Monday, April 08, 2024

Review: The 7th Derwent Art Prize (2024) Exhibition

This is a summary of my thoughts about the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition at gallery@OXO. This is in addition to:

The aim of the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition is to 
  • reward excellence by showcasing the very best artworks made in pencil by artists from around the world.
  • showcase c.80 artworks in an exhibition.
The Prize invites artists to submit the very best 2D and 3D artworks created in any pencil, including colour, water soluble, pastel, graphite and charcoal pencils.

This year, the Judges shortlisted just 68 artworks, however 2 artworks did not make it on to the walls because they got stuck in Customs! See the end for tips for getting your work through Customs

I'm writing this post essentially for all those who might like to submit artwork to the next Derwent Art Prize because, although you can see the images online, you cannot see how they are presented. 

That said, judgement is always on the basis of the digital image of the art.

Artwork at the entrance
varying sizes, subjects and presentation

My perspective on the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 2024

First off, the main point I want to emphasise is that there is a lot of exceptionally good artwork in this exhibition. I'm guessing that the reputation of the Prize - and the fact it's still going - means that this prize attracts many more professional artists these days as well as young / aspiring / emerging artists.

For me, the appeal of the exhibition is that:
  • it often presents novel perspectives on the very ordinary 
  • as well as extraordinary insights into the very unusual. 
  • ALL delivered while demonstrating an exceptional degree of technical accomplishment.
Essentially, it's NOT artwork which is technically good but actually dull - as much hyperealistic artwork can be.

Nor is it exciting concepts which are then delivered by people lacking in skills associated with creating art - which is the sort of art I hate.

To get selected, the artwork has to move mind or spirit AND also be executed by somebody who demonstrates they're very good at wielding the media used for pencil art.

For me, it has come on a lot since the very first exhibition - which I remember really well because it demonstrated news of thinking and recording in pencil media.

I'd just like to see some 3D artwork next time!

PS There are emphatically no cats, dogs or horses or any other sort of animal mammal in this exhibition! There is one very dead bird.... (Just saying....)

The exhibition demonstrates a wide diversity in terms of
  • styles
  • subject matter
  • size
  • age of the artist
  • country where the artist lives
It is truly international - with over 6,000 entries by 2,324 artists from 77 countries

That means it's getting an entry way bigger than most of the prominent open art exhibitions of national art societies!  One might be tempted to ask what is this art competition offering that other open exhibitions are not. My answer would be "big cash prizes". Any time you have an art competition with very significant cash prizes you get a lot of entries.

View of artworks hung in the long gallery at the rear

The size of artworks are very varied - with some large artworks, mostly medium sized artworks and a few on the smaller side. 

I think it's entirely possible that a very good large artwork has less competition to beat than a very good small artwork.

I'd suggest that future entrants think carefully about what size conveys the concept behind their drawing best.

The exhibition demonstrates a very wide variety of dry pencil media in use - which is what Derwent is renowned for producing.
  • everything from monochrome in graphite, charcoal and coloured pencil to the very colourful pastel and wax pastels.
  • monochrome artworks were not limited to black - with red being a very popular colour. I guess because it really helps the artwork stand out from a crowd.
  • graphite and charcoal are both very prevalent - but are also mixed with other media - from oil paint, to watercolour paint. Naturally, since this is a pencil media competition, the dry media does need to be prominent.
I was somewhat surprised to find pencil art being mixed with an oil painting surface in the artwork which won first prize (see my prizewinners post) - but given the overall impression was of a drawing made using a pencil the oil painting was almost irrelevant.
Melissa Ling, Submission,
coloured pencil on paper, 45.7 x 106.7 cm.

The artwork is presented in a number of different ways. While most of the artwork is framed, some of it is not.

The competition does not require artists to frame their work and this is advantageous to international artists who can then send it via a tube or a flat package which has very little weight due to lack of wood or glazing.

Artworks presented without a frame are hung using magnetic pins or tiny paper clips.

The drawings (of heads) top left and on the right
are both held in place on the wall using magnets

For the most part, those framing the work used a narrow frame and tended to use a white mount. However:
  • not all artwork is mounted - some used box frames
  • not all mounts are white - the most popular alternatives were black or grey.
  • not all frames are black - some were white, some were wood
  • However framing was overwhelmingly neutral.
I do NOT think that every artist demonstrated the best way of presenting their art. I certainly thought that some pieces would have very much benefited from a different colour mount of frame or just more space around the image.

Different coloured frames and mounts - but all neutral

One artwork stood out for me - in terms of media I've never seen before! The coloured artwork below is in pastel on what looks like a triptych of poplar boards - which have then been sealed with some sort of resin - which I've never ever seen before. The downside for me it that the resinehas been applied quite crudely (look at the highlighted areas and you'll see what I mean). The resin means the pastel cannot move, however the crudeness of the application meant it was less than successful in its presentation for me as a finished artwork given the way the resin brushworks are so very obvious under bright light. I could however see it having more scope if presented in a more refined way.

Les Flottantes by Luigi Filograno
pastel on poplar board

Almost all of the artwork is 2D, with only one piece being 3D. 

In a way I was quite surprised given that Chrys Allen, the very first winner of the Derwent Art Prize, won with a 3D scroll drawing which given its size was emphatically 3D in nature! See Chrys Allen wins inaugural Derwent Art Prize for pencil art

People and places - the less obvious

In summary, if you would like to enter this exhibition in the future, I highly recommend paying a visit to this exhibition 

The exhibition is free to visit at gallery@oxo, London
  • from 11am to 6pm, from 4th April to 13th April, and
  • from 11am to 2pm on the closing day, 14th April 2024,
  • with daily artist demonstrations.

TIP How to get your artwork through Customs - and home again

I always counsel international artists sending artwork to the UK for exhibition to read very carefully all the requirements for sending artwork for international exhibition. It's emphatically NOT like sending presents. Read my page about International Art Shipping: How to ship / export art to other countries which provides a lot of information and tips for artists 
but can in no way always be considered up to date or fully comprehensive - because rules change! 

Note in particular that #2 How to produce an export invoice covers additional requirements for those sending artwork for exhibition only. I always recommend artwork being sent for exhibition is also sent as "not for sale"

REFERENCE: Previous Derwent Art Prize Competitions covered by this blog

7th Derwent Art Prize 2024

6th Derwent Art Prize 2022

  • Call for Entries: Derwent Art Prize 2022
  • No review from me - because I was recovering from ankle surgery at the time of the exhibition and was mobilising on one leg with a knee scooter for 12 weeks!
  • which probably explains why I wasn't contacted about it for the seventh edition in 2024.

5th Derwent Art Prize 2020

4th Derwent Art Prize 2018

1278 artists from 64 different countries submitted a total of 3,299 artworks and 57 were selected for the exhibition.

3rd Derwent Art Prize 2016

2nd Derwent Art Prize 2014

1st Derwent Art Prize 2013

About Derwent and the Cumberland Pencil Company

The Art Prize carries the "Derwent" brand name of the Cumberland Pencil Company who in turn are part of ACCO (formerly Rexel).
  • The Cumberland Pencil Company was created in 1916
  • The first Derwent colour pencil was introduced in 1938.
  • In 2008, the Cumberland Pencil Company left the old pencil factory in Keswick and moved to its new Pencil Factory on a site at Lillyhall, Workington.
  • The Derwent Pencil Museum maintains a presence in Keswick, where pencils first started being made in 1832 - after graphite was found in Borrowdale in the 1500s.

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