Bryan Kneale RA
The selectors for The Discerning Eye are independently responsible for their own section.
The paramount aims are to show as much work as possible from the lesser known beside that of the established artist - where they frequently look of equal quality and to juxtapose the taste of the selectors. The size limitation was always intended as a refreshing change from the attention-seeking, bumped-up studio conceit. It also means that more artists may be shown: nowhere else is it possible to see so much in so compact a space. Indeed the commercial galleries have been following suit since our pearls were first cast.
I think the structure might, perhaps, yet be improved, possibly with an informed lay selector. Without constructive criticism and positive suggestion the show will still change for the better, but with them it would be quicker.
There are excellent prizes and extraordinary opportunities for launching or enhancing artists' careers. More importantly, the public has a market place to buy works at a reasonable cost and of dimensions such as would fit any small house or full collection. It may be that the artist will have the loyalty and sense to continue to deal with the early buyers without inflating their prices.
Of equal importance is the relationship to business, doubtless the main patron of the future. Without the wise generosity of the sponsors there would be no Discerning Eye. Long live this union between Business and Art and may they mutually prosper.
The Discerning Eye would particularly like to thank the Selectors: Colin George, Patrick Hughes, Bryan Kneale, David Lee, Edward Lucie-Smith and Julian Spalding who have given so much time and thought to their personal selections.
Browns Restaurants enlightened sponsorship and involvement has made this exhibition possible. They have generously given £10,000 in prizes directly to artists in addition to funding a large part of the running costs of the exhibition.
American Express and Buzzacott Chartered Accountants are both Patrons of The Discerning Eye not only with an individual prize of £1,000 but also by entertaining their guests to a special evening in the gallery.
We would also like to thank the many other prize givers for their imaginative encouragement of exhibiting artists.
The Federation of British Artists, who run the Mall Galleries, have given us a special degree of care and attention.
We would also like to thank Sarah Davies for the smooth running of the exhibition, Jane Willis for organising the Patrons, Mark Brown for design and Richard Cook so kindly bringing works to London.
The Discerning Eye, conceived and nurtured by Michael Reynolds, Annabel Elton and Ian Laing, relies on the enthusiasm of many people. Thank you to them all for enabling this splendid and worthwhile exhibition to take place.
Browns Restaurant & Bar
Brompton Cross ~ Mayfair ~ Covent Garden
As well as sponsoring the exhibition Browns Restaurants Ltd have given £10,000 as four prizes of £2,500 for the best work by artists who have not yet had shows in a major central London art gallery. The winning works have been selected by the full panel of Discerning Eye Selectors and are illustrated towards the back of this catalogue.
Browns Restaurants and Bars have been highly successful over the past twenty years. Now Browns Restaurant (London) Ltd is introducing the Browns concept to London. August saw the opening of Browns Bar, Draycott Avenue, Brompton Cross and a further bar will open in Maddox Street Mayfair at the begining of next year. 1996 will see the opening of Browns Restaurant in St. Martin's Lane, Covent Garden.
We are delighted that the launch of our Bars and Restaurant in the capital will coincide with the Discerning Eye's Competition and Exhibition enabling us to invest some of our success in contemporary British Art.
Jeremy Mogford, Managing Director, Browns Restaurant (London) Ltd
Selector Profile: Colin George
I was a chorister of Canterbury Cathedral from 1914 to 1923 where my eye and ear for beautiful things were first educated.
Except for having an unusually good voice, the only prize that I received at school was for drawing and painting, which I only took up seriously when I retired at sixty-five. My eye for colour was very useful during my business life which was spent entirely in developing beautiful fabrics for ladies' wear. My business life gave me the opportunity to visit art galleries all over the world, which further educated my eye for a good picture and I have collected, in a small way, for the last forty years.
Not for me the large daubs of nothing in particular which art schools have encouraged over that period at the expense of drawing skills and painting techniques which have stood artists in good stead over the centuries.
For me the beautifully drawn, beautifully painted images from real life which abound in endless variety as long as one has the eye to see; also the skill of being able to pick the best gives one endless pleasure when they are on one's own walls.
I hope those with 'a discerning eye' will enjoy looking at my selection.
