ING Discerning Eye is a name I've heard before but I've never actually been to it before, so this year I went along. It is housed at the Mall Galleries, an often visited haunt of mine. I went on a wet Tuesday afternoon, and there was an eerie silence and lack of people to the event. At the time I though little of it but it appears the event has been mired in controversy.
The show is a very dense hang. It sepcialises in small works and they cluster together along the wall like wintering starlings. It makes it quite difficult to get a proper look, and frankly the impression I got was of a rather low quality. There were a few things I liked. I did not buy a catalog thinking that I would be able to find out the details of the artists online. Unfortunately not, and so this blog will delve into the realms of unhelpfullness by in many cases not being able to identify the artist. Still it will give you a feel for the show and help you maybe decide if you want to enter/visit.
So let the semi usefullness begin,. The first works to catch my eye were the two above left, everyday commuting scenes rendered by cutting out shapes from train tickets. Produced by 6/59 (whoever that is). Whoever you are they are very effective, simply done, well presented and I was not surprised to see that they had sold. I particularly like the way the high vis jacket in the top picture is done.
One if the interesting things about this show is the complete changes of tone and style often in the same wall, so just down from 6/59 we have a work by 6/52. It is again quite simply done and would appear to depict second world bombers, navigating flak with perhaps a few parachutes. It would appear to be charcoal.
Sculpture and ceramics this time, with this grecian/african head in a dark, rusty iron effect shape by 6/16. I like the way it has these winged shoulders. Next to is was this lustrous off white vase cut across with gold lines, that make it look like it has broken and then restored, which in this case works quite well. Then it is inscribed with these mathematical formula. It is intriguing. I would like to see it in different colours.
Moving on the boat scene above looks very familiar. There was a woman at the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the year heat with me who painted in a similar way, but painting over newspaper and other bits of text. Makes for this lovely deep background that is particularly effective when doing the reflection. The tonal contrast is good, the dark buildings and the bright almost.
I actually know who the one above right is by. Hildegard Pax is her name and she produces these pieces in cool pastel perspex pieces. I like them.
A collection of bronze dancing and wrestling figures. Dynamic and good movement to them (above left). Then also in bronze these almost head like abstract objects. Not much more to say about them really. Just look at them.
This dragonfly picture (above left) is more subtle than it looks, there are several beetles in the left hand corner and other than those 3 squares there is a smudged looking tree that is a very effective way of pushing it into the background.
Some pieces work best when arranged together, and there was one wall which seemed to have been much better curated in this regard with clusters of work. In the above right you have these line of mini sculpture things, which marry very well with the paintings displayed above them. It is here both because I like the arcing colours of the sculptures but I also the dark landscape in the top left with that river slicing through it.
Likewise very well presented are these pottery and ceramic pieces. I particularly like the three on the back row, especially the middle one with this curving expanding balloon shape with the black shapes and lines going down it.
Then to do the second piece you paint a scene and fold it up so that it makes sense. It is a wonderful and skillful thing and I am not surprised it one a prize.
In the north gallery were drawings, arranged together and some of them were excellent. The ones picture above, these are the ones that were excellent. Tonally sharp, crisp detailed landscapes, hostile landscapes beautifully done. They remind me of the HP Lovecraft story the mountains of madness.
Since seeing these two silhouettes of birds I have been trying endlessly to replicate them and it is very difficult to do, at least in a convincing fashion. To get such simple shapes to look like birds, to look like birds in flight is very impressive. The one the left especially.
Finally we have a perspex and metal cage. It reminds me of various sci-fi computers. Nostalgia is powerful things.
Sorry, this week wasn't very well written. This has been written on the back of a 40th birthday party (not mine). Does it show. Just a reminded my show is on at Beans Love Greens until 18th December where you can see things such as the below. Go along.
Today I hung my latest showers, Flowers and Rocks at Beans Love Greens in Shoreditch. The exhibition was originally due to show in September but for various reasons it was delayed and was hung and open today. It is on until 18th December at Beans Love Greens which is on Calvert Avenue, just off Shoreditch High Street and a short work from the station of the same name. Please go and have a look, have some of their delicious coffee and cakes, and tell me what you think of the work and if you're feeling expansive, then buy one.
