Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016

The artwork selected for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibition at the Mall Galleries is different from previous years - and I like it a lot better.

Threadneedle Prize Exhibition: A view of the Main Galleryprior to the Preview
Compared to previous years, the changes I noticed are that
  • the art - to my mind - is a lot more accessible. This is an exhibition which will be enjoyed by more people.
  • there's a huge diversity in interpretation of figurative and representational art. I'm guessing a lot of artists may well find it stimulates their own work. 
  • more drawings and paintings of figures and people
Some very strong paintings of figures - both large....
...and small
  • a lot of very good drawings and display of draughtsmanship
  • more monochromatic artwork - with a great hang in the North Gallery
Some impressive monochromatic and near mono drawings and paintings in the Far North Gallery
  • more works on paper 
  • media is much more mixed
  • a lot less sculpture
only one piece of sculpture that I spotted
  • a much better fit with most people's understanding of figurative artwork
First Prize on the left; shortlisted on the right
This is also an exhibition which deserves to be seen by many of people who exhibit and who seek to exhibit artwork at the open exhibitions of the FBS Societies (and others) at the Mall Galleries because it stretches the boundaries of figurative while remaining accessible to all.

North Gallery - First room
North Gallery - second room
To my mind it sets a very good benchmark for contemporary figurative art.

It's also complemented by an extremely good exhibition in the Threadneedle Space.

I'm certainly thinking about going back for another look - and I've already seen it twice!

I'll be posting more pics from the exhibitions of artists with their paintings and purchasers with their new paintings on my Facebook Page over the next week.

More about the Threadneedle Prize 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Threadneedle Exhibition 2016 - my favourites

The Threadneedle Prize has a £10,000 Visitors' Choice Award which is voted for by people visiting the exhibition.

Every time the Threadneedle exhibition is held I always do a post devoted to the pictures I would have chosen as my shortlist for "The Columbia Threadneedle Prize: Figurative Art Today" a.k.a. (at least by me) as 'the Threadneedle Prize".  In effect they contain the picture I'm voting for as my personal favourite.

These are they.

Barry McGlashan with his painting
What Remains (After Hogarth)
Oil on panel, 76 x 102 cm, SOLD
I love this painting - as indeed I said when the selected artists were announced. I'm not in the least bit surprised that it sold fast.

It's not helped at all by the digital image online or in the catalogue - it's nowhere near as dark as the image suggests it is. I'm left wondering if that might not have helped when it came to the selection of the shortlist.

This is a painting of 'what happened next'.

Barry McGlashan  paints a lot of paintings about painters. Some times they feature in the paintings and sometimes they don't. However they will appeal to those who like to know about how artists worked - and definitely appeal to those who "collect" places artists have painted (like me!)

This one relates to an image called A Modern Midnight Conversation created by William Hogarth which has been reworked a number of times in terms of paintings by other artists "after Hogarth" (note the double entendre pun in the title) and by those engraving the image.

Below is the version in the Yale Center of British Art and is the one most like the painting produced by Barry. Here's another in the Royal Collection. Plus an erudite article by Andrew Graham Dixon on the topic of this painting.

A Midnight Modern Conversation by an Unknown artist after William Hogarth, 1697–1764, British
formerly William Hogarth, 1697–1764, British
Oil on canvas, 30 x 64 1/2 inches (76.2 x 163.8 cm)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
You can see that in Barry's painting all the people have disappeared - but all the objects associated with their evening remain. From the clay pipes for smoking to the numerous lemons used for the gin punch. You look at the painting for a long time before noticing that a candle has just caught the tablecloth and the room is about the combust!

For me it does three things.
  • It's a neat connection with the past and one of the masters of British art. In the same way that Henriette Simson made the connection with Ambrogio Lorenzetti in her painting when she won the prize in 2011.
  • It's a pun on the history of the "the conversation piece" in British art...
  • Plus it's a narrative painting with subtext which makes it accessible both to those who take it at face value and those who enjoy their art history.  I have bemoaned the fact that we have far too many artists have lost sight of the value of the narrative painting.
All in all a clever piece of art!

Barry McGlashan describes his work as a commentary on the social history of painting and a homage to other artists. That's my kind of art! He will be having an exhibition of his work at the John Martin Gallery, Mayfair - during Autumn 2016. I'm hoping to get an invite to the PV!

Other works that I liked very much are below.

Only The Curious Have Something To Find by Gillian Ellis
Biro on paper, 209.5 x 139 cm, £2,500
I loved Gillian Ellis's drawing in biro. It was a complete surprise and has a major impact as soon as you see it. There's just so much to see and the creativity is wonderful. She also displays amazing control of a biro and what can be achieved in terms of drawing.