Born in Canterbury in 1907, Colin George's career has been in the wool and fabric trade from manufacturing and wholesale to retail. His eye for colour which stood him in good stead for this line of business has also served a lifetime's love of art. Colin has built up a personal collection and a special relationship with the East Kent artists. In the last thirty years he himself has been painting, drawing and modelling in clay.
Selector Profile: Patrick Hughes
Size and scale are different qualities. A work of art can be of small size in itself and yet it could have large scale within it. Lots of little people have big ideas. The little paintings and sculptures in this show have a lot in them, the small number selected were seen by us judges against the background of the thousands we did not choose. They are the tiny tip of a huge iceberg.
Maybe those submerged unchosen ones will come back to scuttle us one day. We must have made mistakes, missed several worthy works, but I do not think we missed any outstanding candidates. (One practical note: small pictures emphasise the frame. Some pictures had bad frames.)
When a person speaks on a topic they may tell you more about themselves than about the topic. My reaction to the art offered to us may tell you more about me than the art. Nevertheless, I must say that with several delightful exceptions, such as the work of Frank Jennings and Andrew Lanyon, there was not enough character, not enough madness, not enough joie de vivre, bloody-mindedness, silliness, perversity, intelligence, knowingness or emotional thrust in the work submitted. There is not enough at the Royal Academy or the John Moores Exhibition either. Perhaps safety and ordinariness and conservatism and sweetness and repeating other people's ideas are what one should expect. I hope that the artists I have selected from the open submission show some oddness.
Patrick Hughes was born in Birmingham, which he has never been back to, in 1939. His solo show in 1961 was the first by a so-called Pop Artist. He taught at Leeds College of Art in the 1960's. He has published three books about verbal and visual rhetoric, Vicious Circles and Infinity, (with George Brecht), Upon the Pun, (with Paul Hammond), and More on Oxymoron (on his own). He has been with the Angela Flowers Gallery for a quarter of a century. His paradoxical perspective pictures of the last six years are his most successful, and he says the form is sufficiently intriguing for him to concentrate on it for the rest of his life.
Selector Profile: Bryan Kneale
Choosing, or helping to choose the work in an exhibition is an enlightening experience; being part of a panel of Discerning Eyes was a special interesting occasion. You get a suprising amount of insight into the varied personalities of one's fellow judges for a start. I found myself amazed at the sheer speed with which Edward Lucie-Smith could react – I am sure he would win any game of Snap hands down. But of course it's not just speed, it's a form of decision making that comes from experience, conviction and sureness of eye.
Anyone looking at the work in this show will also be making choices in a similar way, why a particular work makes a hit or miss is the subjective judgment distilled from one's personal view of the world. The work I chose and the artists I was able to invite reflect in turn my own concept of quality and imagination.
Exhibitions like this one are important not only for artists coming into view for the first time but also artists with established reputations who could well gain from being exposed in a new and different venue, a change from the predictable scenario. I remember, as a student exhibiting in a regular show of Pictures for Schools – alongside Moore, Hepworth and Sutherland. It's not like that these days – a pity.
Bryan Kneale was born in the Isle of Man in 1930 and returns there frequently. He says living in London is fine but he misses the hills and the sea. He makes sculpture, draws and occasionally takes exercise. He has taught sculpture and drawing at the Royal College of Art and has just retired. He is working on a four metre fish skeleton in steel at present and has just had a retrospective at the Royal West of England Academy. His main aim now is to make something that will explode into new territory - something that so far he hasn't touched.
Selector Profile: David Lee
To my eye the principal pleasure of looking at paintings is the pleasure they provide and the challenge and deeply affecting poetry issued by the greatest art. Modern crafts and contemporary sculpture mean more or less nothing to me so my section is all painting with the odd print and drawing thrown in.
Although there may be a wide range of subjects in my selection, the way the paint is used tends to be similar throughout. I consider the subject of a painting to be largely unimportant. What impels me to look is the way the subject is seen, the way the paint is handled to give a distinctly personal account of a particular subject. I like paintings in which brushstrokes simultaneously evoke and describe without resort to the dogged hard labour of painstaking depiction.