Sharp eyed frequent visitors to this website may have noticed that the show was originally called Pattern Recognition. That is because the original idea was that I would display some of my Pattern paintings. However after consultation with various parties I was persuaded that I should show my strongest work, and while I like my Pattern paintings and enjoy doing them I have to admit they are not my strongest work. I have shown my landscapes twice already this year, and will do twice again before the end of the year (more of that later), so I decided to have a go at showing some of my Still Life paintings. The show would be in two parts. Part one flowers, such as the two above which are the largest pieces.
The other four paintings were all basically monochrome still life painting. I bought on an impulse some Vine Black. It is quite satisfying using this as the main, or even only colour to produce an entire painting. The first of these my father demanded and was rendered to him. The second is the Coffee Pot. I have a collection of rocks a like painting so I hit upon a theme of rocks, arranged with other objects and a flash of colour. There are currently three (although a fourth is in production) of which one; Rocks, Bottle, Red you can see above red.
So today came and it was time to hang the paintings, all wrapped with various hanging tools and ready to go. When it came to it the cafe was pretty full and I had to squeeze between patrons to hand things. In such an environment the wielding of a spirit level is not really tolerated and so this was abandoned. Pre-installed hooks made the hanging of the canvas very easy but the wooden boards were more tricky to install. Again hammering and nailing wasn't really on the cards in such a crowded environment, fortunately I could go to my back up plan of sticky Velcro.
The largest canvas went on the largest wall and the second largest, piece, but the most colourful went on the back wall so that it could be seen from the street.
The Girls 2019 calendar by the way is not mine but a permanent sales fixture. In the remaining space I put two of the remaining three Rocks paintings. There was not room in the Cafe for all three. This is not necessary a bad thing. It is often a good idea to take along more paintings than you intend to hang. This gives you choices and if you end up hanging all of them all well and good. I considered trying to stuff them all in anyway but rejected this plan so had to choose. Eventually I decided on Red and Blue (above right). Blue is new and not even up on this website yet.
People don't look that much at art in cafes so I am not expecting to make any sales. I had the same expectation of my last two shows and sold things from all of them, so who know. You never now what will happen, and nothing will if you don't put your art up there.
Having assembled everything, I bought a cake and left. The show is up until 18th December. The address of Beans Love Greens is 8 Calvert Avenue, London, E2 7JP.
I took part as a wildcard in this years Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. The episode was filmed back in June at Viking Bay in Broadstairs (above). We were all under a media embargo until transmission. The show has started and the episode I took part in is being broadcast this week. This blog will not reveal who won from the contestants or the wild card group in case you want to watch in but haven't yet (although spoiler, it wasn't me). This will be a blog about my experience preparing and taking part. (another spoiler, it was awesome).
I paint a lot of landscapes but my process is usually sketch and photograph on site and then work from those in the studio, often over several weeks. I rarely paint outside in one sitting. I find it difficult and awkward to do and I make one hell of a mess. When then in May I found out I would be a wild card i decided I needed to practice. Start simple, I started in the garden. It was a hot day and oil paint does strange and runny things when it gets really hot. I picked a vista and slowly over the course of about three hours built up to a final image. It showed me that if painting for a time limit you need to think carefully what you are going to paint.
Second time out I went to Clissold Park. My strength I think is water and I like painting it. Also frankly I chose the view because it was nice and shaded from what was frankly a hot day. It was a nice fun day. Many small dogs came over to see what I was going. In terms of the picture, well its not great frankly but I was pleased with the water, the rocks and the grass. Again the heat did strange things again to the paint and of course you have the problem, if you are working in oil that you don't have time for the oil to dry so you are painting wet on wet. I find that tricky.
The final practice took place in Canonbury Square, a grand square and park near my house. This time I had a running commentary and audience from two friendly homeless guys who lived in the square. This time I found it easier to pick a composition, focusing on the large urn in the centre of the park. I also decided that I would focus on the colours at the start and then put in the tone and the shading at the end, using the shadows at the time. I decided to simplify the background and focus on the main subject. Main criticism, I elevated the eyeline to much and it has a weird fish eye feel to the whole thing. Otherwise I think it is pretty good.
