Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Discombobulated by the National Gallery

I visited the National Gallery in London yesterday to view the Winslow Homer - Force of Nature Exhibition - and I'll be doing a review of this later - probably as a series of smaller posts as there's a lot to comment on and it's open until 8 January 2023.

Afterwards, I walked around the rest of the Gallery - and felt completely and utterly discombobulated! I think it's probably my first visit for over a year and quite possibly longer due to the combination of the pandemic, then avoiding big interior spaces with lots of people pre-surgery, then the getting ready for surgery and the recovery period. Consequently I've no idea how long it's been like this. I think it's probably relatively recent as I came across this article from the Art Newspaper.

Moving Michelangelo and hauling Holbein: renovation headache for London's National Gallery. A bicentenary renovation project makes the London museum play a tricky game of musical chairs with its collection

Anyway - a lot has changed! 

Very oddly, very little of what has changed is explained well on the website - so if you like me haven't visited for a while you might well feel equally discombobulated!

I got more information about what's happening from The Art Newspaper article than the website - which is odd to say the least when you can't project manage updating the website at the same time as making huge changes to the content on display and its layout!

Below is what I found in the Gallery........

The Gallery with the Constables and the Turners and the lovely leather sofas
- one of the few parts of the National Gallery which is relatively unchanged

  • huge sections which are simply not accessible due to restructuring / renovations / getting ready for NG200 in 2024 (which I'd not heard of before). That's as in:
    • Virtually ALL of the Sainsbury Wing is out of action (Rooms 52-59 and 62-66 + the Basement Gallery
    • plus Rooms 1-8 in the Wilkins Building - which is where exhibitions which would have been in the Sainsbury Wing are now being held - as in the new Lucian Freud exhibition
    • plus a lot more rooms on the second floor of the main building - which makes walking around in a circle really difficult - you have to backtrack a lot.
    • I looked at the floor plans afterwards - which have no clear / prominent legend/key and are consequently are nearly incomprehensible
    • you can download the floor plan as at September 2022 which does not explain that grey means inaccessible and makes no distinction between gallery spaces which are closed and spaces given over to other functions of the Gallery which have never been accessible.
    • bottom line - it's very difficult to get your head around even if you're used to the layout of the gallery!
In the next few months, the picture galleries in the Sainsbury Wing will close to prepare for building works as part of NG200. Find out more about individual room closures on the Level 2 floorplan page.

Later this month London’s National Gallery is due to announce plans for its 2024 bicentenary celebrations and an associated building project. But although the much-needed upgrading of its Sainsbury Wing entrance will be welcomed, it poses logistical challenges for the gallery—and it will have a considerable temporary impact on where paintings are displayed. The Art Newspaper (13 June 2022)

  • the explanations within the Gallery of how to move around/through are either absent or confusing. They might make sense to museum staff but I know the Gallery well and I was struggling. I was simply lost muc of the time as to which part of the building I was in - as I've always navigated by art on the walls previously!
  • large parts of the collection have been rehung in different galleries
    • partly to accommodate the need to get the early art out of the Sainsbury Wing
    • partly to accommodate the exhibitions which would usually be in the gallery at the bottom of the Sainsbury Wing have had to come into the main Wilkins Building.
  • Dutch Floral Still Lifes - which I visit every time I got to the Gallery - are absolutely nowhere to be seen.
  • relatively few paintings seem to be in the same place 
  • the 'story of art' in some galleries is really, really weird! It almost looks like "what can fit where" exercise at times.
  • smaller spaces = much more crowded I'd advise going during hours when the huge number of tours are not 'working'
It was a real relief when I got to galleries which looked almost the same as they always do. The Canaletto's and Guardis are in the same place as are the Constables and Turners.

On the plus side I saw more artwork that was new to me than ever seen on previous visits! Some of which is very, very good.

Plus some hanging juxtapositions which improved the viewing - such as the Vermeer Virginals below

Vermeer Virginals
A Young Woman standing at a Virginal (c.1670)
A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (c.1670)
by Johannes Vermeer

What upset me is that this current change is obviously going to last at least until the end of 2024 i.e. at least two more years - and may well change again during that time.

So where's the art - and is it on view?

Monday, October 03, 2022

Keith Haring vs Mr Doodle

 I watched a news item on BBC Breakfast TV this morning about a chap called "Mr Doodle" (his real name is actually Sam Cox)

The BBC was treating him as if he'd invented a completely new way of creating art - which is what prompted this post.

