Spent a fab day out in London with a friend I haven’t seen in many years. In between eating and drinking around Soho we visited the NOA (National open Art) exhibition at Somerset House and later the Threadneedle Prize, ‘Figurative Art Today’ at the Mall Galleries. A real broad mix of styles (and abilities) at both. If I had to choose one, I’d say I found the NOA more interesting. What makes this event quite unique is that there are three resident artists working on site. Professionals invited to stay for the duration of the exhibition and use part of the space as a studio. They freely offer their individual perspective on the exhibits and are happy to discuss their own practice. I thought this was a fantastic way to help people become more engaged with the work. Listening to some of the conversations gave an interesting insight into how other artists interpret images and certainly offers food for thought. The NOA annual competition, in it’s 18th year, aims to give artists from all walks of life a platform to exhibit and gain exposure. From what I understand, each work is chosen purely on it’s individual merit alone. Background, education and professional status of the artist ignored (although a CV is requested on submission). Refreshing in a world that often seems to place reputation above quality of work.
A piece by photographer Marcus Lyon caught our eye straight away. A huge print entitled Exodus VII – Tin Shack City, Cape Flats, South Africa. Lyon refers to these works as ‘Landscapes without Horizons’. A great title I think and a provocative statement concerning our ever increasing urbanization.
At first glance I thought it was a single shot but on closer inspection you can see it’s a composite. Still powerful non the less. Lyon’s website is well worth checking out. http://www.marcuslyon.com
I particularly like this piece, also part of his Exodus collection:
We loved a piece by Lottie Jackson Eeles. http://www.lottieje.com A concertinaed sketch book with wonderful graphics using multimedia. Here’s an extract:
One of the most intriguing works for me was by an artist called Sarah Ball. www.sarah-ball.co.uk Entitled ‘Soldiers Hexaptych’
Injured Soldiers from the American Civil war. Regimented yet stripped of all insignia, a level parade ground, their blank expressions inviting us to ponder. On checking out Sarah’s website you’ll discover a whole range of these superbly executed, mini portraits. With her choice of palette and grouped title’s that include ‘Damaged People’ and ‘Accused’, you know these aren’t happy portraits, but rather images that stir and provoke further investigation. You can’t help wonder about the circumstance and back story of these people. Sarah’s work reminds me in a way of Anthony Scullion’s images. Haunting portraits that unnerve and yet draw you in with increasing curiosity. I love them!
Sarah also featured in the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition and was shortlisted.
The prize was won by artist Tina Jenkins with ‘Bed Head’. Themed ‘Figurative Art Today’, I thought the quality of work here was of a higher standard in general but still preferred the NOA. I may have been looking forward to seeing figurative art in it’s more traditional sense I guess, especially since I have been doing some life drawing recently, so a little disappointed in that respect.
One piece that did float my boat, was Vicky Wright’s ‘Pacifist’ found in the curated space within the gallery. Really like it’s rather dark, ambiguous, dream like quality and the way it was executed with thin oils on plain wood allowing the grain to add textural interest and a very organic feel.