Monday, February 06, 2023

FBA Calls for Entries could be improved and a lot simpler

I think the FBA Method of communicating Calls for Entries needs a rethink and revamp.

The method currently used for 
  • communicating Calls for Entries 
  • for the Annual Open Exhibitions of Societies 
  • belonging to the Federation of British Artists (FBA) 
  • needs, in my opinion, a complete rethink 
  • to improve communication with artists and generate more entries.

I've made a point of writing "calls for entries" posts for all FBA societies each year - for very many years - because of the issues I know arise with:

  • artists not understanding what they need to do
  • artists locating part of the information - but not all of it
  • artists not having one document they can print off and read at their leisure 
  • and/or use as a practical fail safe checklist when submitting their entry

I'm currently writing a post about the Call for Entries for the 2023 Annual Open Exhibition by the NEW English Art Club - which is very popular. 

To do so I'm having to refer to three seperate websites - which all say things slightly differently - with some of the really important information buried on another website.

This is because:

  • The art society "owns" the exhibition and is responsible for selection. Plus promotes the exhibition on its own website.
  • The FBA and its commercial arm - the Mall Galleries - are responsible for:
    • the legal contract around the call for entries and making sure everything is done properly
    • has a Call for Entries Page - which does NOT provide 
      • either all the "need to know how" information on one page 
      • or in one document
    • processing the administrative aspects
    • receiving the artwork
    • hanging the exhibition
    • processing sales
    • making sure unsold work gets collected
  • The FBA / Mall Galleries also contract out the digital submission side of the FBA Call for Entries to OESS - which is the third website

To be perfectly honest, I go round and round in circles trying to work out whether all the website sites say the same thing - and trying to make sure I've not missed anything.

Mostly it stays pretty much the same from year to year - but changes do occur - BUT ARE NEVER HIGHLIGHTED i.e. there is no "what's different this year" - which is one of the things I try to highlight.

PLUS Links to really critical bits of information can be very easily missed i.e. 

  • way down the page - often near the bottom
  • links are NOT highlighted or capitalised or bolded in any way.
I don't think this is good enough. I think it could be done much better. 

My challenge to the FBA is to have a think about how they can make the Calls for Entries better for artists for the benefit of all concerned.

The Bottom Line

I do NOT understand why the ALL the "Call for Entries" information is not made available in 
  • which is identical AND available and PROMINENT on all three websites i.e.
    • NEAC - as sponsor of the exhibition
    • FBA/Mall Galleries - as organisers of the administration and hangers and host of the exhibition
    • OESS - contracted to process the digital entries and notify artists about outcomes
  • Incorporating a complete 'failsafe' checklist for artists to use as they prepare their submission
  • Plus the roles of ALL relevant agencies - and who to contact about what - spelt out very simply and clearly in the digital document.
In my opinion there's 
  • just far TOO MUCH legalese and rolling over of longwinded documents - without a proper review of whether this form of communication is working effectively (i.e. the documents rarely change much - and yet could be constructed much better) and 
  • far TOO LITTLE consideration given to the fact that a significant number of artists are dyslexic and/or struggle with 
    • written documents 
    • small print 
    • very pale links to very important information.
I'd very much like to see 
  • to deliver one coherent, consistent document - reviewed and updated every year
  • which is easily accessible by all artists 
  • as one document - on all relevant sites.
Is that too much to ask?  

Anybody else think this has got to be an improvement on the current process?

Friday, February 03, 2023

National Portrait Gallery 2023-24 Exhibition Programme

The National Portrait Gallery has been closed since June 2020 (see National Portrait Gallery not reopening - until 2023) but the NPG has finally announced it is reopening this summer -  on 22 June 2023.

It's also announced its planned programme of exhibitions in the 12 months after it opens.

I'm listing these below - but splitting them between Art and Photography - and I'm ordering the exhibitions by the date the exhibition opens rather than the prominence of the sitter/artist or likely popularity of the exhibition

Painted Portraits

David Hockney: Drawing From Life

2 November 2023 – 21 January 2024 (postponed from when it opened just prior to the Pandemic. I've already seen it!)
Explore the artist’s work over the last six decades through his new works and intimate portraits of five sitters: his mother, Celia Birtwell, Gregory Evans, Maurice Payne and the artist himself.
Celia, Carennac, August 1971 by David Hockney © David Hockney,
Colored pencil on paper,
Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt
Collection The David Hockney Foundation

The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure

22 February – 19 May 2024
Curated by Ekow Eshun, this is a major survey of African diasporic artists working in the UK and America, featuring works by Michael Armitage, Lubaina Himid, Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Amy Sherald (amongst others).

Photographic Portraits

Photographic portrait exhibitions Summer 2023

Yevonde: Life and Colour

22 June – 15 October 2023
The first exhibition to open as part of the Gallery’s 2023 programme will explore the life and career of twentieth century photographer, Yevonde, who pioneered the use of colour photography in the 1930s. Supported by the CHANEL Culture Fund, this exciting show will survey the portraits and still-life works that the artist produced throughout her sixty year career, positioning Yevonde as a trailblazer in the history of British portrait photography.