All my selection comprises – loosely speaking - figurative art. I can think of few abstract artists whose paintings detain me for more a few seconds and none is alive. Most of the current younger crop I class as nothing better than daubers and pretty pattern makers repeating a few familiar and breath-takingly overpriced trademarks. Abstract art seems to be based on formal premises which great artists take for granted as a foundation on which to paint dreams which reach far beyond mere arrangements of colour, shape and mark. Judging The Discerning Eye has demonstrated yet again that painting is unjustly neglected by those who the public pay handsomely to administer the contemporary arts on their behalf.
David Lee was born in Manchester whose culture he allows to colour his attitudes to art and life. He read History of Art at Nottingham University and took his MA at University College, London in 1976. Since then he has been a freelance writer on art and photography and is now editor of Art Review. Apart from a stint, 1984-89, as Visiting Lecturer in Photography at the RCA he has been a general art pundit to many radio and television programmes. He has served as judge on various national art competitions, including the Hunting Group Prize and the NatWest Prize as well as organising several major exhibitions.
Selector Profile: Edward Lucie-Smith
A successful small picture or sculpture isn't simply a much larger work of art which has taken a potion marked 'Shrink me'. Nor is size always a mark of artistic importance. What I was looking for was works which responded positively to the relatively modest scale imposed by the rules of the exhibition. These rules spring from the desire to offer works of art which people can actually live with in their homes. The small work can be a neatly turned epigram, but it can also offer an emotional experience as intense as anything in art.
One of the things I reacted to most positively in making my choice was a certain intensity, a concentration of means that didn't rule out the perhaps contradictory desire to have paintings and small sculpture which were also fun.
Another thing I wanted to do was to try to illustrate the vast plurality of styles now being practised by contemporary painters. The two elements which are omitted are conceptual and environmental works and those which are completely non-figurative. The question of abstract art, and in particular of abstract painting is a lot trickier. Most successful modern abstraction seems to have a demand for scale built into it. Nothing which appeared in the submission really convinced me. The truth is that someone that is invited to make a selection for this sort of show must in the end be ruled by prejudices and caprices, as well as by grand principles. This selection is, among other things, unashamedly capricious. It is a cross-section of things that I happen to like and this is, finally, the only real excuse for making it.
Edward Lucie-Smith was born in Jamaica in 1933 and educated in Britain. He studied at King's School, Canterbury and Merton College, Oxford and was an Education Officer in the RAF and an advertising copywriter before becoming a freelance writer. He is well known for his numerous art books, which include Movements in Modern Art since 1945 (several times revised since its first publication in 1969), Eroticism in Western Art, and the first version of Art Today (published in 1977). His recent publications include 20th Century Latin American Art, Race, Sex and Gender in Contemporary Art, Elisabeth Frink: A Portrait and American Realism.
Selector Profile: Julian Spalding
I was delighted to take part in 'The Discerning Eye' because it is about what I believe in - art as an individual experience. You have to have an emotional response to a work of art before you can begin to judge how good it is. You can't feel by proxy; feelings have to be personal. Only when you've experienced a work of art yourself can you assess how profound that experience was and how well the artist has expressed it. Only after that does one's experience of looking at other works of art comes into use. Before that, you're an innocent. When you first see a work of art, you have to forget everything you know so that you can respond to it freshly. Keeping an open mind and heart is the only way of finding out something new. This is what artists do - and you have to be a bit of an artist yourself to be able to respond to what they've achieved.
It's hard work, this business of looking at art. It's like meeting hundreds of people and responding to everyone.
Most artists imitate other artists. They're like ripples in a pond reflecting, quite genuinely but not very interestingly, feelings that others have expressed more clearly. Among all these reflections, there is occasionally the voice of a freshly felt experience. Fresh feelings - and the joy and pain that make them profound, sharpen our sight. Painting is seeing feelings clearly; that is all.
Julian Spalding took his BA in Fine Art at Nottingham from where he at once moved into a gallery career at first Leicester then Durham before becoming the Keeper at Mappin Art Gallery 1972-76. After six years as Deputy Director of Sheffield's Museums and Art Galleries he went on to Director of The Art Department before moving to Manchester in 1985 and Directorship of the City Art Galleries. His present post is Director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries.