Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rachel Whiteread on Drawing

Following on from yesterday's Jerwood Drawing Prize post, this is another post about 'drawing'.

This is Rachel Whiteread talking about drawing - in a very normal, accessible, everyday way in a video by Tate Britain. It was filmed for her exhibition of her drawings at Tate Britain in 2010

Another exhibition opened last week at Tate Britain - simply called Rachel Whiteread
Celebrating over 25 years of Rachel Whiteread’s internationally acclaimed sculpture
The exhibition is on until 21 January 2018.

Rachel Whiteread's Drawings

The show that can overturn one's attitude to an artist is as rare as hen's teeth. The show that can achieve this solely through drawings – unless the artist is a draughtsman – is even less common.
This first-ever museum exhibition of her drawings shows Whiteread doodling (her word) on paper, using pencil, gouache, ink, correcting fluid (to build texture). She calls these drawings her working diary, but they are in no way personal or confessional. They don't throw back at us any kind of image of the sculptor. They feel coolly constructed, painstakingly analytical. They remind us of work by the minimalists – paintings by Frank Stella from the 1960s, or stacked units by Donald Judd. They are cerebrally set apart from us.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Gary Lawrence wins Jerwood Drawing Prize - for the second time

Gary Lawrence has won the £8,000 First Prize in the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017. It's the second time he's won First Prize. He also won in 2011

Last time he won with a very complex 6ft by 4ft drawing called Homage to Anonymous - as a tribute to unknown artists. He produced a simple view of Pothea reflecting on his holiday to the principal town on the Greek island of Kalymnos
using a packet of ten Tesco Value budget pens which he used to ink his images onto the reverse side of old Woolworths advertising posters.Hard-up artist bags £6,000 prize after using 3p biro to create stunning landscape | Daily Mail
This time he's won by producing an equally large drawing - also of the town of Pothea on Kalymnos. This time he's used poster paint (I assume that's the yellow background) and felt pens.

The fridge magnet reference relates to the two boards of bridge magnets with "scenes from Greece" on them which are then reproduced in little 'thought' bubbles on the edge of the paper. Each is accompanied by a comment from the artist – ‘Athens – never been here’, ‘Cyprus ‘08 ok-ish’, ‘Zante Town – Euro Spar’.

It reminds me of some of the drawings produced in the past which used to illustrate a journey with small drawings around the edge showing scenes from the route.  Quite why it should be yellow is not explained.

Winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017
Gary Lawrence, Yellow Kalymnos with Fridge Magnets, 2017.
Felt pen and poster paint on canvas, 250 x 249cm. Photo: Colin Mills
The artist is from Wethersfield, Essex and was also shortlisted for the Derwent Art Prize 2015.

One of the panel of selectors, Michael Simpson, comments on the drawing as follows
“a brilliant evocation of a time capsule; of time squashed in on itself as a topographical romance in retrospect.”
While the drawing is an undoubted complex piece of work, I'm not quite sure how awarding the First Prize to somebody for the second time when the aim the Jerwood Drawing Prize is
promoting and celebrating the breadth of contemporary drawing practice
On the whole I prefer prestigious prizes which you're allowed to win once. My reasons are as follows:
  • Such a rule means that the benefit of the prize, not to mention the prize money, is spread amongst the widest pool of deserving artists. Ultimately that means it has the scope to enhance the careers of more artists - and that's no bad thing.
  • If you allow a prize to be won for a second time, then you begin to entertain scope for 
    • the "Ant & Dec" problem (entertainers who have won the "most popular entertainment programme in the National Television Awards every year but one going back to 2003)
    • accusations of favouritism
Nothing to stop other artists winning the other prizes more than once - but for me the rule of "win and that's it" for First Prize has a cogent rationale in the context of competitions generally and the aims of this one in particular.