I didn't get to meet her but I'd love to know the story behind this very unique piece of art.

Gillian is currently taking a Masters in Fine Art/ Printmaking at Cambridge School of Art. She already has a First Class Honors Degree in Textile Design from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London.

I predict good things for Gillian. If this is what she produces with a biro I'd love to see her fine art prints! However first she needs to get herself sorted with a proper independent website in her own name to display and market her artwork!

a closer look at Only The Curious Have Something To Find by Gillian Ellis
Next a more familiar face - but a less well known artist who belongs to the older generation.

Stuart and Ukelele by Penelope Smith
Oil, 60 x 50 cm, £3,000
I'm wondering how many people spotted this as being a painting of Stuart Pearson Wright who won the BP Portrait Prize 2000 and created the painting of JK Rowling which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

I liked it as it's an exceptionally good portrait of him!

I had a feeling this must have been done by somebody close to him and had a chat with Stuart at the PV. It turns out I was right - the painting is by his mother!  For some reason she is listed as Penelope Smith in the catalogue although I understand her real name is Penelope Wright.

Penelope only started painting in 2008 - the same year as this competition started!
Without any formal training, Penelope began painting in 2008. She works principally in oils, but also loves drawing. Her subjects are the familiar places and objects of everyday life as well as friends and family.

Next another chap with a musical instrument.

‘Chère Capucine 1915-2015′
Oil on Masonite, 68cm x 75cm
Copyright Tom Clayton
Tom Clayton has two exceptionally good and extremely original paintings in the exhibition. I find them absolutely riveting - the sort of paintings that make you walk across the room to view them

This is the one I liked the best.

Honourable Mentions

These include a couple of works which in some ways are a lot simpler than others in the exhibition but which have merit nonetheless.

The first appears to be a sketchbook pulled apart - and an awful lot of small drawings of people. I liked the pun on art competitions suggested by the title.

The Yes & The No Pile by Rebecca Harper,
Graphite on paper, 240 x 140 cm, £5,000
 Rebecca Harper graduated from The Drawing Year at The Prince's Drawing School (now the Royal Drawing School) in 2013. She also has a first class Degree in Drawing and the Applied Arts from UWE, Bristol. Rebecca Harper can be found on Tumblr and Facebook.  Based on the work I can see my recommendation to Rebecca would be to get herself a proper website and a proper Facebook Page for her paintings and drawings. I predict we're going to be seeing more of Rebecca!

Study of her Hand by Helen Lloyd-Elliott
Oil on canvas, 26 x 30 cm, £1,200
This is the sort of painting which it would be very easy to live with. It's apparently a study done for one of her larger portraits. This is Helen Lloyd-Elliot's website. She completed a diploma in portraiture at The Heatherley Art School in Chelsea - which is interesting as I thought her work looked familiar.


The Columbia Threadneedle Prize Exhibition is at the Mall Galleries until until 1pm on Saturday 20th February.

The £10,000 Visitors' Choice Award is now being voted on by those visiting the exhibition.

Do let me know by leaving a comment below:
  • what you think about my choice
  • how you choose art that you like in an exhibition
  • which painting you have/are voting for in the Visitors' Choice Award

More about the Threadneedle Prize 2016

Threadneedle Prize Archive


Threadneedle Prize 2014

Threadneedle Prize 2013

Threadneedle Prize 2012

2011 Threadneedle Prize

2010 Threadneedle Prize

2009 Threadneedle Prize

2008 Threadneedle Prize

Monday, February 08, 2016

What kind of art do people like to buy online?

Is the type of art that people buy online the same as the sort of art that people like to create?

This post is going to look at:
  • the similarities and differences between the type of art that British and American people buy online
  • how this compares to the type of art that people like to paint.
It's important to realise at the outset that that neither the subjects that people search for or the subjects people like to paint are necessarily a sound indicator of the art that people like to buy.  For example, different subject categories of an online art gallery may have been different "view" and "buy" behaviours.

That's why it's interesting to get a perspective from a website (Artfinder) that is prepared to share data on what sort of art people actually buy.  The data in the charts below was collected by Artfinder and is based on sales figures from 1 January 2015 – 31 December 2015.

What type of art do people buy?

Based on sales data in 1 January - 31 December 2015 (Source: Artfinder)

Last week I was sent some charts and conclusions drawn by Art Finder - an art website that acts as an online gallery for people wanting to sell their original art on the Internet.

