At the end of my last post, that seems like weeks ago, probably because it was weeks ago, I talked of picking up the brushes on the following day. It didn't happen. The last few weeks have been devoted to sorting out some necessary house maintenance issues and consequently I'm well behind with a number of painting projects, the main one being the production of a watercolour based on a photograph taken by my friend, Peter. Don't worry Pete it is now well in hand and will be the subject of my next post.
This week I had intended going across to Ireland to participate in Art in the Open, a plein air festival taking place in the Wexford area. A number of the very fine artists who post in the plein air forum of Wet Canvas will be participating and I really regret having to miss it, but it would be best that the house remains upright. Nevertheless I did find myself with a couple of days free of domestic duties and managed to head out and refresh my enthusiasm by looking at the work of others in a little trip to the capital. A phone call to a friend secured a bed for a couple of nights and so I headed south.
I was keen to see three different exhibitions and managed to catch them all. On arrival in London I headed for the Royal Academy where two of my selected were running. The first one was entitled Sargent and the Sea.
As readers will be aware, John Singer Sargent was a celebrated producer of exquisite society portraits and vibrant landscapes as well as beautiful loose watercolours. It's always a pleasure to get the chance to study his work. Having said that this exhibition is one that for the casual viewer may be disappointing, largely because it does not include a large number of paintings, the bulk of the exhibits are preparatory material, drawings and oil sketches with a few watercolours thrown in. However, that is why it is an important source of learning about Sargent's process and inspirational for the inexperienced painter.
En route pour la peche - John Singer Sargent
After the stimulation of the Sargent exhibition I headed downstairs in the Academy to tale in the annual feast for the eyes that is the Summer Exhibition. As is always the case, the Summer Exhibition, with over a thousand exhibits, contains things that excite and others that leave you wondering wherein lies the quality? This was no more evident as I stood in front of a canvas that consisted of a slogan and accompanying comment entitled "But I think I love you". During the few minutes that I stood there every person who passed by questioned the attraction or merit of the piece. The artist, Tracey Emin, the asking price, £125,000.
All I can say about the Summer Exhibition is that it is always great value as an event to see the widest variety of artistic endeavour, sculpture, print, drawing, architecture as well as a vast range of painting styles. A great day.
The following day I set of for the National Portrait Gallery to view the Annual BP Portrait Awards. This is another exhibition that is worth catching every year. Whilst it is much smaller than the Summer Exhibition, with just over fifty exhibits, it too always contains a few gems and it is interesting to compare your judgement with that of the judges. This year my pal, Graham, and I had no problem disagreeing with the judges. The first prize was awarded to the first of the pictures below.
Both Graham and myself had a nagging suspicion that the winner was selected because of the brave choice of subject matter rather than the strength of the painting. There seems to be a fashion developing in the depiction of either disability or ageing and there were a number of exhibits on those lines. In many ways this trend is to be applauded because it creates positive images of less privileged members of society in an age where we are bombarded with identikit images of so called beauty. However, I take the view that the image must work as a painting first and foremost and this can come in many forms.
Consequently, I've posted a number of other entries for you to think about. All of these would have been higher up my shortlist than the actual winner.
My personal favourite is the above, a beautiful study of the joy of being a boy at play.