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm

28 June – 1 October 2023
This unprecedented exhibition will share, for the first time, an extraordinary archive of rediscovered and never-before-seen photographs taken by Paul McCartney. Shot during the period in which John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were propelled from being the most popular band in Britain to an international cultural phenomenon, the exhibition provides a uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be a ‘Beatle’ at the start of ‘Beatlemania’. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize

9 November 2023 – 25 February 2024
Showcasing work from the most exciting and cutting-edge contemporary photographers, the competition is open to everyone aged 18 and over - from talented amateurs to seasoned professionals.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 - Blackpool Rollercoasters

You can find my review of Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 - at Blackpool Pleasure Beach - below. 

It includes lots of quotations from the programme - from presenters, judges, artists and wildcards!

The Pods in front of the Rollercoasters

My review covers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists' profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won

Episode 4: Blackpool Pleasure Beach: Rollercoasters

Blackpool Promenade
with Blackpool Tower and the North Pier (Episode 1)in the far distance
and Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the rollercoasters in the right foreground

Location and Weather

"This year we've reimagined landscape art"
Reimagining landscape art is what artists do - not Judges or film production companies! The locations continue to be idiotic.

The location for Episode 4 was Blackpool Pleasure Beach - with the pods set up to face the rollercoasters. 

  • As if artists have been falling over themselves to paint this particular location because it is so iconic!
  • Quite how this location relates to the commission relating to the Van de Veldes is quite beyond me.....
I've never painted a structure before. I normally paint hills.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach was founded in 1896 as a pleasure park for adults. It is still run by the granddaughter of the founder.

It's also a site which is happy to accomodate filming opportunities.

The location adviser / whoever decides locations for Landscape Artist of the Year really needs a radical rethink before next year. I shall doubtless continue to comment at length on this topic on my Facebook Page. I'm also considering writing a blog post all about how to choose a location to make an interesting programme which generates good future applicants for the series.

Anyway, this is the view the pod artists had from their pods - minus the blue sky! This pic must have been taken the day before. Lots of curves and hundreds if not thousands of struts (i.e. the track sits on top of something that looks remarkably like scaffolding.)

View from the Pods

As a painter I would find this very difficult Tai Shan Shierenberg

The weather

The weather was really awful. Anybody who knows Blackpool could have told them it was a MAJOR risk.  See the pic of Joan below - she was the ONLY one who dressed sensibly for the day - but then she used to go on summer holiday there when she was young and knows what it can be like!

It started off dull and windy. By midday it was pouring with rain and had started blowing a gale and raining so hard IT WAS RAINING INTO AND INSIDE THE PODS!  

I gather a lot of the wildcards gave up and went home since they had no shelter at all - or had concocted weird ways of sheltering - starting with a big bloke with an enormous umbrella on sentry duty through to being enveloped in polythene sheeting!

The Artists in the Pods

Episode 4 pod artists are listed BELOW in the alphabetical order of their surnames. 
  • Links to their websites are embedded in their names.
  • Social media platforms are also referenced.
There was no group shot of the artists altogether at any stage so this is the artists at the line-up when they hear who has been shortlisted

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

The Oxford Companion to Art (1950)

Yesterday we visited Fulham Palace and en route discovered the most amazing bookshop called Hurlingham Books at 91 Fulham High St, London SW6 3JS.  It has the most interesting approach to displaying books in the windows I've ever seen - horizontally with the title showing. 

Inside it's absolutely crammed from floor to ceiling with books and it's quite a skill to manoeuvre inside without sending a pile crashing to the floor. There are no categories. You just stare until you see something that looks interesting.

However it excels in that one stand-out feature of an excellent second hand bookshop - it has books you've never ever seen before. 

Hurlingham Books in Ranelagh Gardens

In it I found a pristine 1950 Hardback Edition of "The Oxford Companion to Art" - or rather JR did - and he reached it down for me from a high shelf.

It turned out to be a VERY big and heavy hardback book of 1,277 pages - which I got for £5.

The Oxford Companion of Art

I confess this blog post is actually mostly to do with me finding out a bit more about the book. 

It appears the book was updated after 1950 with subsequent editions appearing in 1970 aND 1985.

The Companion to Art was designed as a non-specialist introduction to the fine arts - with an emphasis on art (and NOT "Arts" - and not the practical arts and handicrafts. The Preface indicates that it is a handbook rather than an encyclopedia and covers:
  • all human artistic endeavour through all time and throughout the world
  • more variety of material than other Oxford Companions
  • each of the articles is intended to be an introduction only - although I found most I've read (dipping into the book from front to back) to be very thorough and provides good summaries.
The entries cover four main groups of material
  • biographies of important artists
  • accounts of art movements and associations of artists
  • explanations of specific terms relating to art - plus essays on a few technical topics
    • Perspective
    • Graphic Processes
    • Colour
  • historical explanations of the development of art in specific countries / regions.
Articles on technical matters have been kept to a minimum but a few longer and more detailed technical articles have been included when that subject seemed to be of importance for understanding and appreciation over a wide field of art. Preface
Overall, it struck me as a very useful handbook to have in one's art library and not really outdated so long as you understand it relates to an era prior to 1950!

In an era when so much that is published about art is either dumbed down or written by people who haven't had an adequate art education, I found the book a refreshing treat which I dipped into all the way home on the tube - and it's not left my side since!
You can find copies online - mostly of the later edition which you should be able to get for less than a £10 (although do watch out for the postage costs given the weight!). Or you can try rooting around in good second hand shops like me!

I do however have a reservation!  I found it was based on Osborne's own knowledge of specific areas of art and where he had none he makes no reference to that area.  Indeed he doesn't even acknowledge that it exists!

For example, there is absolutely no reference to botanical art or any of the famous artists such as those I've written about at length on Past Masters - Botanical Art and Artists. There again, Wilfrid Blunt had not yet published The Art of Botanical Illustration - it was first published in 1950 - the same year as the The Oxford Companion to Art.

Also, I think the main problem with it as a book is it is HUGE and generalist rather than specialist.  One source suggested 94 editions published between 1960 and 2002 in 4 languages! However it is now not in print - probably because it would be too big to make that possible.
  • In my view, there are specific areas within it which would make a suitable book to update and republish in a new edition in future years. 
  • As indeed has happened to Wilfrid Blunt's book which is now in its (I think) fifth edition - and boasting my reviews of it in its marketing material! 

Marketing image for The Art of Botanical Illustration
including review by ME!

The author

The book was edited by somebody called Harold Osborne (1905-1987) who is characterised in records online as a philosopher and civil servant. It reminds me of the way quite a few people who are world renowned authorities in aspects of art also had jobs which paid the bills.

So who is this man who wrote "The Oxford Companion to Art" ?

He appears to have been a diplomat who spent most of his career in South America - but was particularly interested in the philosophy of aesthetics. Apparently he was also a leading authority on modern art history and wrote books for the Oxford University Press.

  • born in 1905, 
  • educated at Wakefield Grammar School, Yorkshire. 
  • undergraduate at Cambridge University, reading classics and philosophy. 
  • Served in the Intelligence Service during the Second World War 
  • Became a British civil servant in South America and then in the United Kingdom, becoming Principal Officer at the Board of Trade. While in South America he published two volumes, on Andean Indians, and Bolivia.
  • an influential scholar and editor, and an active author throughout his life. 
I imagined he spent a lot of time while being a diplomat in South America reading very many art books!

Publications on aesthetics and art history included more than 20 monographs and 50 articles including

About Hurlingham Books


Monday, January 30, 2023

Review: Lucian Freud - Plant Portraits at the Garden Museum

I went to see Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits at the Garden Museum in Lambeth this afternoon. It's an exhibition I've been meaning to go and see for ages. I even got there just after New Year - only to find they were having an extended seasonal break.

The exhibition is on until 5th March 2023 and the Garden Museum is open Monday – Sunday 10am – 5pm - and has an ace cafe! Entry to the Museum - which includes entry to the exhibition varies by status. I used my Art Fund pass and got in for £7.

Mostly small - but some larger artworks

Anyway, for those who like Lucian Freud here's a summary of the exhibition:

  • It's not a big exhibition
  • most of the artwork is either small or medium sized - but there are some larger paintings
  • However it displays a good range of the artwork he produced in relation to plant
    • produced at different ages
    • in different media
    • of different plants
For those who'd like to know more I did a VERY long post about Lucian Freud - paintings of plants and gardens back in 2018. This includes an inventory if all the paintings - in a timeline - with
  • notes about their context and location
  • links to where you can see them and
  • quotes by people - including Freud himself - about his paintings of plants and why he did them.
Below I've posted 
  • some more of the pics I took of the exhibition - with comments
  • videos made about paintings in the exhibition
  • links to more of my blog posts about Lucian Freud and his paintings / past exhibitions and [a
These are the childhood drawings of plants that he produced. His mother used to save all the artwork he produced as a child. It's amazing how some of the characteristic way he portrayed objects can be seen even at a very young age.

Childhood drawings and paintings

The next part of the exhibition, you can see in the first image above. This part includes a very fine but small painting of bananas on a tree.

Bananas by Lucian Freud
on loan from Southampton City Art Gallery

This was painted from life at Goldeneye, the home of Ian Fleming in Jamaica. Freud spent the tip painting banana trees on the estate.

Bananas is acutely observed and painted in precise, naturalistic detail. Freud said that the subject was a welcome release from portraits: "I noticed I switched away from people when my life was under particular strain...Not using people is like taking a deep breath of fresh air". Bananas was first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1954 in a joint exhibition with Ben Nicholson and Francis Bacon.
You can see more of his paintings of plants from Jamaica online - such as this one Plants in Jamaica which was sold at Sotheby's (but is not in the exhibition). 

This is a closeup of the one very large painting called "Two Plants".  Below it are the quotations I used in my 2018 post plus a video about the painting.