In fact, it looked very much to me as if he's trying to emulate the style of Keith Haring (1958-1990) - minus the homoerotic / sexual aspects of the latter's work. Mr Doodle's artwork seems to focus more on what look like kiddy cartoon characters - BUT the style of drawing is very, very similar. (I do wonder at times what the BBC losing competent arts journalists is doing to its coverage of art).

Keith Haring Foundation website
Keith Haring Foundation website

Haring was very much a pop culture artist of the 1980s. I well remember reading about him at the time and being completely amazed by nature and scale of his artworks.

He became an established artist by 1983 but preferred to keep his prices low so that his art was more accessible.

Haring created the Pop Shop in 1986 in the SoHo district of Manhattan, selling T-shirts, toys, posters, and other objects that show his works—allowing his works to be accessible to a larger number of people. Speaking about the Pop Shop in 1989, Haring said: "For the past five or six years, the rewards I've gotten are very disproportionate to what I deserve...I make a lot more money than what I should make, so it's a little bit of guilt, of wanting to give it back." Wikipedia

His artwork is now administered by the Keith Haring Foundation and sold via the Gladstone Gallery in New York 

Haring's VERY distinctive signature style has been much copied over the years by:

  • his fans wishing to produce accolades to his art
  • those wishing to make lots of money from his style - in part because Haring's style is so  very marketable. 

The reason Mr Doodle got a significant spot on the BBC is because he's doodled his house in Tenterden in Kent - absolutely everywhere. Apparently the neighbours don't mind. I'm wondering if they might should opening the house to the public is the next step!

See the video from his Twitter account below

Thursday, September 29, 2022

2nd International Original Print Exhibition (2022)

I went to see the International Original Print Exhibition 2022 at the Bankside Gallery on the South Bank on Tuesday. It finishes on Sunday 2nd October.

I can certainly highly recommend it as a diverse collection of original fine art prints which demonstrate the diversity in different approaches to print-making

The prints also varied between the very colourful and monochrome.

All the works exhibited are the result of an open submission exhibition established by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. The aim of the exhibition is to celebrate the best in all forms of contemporary printmaking.

These include

  • aquatint etching
  • chine collĂ©
  • copperplate engraving
  • digital 
  • drypoint
  • etching
  • giclee
  • hand stencilled screenprint
  • high relief carborundum
  • intaglio gravure
  • laser engraved woodcut
  • linocut
  • lithograph
  • mezzotint
  • mokuhanga (water-based woodblock)
  • monotype
  • photolithography
  • photopolymer etching
  • risograph
  • screenprint
  • silkscreen and woodcut
  • soft ground
  • solar etching
  • stone lithography
  • woodcut and stencil
  • woodblock
and variations on the above.

It's also an exhibition with a wide variety of sponsors of both the exhibition and/or individual awards.

The overall bias of subject matter is either abstracted or landscape oriented with fewer images of people than you might expect. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 9) starts 5th October 2022

I'm sure many of you will be delighted to hear that Series 9 of Portrait Artist of the Year (#PAOTY) starts on our screens - on the Sky Arts Channel (Channel 11 on Freeview) next week!

When to Watch

The first episode will be broadcast on Wednesday 5th October - when the celebrity sitters will be Elizabeth Day, Khadija Mellah and Nick Grimshaw.

The Sky TV link says the broadcast time is 3pm(!) - but I'm guessing either that's a mistake or it will have repeat broadcast times.

This is followed by six more heats - every Wednesday up until 16th November - giving us a total of seven artists for the semi-finals. I wonder if they'll have a wildcard. I've often thought that it's a great pity when a heat as two great artists but only one can go through.....


  • the Semi Finals are on 23rd November
  • The Finals are on 30th November
  • The Commission Programme is on 7th December
As usual it will be hosted by Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan (below) and the Judges will be 

Watch out for my reviews

As usual, I'll be writing a review of the episode and publishing it within a couple of days of the broadcast - normally the next day.

You can read previous reviews at the bottom of this post. 

My reviews of each of the Heats cover:
  • the artists - with links to their websites and social media
  • the sitters
  • themes from the episode
  • reasons for shortlisting
  • shortlisted artists
  • who won

If you are a participating artist and want to make sure I've got your correct website URL and social media links please contact me via the email address on this page and tell me which heat you're in. (No timewasters please).

and get an email to your inbox every time I publish

I'm thinking of creating a checklist for myself from previous themes in previous years to see which are the most common!