Other Prizewinners

Evelyn Williams Drawing Award (£10,000) 

The final selection was made by
  • Elizabeth Gilmore, Director, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings; 
  • Anita Taylor, founding Director, Jerwood Drawing Prize, and 
  • Nicholas Usherwood, Art Critic and Curator and trustee of the Evelyn Williams Trust.

Barbara Walker won this new prize - which incidentally has the most prize money.  (Is this the new name of next year's drawing award given this is the last year of Jerwood Sponsorship?)

She's a very impressive artist with an outstanding portfolio of 'proper' drawings. 

Her figurative drawings explore race identity, belonging, class and power.  This drawing comes from her Shock and Awe series of drawings about the contribution of Black servicemen and women to the British Armed Forces and war efforts from 1914 to the present day. It includes embossed lines to represent the non-Black service personnel.

She's currently exhibiting in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. (see my blog post
Khadija Saye and 'The Venice Biennale: Britain's New Voices' on BBC2 which includes my comments on her drawings for this exhibition.)

Winner of the £10,000 Evelyn Williams Drawing Award
Barbara Walker, Exotic Detail In The Margin#2,

Graphite on embossed paper, 52 x 61cm. Photo: Colin Mills

Other Jerwood Drawing Prize Awards

Thursday, September 14, 2017

£25,000 John Moores Painting Prize 2018 - Call for Entries

The John Moores Painting Prize is celebrating its 60th anniversary and holding its 30th exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 2018.  The anniversary of this prestigious painting is being celebrated with two additional prizes for the first prizewinner (see below for further details).

During the last 60 years it has championed contemporary British painting for over two decades longer than any other art prize of similar size.
"[The John Moores Painting Prize is] the Oscar of the British painting world"
- Sir Norman Rosenthal, curator and former exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy.
Registration for the call for entries for the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 opened today at 12 midday today, 14 September 2017.

Below is an overview of the call for entries and links to relevant webpages.

About the John Moores Painting Prize

This art competition is a PAINTING competition and is open to all UK-based artists working with paint. It culminates in an exhibition at the Walker Art Exhibition in Liverpool which is held at the same time as the Liverpool Biennial.

Its named after the sponsor of the prize, Sir John Moores (1896 – 1993) and was originally intended as a one-off!

It's now a biennial event and this will be the 30th exhibition in 60 years - since its launch in 1957.

You can view the previous winners of the John Moores Painting Prize on the website (1980-2016 and 1957-1978) . They include:

The Walker Art Gallery has an ongoing display of a selection of previous winning works John Moores Prizewinners 1957 - 2006 and notes that
The exhibition has consistently helped to raise the profile of the artists and in particular to further the careers of its winners

Criteria for assessment - and how anonymity is maintained

The original aims of John Moores were:
'To give Merseyside the chance to see an exhibition of painting and sculpture embracing the best and most vital work being done today throughout the country'
'To encourage contemporary artists, particularly the young and progressive'

Hence the competition aims to support artists who paint. There are two important criteria:
  • all entries are judged anonymously
  • to bring to Liverpool the best contemporary painting from across the UK
and after that it's whatever the members of the jury care to place an emphasis on.

In terms of "anonymous entry and judging" this competition is much more thorough than most
  • all artists are allocated a unique entry number
  • jurors are not given the names of the artists 
  • jurors are only provided with information about the title, size and medium of the painting

The Jury

The Jury changes with every exhibition. They are selected and appointed by the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust and National Museums Liverpool.

