However, rather than just vote for a favourite, I thought "Let's play a game of 'adjudication panel'" and pick my own short-list. Who would I choose as potential candidates for overall winner? That proves to be quite a difficult choice - there are around 600 entries on the website to choose from. I tackled it by going through the pages twice, stopping to click on and enlarge anything which especially caught my eye. My rule was that anything which continued to catch my eye the second time around made the short-list, and I came up with a surprisingly short list of 10 pieces (3 of which are by the same artist).
I thought the process was going to inform me about the state of drawing in current art practice, but I have to say that it ended up telling me more about my own aesthetic sense and critical faculties in ways I hadn't anticipated. My own taste in the past has run to complex lines and shading, realism and dazzling displays of technical skill. My own practice espouses a techno-steampunk-bio-organic-machinery aesthetic which seems sometimes to get more and more convoluted a time goes on. When looking at the Derwent Prize entries, however, I found myself drawn not only to style, but to content. It became increasingly apparent that mere technical brilliance was not going to give me a sense of satisfaction with a drawing (on the other hand, concept without skill didn't appeal either). There were a great many entries which were figurative, realistic or hyper-realistic, and many were technically very skilled, but only one (below) actually caught my eye as also being artistic. Most of my choices were, surprisingly, more abstract or stylised in nature. So... my shortlist for this year's Derwent Art Prize, in no particular order ...
One unfortunate thing about making up a shortlist from online photos is that subjects which aren't originally clear and simple suffer from the poor quality of the photos. If the organisers want people to make meaningful choices they need better quality photos next year! Hypnagogia by Daniella Turbin is just clear enough to make me want to see more. One of the principles I try to adhere to in my own practice is that a picture should, when seen from across the room, immediately make the viewer think "what's that about?" and prompt them to go for a closer look. Hypnagogia certainly passes that test.
time section 05
Drought Fire Ash #!
" muro de los lamentos "
Liverpool Town Hall facade
So there we are - the shortlist I would have made in the unlikely event of my being asked to judge a major prize! Picking two winners, I would have to say Feathered Remain by Marjorie Moore and a cure by Sarah Goudie stand out as best in show, and my choice for overall winner would definitely be be a cure. My tip for overall winner though - Rui by Lizet Dingemans. I would guess it's more likely to appeal to the public taste, but then it is a male nude, which could count against it.
It will be interesting to see if my choices tally at all when the winners are announced. The Derwent Art Prize exhibition runs from 15th - 20th September at the Mall Galleries in London and from 1st Dec 2014 - 9th Jan 2015 at the Pencil Museum in Keswick.
Now - go and vote!