Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Review: British Plein Air Painters 2023 Exhibition

"A Plein Air Vision", the third exhibition by the British Plein Air Painters (BPAP) Group opened today at the RWS Gallery
at 3 Whitcomb Street (next to the National Gallery). 

I went to the Private View last night which was a very convivial happy affair with many people and rather a lot of red dots. 

I was very impressed by it - and I'll explain why below. 

You can see photos I took last night in this album on my Facebook Page.

You can see all the artworks via this page on the BPAP website. Click the pic to see a page of bio and artworks for each artist. All sold paintings are clearly marked up.

Why this exhibition looks impressive

Membership of the group: While this is a plein air group, it's not open to all painters who are plein air painters. Those being invited to become members over the course of the last three years are:

  • all experienced artists generally - many are professional artists with some having a career that has lasted decades
  • many have been to art school
  • they are all very experienced in working plein air and 
  • all have produced a lot of quality artwork over a longish period of time.
I would suggest that a page on their website talking about how to apply to become a member would be useful.

Exhibiting artists at the British Plein Air Artists PV (30th October 2023)

Many of them are also members of one or more of the National Art Societies. The majority are Full or Associate members of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and some are members of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and/or the Wapping Group of Artists.

There is a little bit of a sense of the group being the plein air arm of the ROI - although I think it might also be that the ROI has taken on more active plein air painters in recent years!

The 27 exhibiting artists for the 2023 exhibition are listed below. 

The 7 women artists make up 26% of the exhibiting artists. I suggest this could be more - maybe a point for consideration when considering future members?

Five of the seven female painters pictured below.

Nature / quality of artwork: 215 artworks are on display (which is a good indicator for anybody thinking about hiring this gallery for an exhibition of similar sized artworks).

Most of the artwork are plein air paintings. They cover a very wide range of locations ranging from "home turf" for individual painters, to various places in London and other locations - typically in the UK - that the painters have visited.

The one thing for me is I'd have liked to have seen an indication of which:

  • started plein air
  • completed plein air
  • completed in the studio
  • studio art from a plein air sketch
I think that's helpful to the viewing public and also helps to keep the group focused on what the exhibition is all about. 

Private View

Size of artwork: It's the first time for a long time that I've seen an exhibition which is made up of medium and small size artworks.

The three galleries and the exhibition all looked well designed with walls with two rows of paintings small and medium sized paintings at a good height - with the eyes moving up or down easily. They are all well lit.

I gather the previous exhibitions had established that larger studio finished artwork is much less likely to do well at an exhibition which is being promoted as being about plein air painting - and the decision was made to go with small and mediums sizes for this one.

I think that was an inspired decision as it results in a very coherent exhibition where the smaller sized works do NOT appear to be filling in the gaps between the larger artworks.

A wall of small and medium sized paintings

Media used: Most of the paintings are in oil. This is not uncommon in terms of media often used by plein air artists and by members of the ROI!

However while they produce a lot of good looking paintings, I'd also like to see more members or associates who are experienced in using other media in a plein air context - such as watercolour or pastels/charcoal or other dry media. Both are perfectly feasible - speaking as somebody who has produced small, medium and large size pastels in a number of overseas countries! :) 

Only two artists are exhibiting watercolours. Only one is exhibiting graphite

Location: The exhibition is being held for the first time in the new RWS Gallery at 3 Whitcomb Street. 

snaffled from the BPBP Facebook Page
- as last night was not a good time to take pics of outside

There is one rectangular gallery on the ground floor and two galleries in the basement space.

The walls are white, the lighting is very impressive  and the overall impression is of beautifully lit artwork in spaces which are neutral but very supportive of the artwork. I've now attended two PVs there and the galleries are very comfortable spaces and it's very easy to view the artwork.

The first gallery in the basement

The second gallery in the basement

The Galleries are also very impressive in terms of the support for those who have accessibility issues having both a very efficient lift between ground floor and basement space. That ALWAYS impresses me given my osteoarthritis!

Sales: I saw a lot of artworks with red dots

Interestingly the women seemed to be doing very well on sales. I'd like to highlight Valérie Pirlot and Marie Rose who have both sold six paintings each. I gathered from one of the artists, who had sold a number of paintings, that they had gone online with the artwork in the exhibition a week before the exhibition opened and a number of artworks sold during that week. I'm left wondering if sales are directly linked to artists being an active user of Instagram....?

Valérie Pirlot - three of the paintings in this photo have sold
she has sold six of her nine paintings in the exhibition
five of which sold online in the presale period
I liked all her paintings!

What most impressed me was that this was the first exhibition I've looked at in a very long time where the emphasis was on smaller and more affordable artwork. 

  • Almost all the artwork is priced at under £1K. 
  • There's only one artist who seems to have failed to "get the memo". 
Some people commented to me at the PV that they found my recent series of posts about affordable art and pricing to sell to be very useful. This was certainly an exhibition which looked as if the main messages had been well and truly absorbed!

Whose artwork I liked

I'm going to highlight the artwork which I liked the best. Which is not to say that any of the others are less good just that my personal preferences responded to these and/or I've seen a lot of their artwork in the past.

In general, I liked those which looked most like genuine plein air artwork.

This is the unsold painting which most tempted me. I have very good taste - it has now sold!

North Pier Sunset by Adam Ralston
oil 39 x 44cm
£450 (SOLD)

I also very much liked these two paintings of London by Adam Ralston - very clear view in a loose painterly way

(top) City of London - oil 44 X 54cm £695
(bottom) Tower Bridge Light - oil 44 x 54cm £695 (SOLD)

I liked both these paintings (below) - by David Pilgrim (top) and Marie Rose (bottom) and was entirely unsurprised to see both had sold.

Overall, for all those who like plein air paintings on their walls, this is a very good exhibition to visit.

There are also demonstrations by member artists all this week. See their website for details.

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