Then to Broadstairs. The filming was on a Tuesday in June. I had entered the competition and received a rejection coupled with a conciliation Wildcard invitation. I replied almost immediately and choose Broadstairs and this particular heat for the stunningly artistic reason that it was a) the closest to where I live and b) I already had that day off work.
However be warned, the filming starts early. Actually it doesn't it starts at about 10:00 but they want you there for 08:30. No train would get me there in time without having to get up for 5:00am. I;m not doing that so went down the night before, stayed in a lovely Air Bnb (which it turned out was occupied by another wildcard). I spent the evening checking out the beach we would be painting the next day (above), with its row of pods (above left). Broadstairs is actually a really nice town. It is proper town to not just a tourist trap like Margate but with stuff in it. If you fancy a trip to the Essex coast then I can recommend it.
just for the experience. My rational mind was thinking the same but also I though, maybe just maybe. I knew though that my plein air skills are not good enough to make it. I don't actually enjoy painting outside that much. I prefer being in a studio with the cricket on. Even drawing outside I don't like that much, at least not for an extended period of time. Some people here really love it.
Then you are given a prep talk, all lined up and then walk in, in a crowd, waving to the camera. This involved climbing up and down steps. Another tip, you have to be able to carry all your things. A lot of people had brought partners/spouses/daughters with them to help carry things. Some had not and I had to help an old lady called Sarah carry her wheely bag up and down the stairs.
Then we will all set up on the beach. It was warm, but not to hot, and it was nice to pad around in bear feet on the sand. Some people had bought chairs, sun-umbrellas and even tables. I just had a rucksack and my easel. Most people chose to paint the north prospect, including the inspiration for Bleak House. I took the view that I probably wouldn't pull this off in the time. Also my forte is water so I went to the view above, the sea with the walled, swimming area and the pole.
Should have checked the tide though. Can you spot the issue? The tide came in and shortly after starting the water rose and my nice rock feature disappeared beneath the wave. Hmm, error there. I either a) should have painted this first or b) chosen a different view. So I decided instead to focus on the sea and the sky.
It was a lovely day, hot but not to hot. Got up to around 21 C. I am a very messy painter and I new I would get sand everywhere. I decided to go with this and mixed sand it with the paint for the beach. It gave quite a nice sparkly effect. Joan Bakewell who stopped by briefly was kind enough to say she thought it made for a good effect.
The day was spent building up the sea and the sky, making for colour and contrast in the sky and the sea. I quite like the results of that. It's a good base for a painting but to be in any kind of contention there would need to be more.
This is the end result (above). The extra detail I put in was the pole, the cormorant (which perched briefly in that pose, I like cormorants), and distant boats. Also some wave details. Frankly I think I overcooked the sea. It looks better without the white marks. Instead what I should have done is try and put the rocks back in, or you know something else. Its quite a nice painting, and I enjoyed making it but I don't think its great. The whole thing took just over 3 hours. There was a break for lunch but I also took several breaks for ice cream and chatting to people. I went to chat to one of the real contestants, she was nervous, but her work was pretty good.
I had a spare canvas. The cliffs at the Broadstairs are chalks, and there was chalk and charcoal lying around on the beach. I thought it would be fun to make something using stuff that was lying around on the beach. So I did this sketch of the Southern cliffs. I think its pretty good for about 30 minutes. I am not going to tell you who won, the heat or the wild card draw. You should watch the show for that. I don't think I will appear on film, other from one part where I saw the camera pointing at me as I lunged clumsily across the beach to try and capture an umbrella that was blowing away. So if you see a galumphing fool in a silly hat (below), that's me.
It was pretty fun. I might do it again.
Recently I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time. I went to the Prints and Drawings room at Tate Britain. Only a proportion of the Tate's collection is on display at any one time. The rest is in storage. Indeed some of it, particularly sketches, prints, drawings etc, are never displayed. What you can do, and anyone can do this and it is free is book an appointment at the Prints and Drawings room, say what you want to see from their archive and they will produce it for you.