What do they like - and dislike? 

People in the UK and USA are very similar in relation to:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Lewis Hazelwood-Horner wins £20,000 Threadneedle Prize 2016

The winner of The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016 of £20,000 is Lewis Hazelwood-Horner.

The competition is the leading open competition for figurative and representational art and the exhibitions are held annually at the Mall Galleries.

The prizewinning work is called "Salt in Tea". Lewis has also won a solo exhibition for a wider body of his work at Mall Galleries later this year.  Lewis has been painting the people involved in London based craft industries - traditional craftsmen - for some time and I'm sure we're going to have a treat when the exhibition is on display!

Salt in Tea by Lewis Hazelwood-Horner
This prize-winning painting followed a two ­year residency at the bespoke umbrella shop James Smith & Sons on New Oxford Street (the shop once seen is never forgotten!) in London. The title refers to when the craftsmen jokingly put salt or too much sugar in one another’s tea.  The setting is the basement where the umbrellas as made.

In terms of practice, his painting has a very textured surface - reminding me a lot in places of paintings by Lucian Freud
Painter Lewis Hazelwood-Horner’s work is concerned with the efficiency of the artist’s practise. The paint is generously applied to the canvas but in using the primed surface as a pallet little is left to waste, resulting in thick textured paintings.
Lewis recently graduated from LARA - the London Atelier of Representational Art (2012-14) – LARA - this is an interview with Lewis on the Lara website.

winner Threadneedle Prize 2016
Salt and Tea - Winner of the £20,000 Columbia Threadneedle award for figurative and representational art.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Urban Sketching doesn't happen in colouring books

I'm very disappointed in North Light Books.  I used to think they were a great publishing firm for artists. I always used to look out for their new publications and was delighted when I found out my book would be published by them.

The reason I'm disappointed is that North Light Books have put out a Call for Entries for urban sketchers to contribute pen and ink art for a COLOURING BOOK!

the beginning of the Call for Entries
(The referenced sketch is from a VERY different sort of book by Marc Taro Holmes - as you can see from the title
Make sure when signing a book contract that your sketches can NOT be used for colouring books!)
I'm not a fan of Colouring Books. I used to enjoy them when I was a small child. I can sort of see the meditative point of the mandala types ones. However they are essentially for people who like colour and colouring and they are very definitely NOT about drawing and sketching.

The thing is colouring books are selling in the millions.

They are the latest fad. They're keeping WH Smith's bottom line looking good right now.  If you put "drawing" into Amazon, and search for the featured books all you can see is colouring books.   Try it.

It's very, very depressing. People colour in a design and think they're drawing.

Let's be very clear. Colouring books do NOT teach anybody about how to draw or sketch.

It's therefore very sad that a movement like urban sketchers - which does place an enormously helpful emphasis on going 'on location' and 'drawing from observation' - using hand and eye - should in any way be associated with a Colouring Book - irrespective of whether or not they were asked (and I don't think they were).

I've written to Kristin Conlin, the Editor of North Light Books - in response to the invitation to contribute that was sent to me - and told her what I think of this latest 'wheeze'.

Here's some extracts
I take an extremely dim view of what North Light Books is doing with this sort of email.

. It's emphatically NOT about colouring books!

I want to emphasise that IMO your book  can in no way, shape or form can be associated with "urban sketching"!
I'll also be writing about this idea on my blog and the London Urban Sketchers Blog and will be emphasising to artists that

  • urban sketching is ALWAYS DONE ON LOCATION AND FROM OBSERVATION - and NEVER EVER by copying the work of other urban sketchers
  • Colouring books with pre-printed sketches do NOT help people to become better urban sketchers - quite the reverse. 
Sadly, I think urban sketchers who want to see their drawings in print will ignore the underlying philosophy of urban sketching and will grab the opportunity to send in their pen and ink drawings.

I'll be very sad if they do...

If anybody reading the email from Kristin Conlin feels tempted to do this, all I ask is that they reread the Urban Sketchers Manifesto first - and reflect on it.

Maybe North Light Books could do the same?
Our Manifesto

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.
This is another extract from my email.
If and when you publish this book, I shall make a point of reviewing it on my blog and on Amazon. I think you can by now guess what I will be saying! I would imagine rather a lot of other urban sketchers might do the same.
So the questions for all urban sketchers are:
  • Do you want to get out and about and use your hands and eyes to draw and remain true to urban sketching? 
  • Or do you want two free copies of a book - so you can sit at home and colour it in?
What's your view?
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