As usual I've looked up the profiles of the jury members for the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 which are summarised below
  • Prof. Lubaina Himid MBEProfessor of Contemporary Art. School of Art, Design and Fashion at the University of Central Lancashire. She has been recognised for her services to Black Womens Art - see Making Histories Visible
  • Marvin Gaye Chetwynd - a performance artist given to changing her name. She trained as a painter at training as a painter at UCL's Slade School of Fine Art and the Royal College of Art and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012. See What do artists do all day
  • Jenni Lomax -  Ex-director of Camden Arts Centre (1990-July 2017) where she gave early shows to artists like Martin Creed and Yinka Shonibare. Awarded the Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2007 and an OBE for her services to the Visual Arts in 2009. This is a Christies interview with her
  • Bruce McLean - a Scottish sculptor, performance artist and painter who studied at Glasgow School of Art and St. Martin's School of Art. He taught at numerous art schools including The Slade School of Fine Art, where he became Head of Graduate Painting (2002-2010). You can see his work here. In 1985, he won the John Moores Painting Prize.
  • Liu Xiaodong - a contemporary Chinese artist who studied at and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He now has tenure as professor in the painting department at CAFA. You can see his work here


All paintings included in the exhibition are eligible for a prize.

The jury will select a final shortlist of five paintings and award the prizes.
  • First Prize - £25,000 plus an additional award (to mark the 60th year): 
    • a three month fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University 
    • an in-focus solo display at the Walker Art Gallery in 2019.

    • In addition, the prize is NOT a purchase prize, but the Walker Art Gallery may also purchase the painting which means another 'win' for the First Prizewinner.
  • four prizes for the other shortlisted artists of £2,500

There is also a Visitors’ Choice prize of £2,018, voted for by visitors to the exhibition at the Walker and awarded towards the end of the exhibition period.

Call for Entries

These are the Terms and Conditions and FAQS and Commercial Agreement on which I have based this summary. I do NOT warrant that I've covered every detail you might need to know - it's up to you to read all of these documents thoroughly and make sure you can comply with them when you send in your entry and painting.

Who can enter?

Artists who MUST
  • be aged 18 years or over on the day of registration
  • living or professionally based in the UK
I suggest if you're not sure whether your paintings are suitable for this exhibition you take a look at my blog posts at the end of this post which
  • list those artists shortlisted and selected for recent biennial exhibitions
  • with links to their websites and images of some of the shortlisted works

Eligible to exhibit

You can submit only one entry per artist.
Multiple entries under the same or under different names are not allowed. Artists found to have done this will be deemed in breach of the Prize’s conditions of entry and will have all their entries disqualified.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Should artists use prize money to protest against the sponsor of an art competition?

Here's an ethical conundrum for artists.
  • Can you protest against those sponsoring art competitions - after you've taken the prize money? 
  • Or should you not enter in the first place if you object to the sponsor?

Henry Christian-Slane collecting his award and his cheque for £7,000 from Bob Dudley, CEO of BP
In June, Henry Christian-Slane won the BP Young Artist Award and received a cheque for £7,000.

Last Friday The Guardian:
These follow on from a Greenpeace interview with him This artist is donating part of his BP prize money to fight climate change that includes very specific criticism of a number of issues including a new proposal by BP to drill near to a newly discovered coral reef.
Last month, at London’s National Portrait Gallery, I was presented with the BP Young Artist Award, by BP’s CEO, Bob Dudley. It’s a prestigious award, and I was happy to receive it, but I’m not happy about being part of BP’s PR strategy. And so as a symbolic act I am donating £1000 of their prize money directly to Greenpeace projects that aim to protest BP’s further extraction of fossil fuels from the Earth. I hope this action will help keep the issue of BP’s role in climate change from being overshadowed by their contribution to the arts.

I think it is an important role of artists to represent and be critical of the context they find themselves in, regardless of where funding comes from. Art should not be a passive PR tool used by corporations to carry their name and logo. I feel it is my responsibility as an artist involved with the portrait award to voice my criticism of BP and I hope the other exhibitors and award winners agree with me.
Apparently he likes having the title of  "Young Artist of the Year", which doubtless will do his career no harm, but he doesn't like the actions of the sponsor of the awards

I was genuinely puzzled when I read this - it seemed to me to be very odd.

I would have thought that anybody who felt that strongly about the actions of BP would never have entered the competition in the first place - on principle.

