and the hang is excellent in terms of balancing the two
    • What I like - but would annoy the purists - are the large very clear labels providing all the necessary information plus a short narrative about the artwork. The price is printed in red - making it very easy to sell in this exhibition which aims to rise funds for the DSWF's Conservation efforts.

  • There is, as always, an abundance of very precise monochrome drawings in graphite/pencil. While these are invariably excellent and most have come a long way in terms of design and composition, I did notice is that not many of them were selling. I know how long these can take to do but the value of an artwork is in what people are prepared to pay not in what the artist wants to pay themselves. (see my blog post later this week for a commentary on selling wildlife art)
  • A wide variety of media has been used for the artwork
    • My favourite was the hand-cut paper artwork which won the Wings Category (see below) by Sarah Lake.
    • The Scratchboard artists also impressed - Tamara Pokorny (Winner of the Into the Blue Category) and Geraldine Simmons
    • Plus the pyrography by Nickolas Willems for the pyrography (wood burning) involved in the immense work of Tree No. 1 on the end wall was also very impressive. It won the Earth's Wild Beauty category.
    • There were, I thought, too few original prints. Plus I'm NOT fan of a catalogue which identifies a work only as an "original print" rather than as what type of print. I want to know that it's hand-made. It seemed like the linocuts were the only ones which were identified.

Winner of Wings Category
"Abbu" by Sarah Lake
Hand-cut Paper
60 x 47cm framed

Tree No 1 (on the left) by Nickolas Willems
Pyrography 210 x 326cm
  • The sculpture is mainly smaller and rather less impressive than past exhibitions
    • This was reflected in the awards where sculpture has typically done well in the past and produced more than one winner in exhibitions I've reviewed. The Runner Up prize was awarded to a novel mixed media piece "Amazonic Barcode Forest" by the Colombian artist Camila Echavarria (basically rather like verre eglomise - oil painted on glass I think)
    • There's one massive sculpture made of cardboard and resin. I rather think the smaller size of most sculpture might very well be down to the 'cost of living crisis' and the expense of sending large works to exhibitions. It'll be interesting to see if this changes next year of cost pressures ease off.
Some of the sculpture in the show
  • The sketch works - small unframed works on the messanine level - were somewhat less impressive than usual and sadly I did not go home with one, although I've done this a few times in the past.

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Pricing of artwork

I made a point of walking around and noting prices generally and also the prices of all the artwork which had sold at the private view and on the first day.  I'll be back with a chart about that - but the trend follows the one I've been banging on about for some time
  • artwork under £500 sold well
  • most artwork sold is priced under £1,500
  • some more expensive pieces have sold - but not a lot.
  • (I'll do a chart today and insert it here)
My personal view is that some pieces are wildly overpriced - even for "feature pieces". While some of the artists may well achieve their prices elsewhere - and must stick to them - they won't sell their artwork unless they encourage their collectors to turn out! Plus I'm not sure all are rooted in reality.  

However I have another very interesting story about pricing for you for later in the week. It relates to Cy Baker, last year's winner whose solo exhibition had sold all but one painting!

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