Friday, 22 August 2014

Derwent Art Prize 2014: My shortlist

The organisers of the Derwent Art Prize (for works created using pencil media) have taken the decision to put online all of this year's entries so that members of the public can vote for their favourite for the 'People's Prize'.  The creators of the two most popular works will each win £700. ( I have no vested interest - I never have time to enter these things, and usually can't afford the entry fees anyway!). You can make your choice at up until 1st September 2014.

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 ...

real fish


Choi A-Rom's real fish was the first item to catch my eye. I like that bio-organic aesthetic, and skeletons figure high in the list of subjects for that kind of art. There were many such entries, most of which looked like A-level studies (and quite possibly were) - technically proficient but soulless. real fish, however, immediately awakens my interest - it's not real - it has a tree for a tail - why? Darned if I know, but I like it.



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


time section 05 by Auberon Bayley is again a piece which wants me to take a closer look. I love the juxtaposition of delicate colours with precise line - an ultimate expression of 'making the mark'.



I mentioned that there was one piece in the 'figurative/realistic' category which I thought was accomplished enough to make anyone's shortlist, and Rui by Lizet Dingemans is it. Supremely confident and expressive line-work makes this a serious contender in my opinion.

Feathered Remain


Now some drawings I found completely captivating in the sense of "I wish I could do that" ! Marjorie Moore entered three pieces, and I was unable to choose between them, so they all made my shortlist. They have just the mix of texture and detail which I'm trying to achieve in my own work, and the forms are instantly intriguing. Brilliant!

Drought Fire Ash #!


Feathered Flight


Feathered Flight immediately makes me think of C18th china patterns and wallpaper, giving a feeling of movement in nature.

a cure'


Sara Goudie's a cure (and its companion piece Sounding) struck me immediately and forcefully as an expression of pain and hope. I don't know the story but it makes me want to. It invites compassion, and yet tantalisingly, we don't know for what.

" muro de los lamentos "


What can I say? - I love the experience of exploring the content of collages like muro de los momentos by Cinara Kramer, and trying to figure out where the pieces come from and what they represent. I like the idea of creating collage from drawings, not by cutting and pasting pre-existing material, but by creating all the pieces individually and then fitting them together. It's a piece which draws  me in, and would probably occupy a significant portion of my time in the gallery.

Liverpool Town Hall facade


... and lastly, I had to have at least one architectural study in my list. I spent far too little time on the architecture room at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this year, but my feet were worn out by then! Liverpool Town Hall facade may be a bit of an uninspired title, but I really like the sense of movement, the drawing in of focus, and the feeling of a piece which is almost photographic and yet at the same time, obviously isn't.

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!

1 comment:

Vivi-Mari said...

This is a great analysis! It also suggests to me that drawings are often quite unadventurous, and it's easy to feel bored after just a few pieces. The photos are awful so that makes it a lot harder too. I don't really get the fish, to me it doesn't look very accomplished and I think the "tree" for a tail is really more or less how it looks in real life and that any indication towards the imaginative is accidental. Of all these, I prefer Feather Remain as it has depth, movement, texture and good draughtsmanship (the hand is light and heavy in the right places). The fact that it's square makes it look more contemporary than the others. Her other work are a bit too boring for me. A Cure is... hm, I think I might like it in real life - I'm not sure about the flimsy paper, looks a bit contrived to me though it might work in real life. Liverpool town hall is highly accomplished and elegant, but rather unoriginal. The male study is too conventional. Anyone who can draw can do that! Surely.

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