I am a member of the Law Society Art Group and they arranged a trip to do exactly that. Indeed going in a group is a good idea because it means you get a whole room to yourselves and can see many more paintings. I suspect if you go on your own you are limited to one or two. The time is limited, you have an hour. It was however a wonderful experience. It is not an easy room to find. You have to work you way to the end of the Core gallery, where the Turners are, up the stairs to the William Blake galleries, and then through an anonymous set of green doors. You then ring a buzzer to gain admittance. Unlikely then to find it by chance, and not easy to find it on purpose. One of our number went spectacularly wrong by going to the wrong Tate.
You are of course not allowed to touch the works and there is a member of staff supervising. They also have information on the works to hand. What you can do though is get much closer to a work than you normally would. You can also spend more time looking without the jostle of crowds than you would do otherwise. The two I requested were Peter Doig Prints (above) of whom I am a big fan. His work has this ethereal mysterious quality. It often involves reflections and water, both of which were pregnant themes in these two pieces. I am afraid I have forgotten what their names are.
Of course I was not the only person attending so there were the surprise element of works others had requested too.
The above is by Frank Auerbach. It was a long time between setting up the visit and actually going but I suspect I may have asked for this also. In the photo it looks quite intriguing with these figures emerging from the scratchy background. In person though it is quite dull, looks like the scribbling of a bored child and as one of my companions commented, if it wasn't by somebody famous no-one would like twice at it.
Rossetti appeared not once but thrice (the third one later). As the same companion marked, it is incredible what you can achieve with just a pencil and a piece of paper as in this drawing of what we eventually decided was a young man (above left). It is a very delicate and detailed drawing, filled with the strange angelic quality with homo-erotic undertones that so oft one sees in Rossetti. I spent quite some time looking at this, it is a real masterclass in how to draw. It calls across the room. Next to it was this very small etching, a figure playing some kind of instrument. Detailed but for me the less artistically interesting of the two.
Apologies for the poor quality photos but under the rules of the room, flash photography is prohibited, but of course Turner was in attendance. Demonstrating what you can achieve with remarkably little paint in these watercolours, one the cool light on a winter lake (above left) and the other a glowing red sunset (above right). Turner is all light and water, and I love it. The mountain scene on the left is my preferred, that solid purple mass, contrasting with the soft water. The small boats, little more than lines, really set it off.
burning parliament. Different shades of white, yellow red, the building itself done in these colours to show the coruscating heat. Lovely.
Changing styles, time period and gender to three Paula Rego prints (above). I have never really been a fan of Rego's painting but I found these prints quite intriguing. It is the odd poses the women have adopted, particularly the strange half squat in the picture on the far left. What an earth is happening there? Equally on the far right, it looks like an illustration for a strange fairy-tale or some other diluvian story. I spent far longer than I thought I would looking at this. Again this demonstrates why you go in a group if you can, exposure to the unexpected. I have a new respect for Rego now.
orientated diagonal lines, crossed by those skeletal trees. I spent some time looking at and sketching the dominant tree in the monochrome picture. There is something very Entish about it.
William Blake (above), biblical, flowing, mad, evocative, all the things you want from William Blake.
More William Blake! From left to right god as an elderly white man, with light coming from his head, in a strange womb like clamshell setting. Then an etching of I'm not sure what. Finally the one I found most interesting this very intimate sketch of Catherine Blake who was his wife. It is a very contented gaze she has and Blake manages to say quite allot with very few lines. It is drawn on the back of some kind of printed page. You can see the type pushing through the page. A wonderful thing to see at such close quarters.
Samuel Palmer was another new name. He was an etcher and printmaker and we had for our delectation four prints, these two (above)
and these two (above). Moonlight country scenes are his thing. Often castles in the background. They are very classic, which is not a very elegant way of putting it, but the monochrome packs a certain punch. My particular favourite was the one on the right of the first set. I'm not sure why.
Hogarth prints, worthy and dull.
Finally Rossetti again (above). This one the only one with glass so apologies for the reflection in the photo. A biblical triptych, David and his sling, birth of baby Jesus and then some king playing a harp? Not sure who he is. My biblical knowledge is sketchy. Presumably this is a mock up for a larger work. I like the angels peering in at the back. I m not sure of the medium here, but it looked too course and sketchy for oil paints. I could be wrong though.
Its super fun, and I highly recommend it. Finally a ruthless plug for my own show which is coming up from 18th November to 18th December at Beans Loves Greens. Below a peek of some one of the works that will be on display.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.