I came up with a number of explanations
  • Maybe this sentiment only arose after criticism from family and/or friends and/or the public - and that's why he now needs to make this announcement?
  • Maybe it's being photographed next to Bob Dudley with an award with the BP logo on it that caused the change of mind?
  • Maybe it's BP's latest proposal to drill next to the coral reef? (Incidentally, this is the Greenpeace link to Join the campaign to protect the Amazon Reef from BP drilling.)
I did a little bit of digging on his Facebook and Instagram accounts and it turns out there is no question Henry Christian-Slane really is an eco-warrior (see Instagram post below).  His other Instagram posts suggest he cares a very great deal about reef systems - so maybe the last suggested explanation was in fact the trigger for his donation.

The question his actions poses for me is "Do other artists who entered or were selected for the BP Portrait Award agree with him and his actions? "

I don't suppose any of the artists who entered are great proponents of global warming.

If that's the case, why did they enter the competition?

Sponsorship of the Arts - and BP

Demonstration against BP's funding of the BP Portrait Award
outside the National Portrait Gallery 22 June 2010
I've written about BP's sponsorship of the Arts and the various views taken about it on a number of occasions:
The major difference between when I started writing about art funding generally and now is the huge cut in public funding for the arts in general and art in particular over the past few years (it must be at least 25% if not more)

We're now living in an age where sponsorship by major corporate bodies or very rich individuals (and how did they get their money?) is absolutely essential to the well-being of art collections, art galleries and museums and art competitions.

My view is clear - as stated back in 2015.
I'll state my case up front. I really am not in the least bit bothered by BP's sponsorship of art galleries and museums. I'm far more concerned about:
  • fossil fuel companies behaving in a social responsible manner 
  • those trying to repair their reputation paying a fair price to society for the privilege of being associated with a prestigious art gallery or museum which only exists due to generous state support.
Of course I'd rather that energy sources came from renewable sources. However until somebody makes energy consumption from non-fossil fuel a cost effective and efficient proposition for most of the companies and families in the UK (and elsewhere) I don't see much alternative to the continued use of fossil fuels.

That in turn means oil companies will be looking for ways of sanitising their image - and offers a wonderful opportunity for sponsorship - so long as this is at the right price.

What do you think

Are all artists eco-warriors? Should they be?

Do other artists who entered (or thought about entering) or were selected for the BP Portrait Award agree with Henry Christian-Slane and his actions?
I'll also restate the questions I asked back in 2014
here's some questions to ponder on:
  • Should BP be sponsoring the Arts in this country - and why (or why not)?
  • Do you think exhibitions/competitions etc would suffer if BP funding was no longer available?
  • Do you think another company would fill the gap if BP no longer funded art?
  • Do you think any substitute sponsor would be better or worse than BP?
It's worth thinking about what the alternative might be. For example - supposing a Russian Oligarch whose money was generated by the oil industry were to invest in improving his profile in this country, might we be back at where we came in - or worse?
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. I'm really interested - and it's a question which is not going to go away....

This is what Jonathan Jones thinks - after reminding us all that the first sponsor of the Portrait award was John Player - the tobacco company!
It seems it’s always the controversial businesses that spend on the arts – the saintly ones don’t crave the publicity. Today it would be unimaginable for museums to take tobacco money. Perhaps museums need to find the next sponsors who need to clean up a dodgy image – soft drinks giants, maybe?

About Henry Christian-Slane

Monday, September 11, 2017

Training the Eye - Teaching to Look

I came across this video on training the eye and teaching people how to look last week.

It's about the clarity that comes from real perception.
“Training the eye is very, very important. You can’t come up with ideas if you don’t see — first.”
Inge Druckrey
Teaching to See has been described as
  •  a 40-minute crash course in Design Thinking
  • a document of the long and successful teaching career, and .... a teaching tool for generations to come.
  • deneficial to all visual students whether designers or artists.
  • a 2012 educational documentary film about graphic design and the teaching of Inge Druckrey and some of her students and colleagues.
Just watch it....

Still from Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See