I'm also looking out for those announcing their involved online - to give myself a head start on their profiles.

Reviews & Learning Points from Previous PAOTY Series 

Series 8 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Autumn 2021)

Series 7 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Autumn 2020)

Series 6 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Winter/Spring 2019)

Series 5 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Winter / Spring 2018)


Monday, September 26, 2022

Review: Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

It's always struck me that Annual OPEN Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists at the Mall Galleries offers more opportunities for entries from a wider range of artists than some might think.

It was therefore very pleasing to see both new names of exhibiting artists and some innovation at this year's exhibition (see end for details of where and when to see it). Interestingly I think the Mall Galleries is going to need to add some new categories into its 'buy art' section of the website to reflect this (e.g. Textile Art!)

The exhibition this year includes artwork by six new Associate Members.

This year I'm writing my review of the exhibition for those who might think about entering it next year. Thus there's rather more detailed commentary on subject and media than usual.

RSMA Annual Exhibition 2022: View of the Mall Wall in the West Gallery

General observations about the exhibition are:
  • it appears to be attracting a good number of visitors - based on the numbers I saw on Friday morning (i.e. not the PV and the day after it opened to the public)
  • it includes some excellent artwork by artists selected via the open entry - including three large artworks near the stairs
Three large and impactful artworks by open artists
  • the range of media included is more diverse than before - some would say (i.e. me) TOO diverse (see below under fine art prints)
  • I also think I saw more innovative artwork than I've seen in previous exhibitions. Generally it seems to be less about boats and more about other marine topics.
  • There appear to be rather fewer paintings of more traditional/historical ships than I've seen in the past. I know there's a big (male) fan base for these paintings but they've never much appealed much to me. 
  • There's still a tendency to include an awful lot of grey - whether that's in the artwork or on the frame. I do sometimes wonder about the obsession with grey - which I don't see in great marine painting by well known marine artists in art history. It's almost as if some marine artists are afraid to look and/or use colour. (PS The interior decorating obsession with grey is over!) 
    • What happens when there is too much grey is our eyes are drawn to the colour
End wall, West Gallery
    • this is why colourful paintings are always in line with the entrance to the North Gallery - we want to walk towards the colour
Colour draws the eye and makes us walk forward
    • I much appreciated the nuances of colour in this painting (below) of winter light at a coastal location by Keith Richens - which can then cope with a grey frame because of the colour. (But grey within grey is too much!)
Winter Light by Keith Richens RSMA

There appears to be more artwork by female artists than ever before
- in what has been a genre which has been very dominated by men for a long time. I also counted the RSMA membership
    • 51 Members of which 7 are women (14%)
    • 13 Associate Members of which 2 are women (15%)
    • 4 Life Members of which 2 are women (50%)
    • It's not very encouraging to women is it? So well done to all that applied through the open entry and succeeded in getting their artwork selected.
Sadly, this exhibition is also beginning to show evidence of a challenge faced by very many art societies with an ageing membership. 
  • I noted rather more artworks by older members of the RSMA which lack the quality and impact that these artists have achieved in the past (giben I've been coming to the exhibition for many years - see below). 
  • I watched exhibitions by one FBA art society go downhill very fast when it continued to hang ALL entries by elderly member artists. 
  • There are various options for addressing this issue which makes such decisions more amenable to those involved.
    • One FBA art society addressed this issue by elevating elderly members to Honorary Retired status - thus allowing them to retire from submissions.
    • Another has a Senior Member status which means no subscription to pay - but only one artwork is hung as of right. Others can be submitted but must be subject to selection i.e. they have to make the grade.
    • whatever route is taken, if exhibitions are to remain high quality events then selection of artwork by members needs to be considered as an option. The overall aim must always be to have most of the artwork by members looking better than artwork by artists submitting via the open entry.

About marine art

RSMA Annual Exhibition 2022: View of the East Gallery
This exhibition looks to show diverse subjects. techniques and media are all represented to best advantage. (from the introduction on the wall in the East Gallery - which I didn't finish reading until today!)

Subject Matter

This is an open art exhibition which invites artwork about anything that involves tidal waters of the world. In other this is not about water per se - it MUST be associated with the coast and places where tides have an impact