Michael Reynolds RP
HRH The Prince of Wales
As the new Chairman of Discerning Eye, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor Ian Laing and his board of Directors, Caroline Laing, Jeremy Mogford, Hilary Mogford and the exhibition director Annabel Elton. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for all they have done since Discerning Eye began.
I am extremely grateful for the support the exhibition has received for a second year from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and thank him for being one of this year's panel of selectors. I would also like to thank his fellow selectors, Susan Moore, Michael Reynolds, Ray Richardson, Brian Sewell and Anthony Solomons. They have all been enormously supportive and very generous with their time.
We offer our sincere thanks to ABN AMRO Hoare Govett, whose sponsorship has made this exhibition possible. I am particularly indebted to Robert Benton and his staff for all their enthusiasm and help. We have also benefited from an invaluable contribution from ABSA in both professional advice and partnership funding. I am most grateful to Colin Tweedy and his colleagues.
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Directors and especially Michael Reynolds. Throughout our planning and preparation we have been admirably and wisely advised by Betty Hicks, Emma Parker and Penelope Harris.
This annual exhibition was established to provide an opportunity for unknown artists to hang their work alongside recognised artists and for you to use your discerning eye. I hope you will enjoy doing just that.
ABN AMRO Hoare Govett
ABN AMRO Bank is a major universal bank with a strong international focus. The bank's main competitive advantage lies in its extensive worldwide network of branches and subsidiaries with highly qualified staff, which enables it to offer a wide range of products and services in the fields of both commercial and investment banking. Our main motivation is the ongoing desire to maintain and strengthen the trust of our customers, financial investors, supervisory authorities, staff and the general public.
The bank's history reaches all the way back to 1824. The two constituent parts, Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN) and Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank (AMRO) developed independently until 1991 when they finally merged to become ABN AMRO Bank. Since then, the bank has continued to successfully combine organic growth with strategic acquisitions and mergers to become a major player in today's global banking arena.
With total assets of US$341 billion, ABN AMRO ranks as 7th largest bank in Europe and the 15th largest in the world (The Banker, July 1997). Operating from 1,886 offices in 71 countries, its network spans the globe covering all continents.
The Discerning Eye Exhibition is being sponsored by the Global Equities Directorate of ABN AMRO Bank. This Directorate forms part of the investment Banking and Global Clients Division. This division provides specialised financial services to large corporations, institutional and private investors. Through continued expansion, ABN AMRO has become a leading intermediary in the international capital markets, with seats on more than 35 stock exchanges around the world.
Selector Profile: Michael Reynolds
When this exhibition was first devised, it was prompted by the slight regard given to small works of art which were usually relegated by galleries to inaccessible corners. This was all the more curious because many artists suffered by the perceived need to enlarge ideas to a point damaging to the image in relation to its conception. Far from being satisfying or a delight to the eye, the work became pretentious to suit gallery demands.
It was Brian Sewell who drew attention to the other side of the coin – the buyer. Without whom there would be precious little art. The small size would give collectors with already well-filled walls the chance to aquire the odd three or four pieces that might be fitted in to complement their existing collection while anything larger would be just too much of a good thing.
Then there was the new buyer, trying out the idea of art at home, perhaps with vague thoughts of being a modest collector. Small works mean small prices which is the best way to start.
For my selection I have tried to pick beautifully made work, leaving the question of 'art' up to the discerning eye.
Selector Profile: Ray Richardson
With a lack of spaces in central London it is difficult for many artists to have an opportunity for their work to be shown. The Discerning Eye gives some of them a chance to exhibit their works in a London location and receive a deserved wider audience. This show also gives the public in return, a chance not just to view, but also to buy works of these artists at a time when many of their prices are very affordable.
As for my selection, I haven't really pinpointed any particular angle as to where the work is coming from and I don't feel any trend is represented.
I have however, picked work for some different reasons. These reasons include the artists' interest in the actual processes of making works and how these processes often achieve diverse ends in images that can engage you through strength or subtlety, mood or narrative.
Overall I hope people will take on board the honesty of the work on show.
Selector Profile: HRH Prince of Wales
I remember vividly when I first started properly to discern the paintings on the walls in Windsor Castle. As a child they had merely been part of the general background, but as a teenager they suddenly sprang into focus and became objects of fascination. In later life my first visit to Venice was made twice as exciting having been lucky enough to grow up with the occasional Canaletto.
The Royal Collection has always meant so much more to me precisely because it represents the results of ancestral discerning eyes which have picked out particular artists from amongst their contemporaries and who have then been commissioned to paint the horses, dogs, houses, children, wives, husbands and friends of individual sovereigns.
Being invited to take part in the selection of works to go into the Discerning Eye exhibition is a great treat and it has been a real joy to discover the often unknown talent that exists in this country.
For instance, Ross Loveday's paintings I found enormously appealing and, by a self-taught artist, a triumph. Kate Montgomery's hauntingly medieval-like paintings also inspired me - and I feel especially proud of her because she studied for a while at my Institute of Architecture.
Struggling as I do with watercolours, it was wonderful to find that a relatively unknown artist like Norman Sayle had won the first prize in the recent Sunday Times/Singer and Friedlander competition with his rather arresting watercolours. Kevin Hughes' mysteriously romantic west country watercolours helped reinforce the fascination I have with the way in which the human imagination is so infinitely varied in terms of artistic expression. For example, I often wonder whether we all see the world through an astonishing range of different colour perceptions...? Whatever the case, even in an age of sophisticated photography and computerized reproduction, it is the intensely natural combination of the human hand and eye which still produces the irresistible, idiosyncratic textures of paint that strike a particular chord in the deeper parts of our being.
Selector Profile: Anthony Solomons
To me, the great joy of viewing art, is the pleasure of seeing a picture that is correct in line, perspective and composition as demonstrated by the great English watercolourists of the past and the better Impressionists. I well appreciate that "one man's poison is another man's meat", but to me the splodges and splashes of much modern art give no pleasure, and are probably produced because of a lack of drawing skills in the artist.
My selections, like those of all selectors, are heavily influenced by my personal preferences and I take this opportunity of thanking the artists I have selected for the hard and effective work that has produced such excellent results.
One of the great living artists of today told me that when he started in art school some sixty years ago, he spent his first year drawing skulls and it was only after he had perfected this that he was allowed to move on.
How sad that teaching in many art schools has, like much general education in this country, deteriorated to today's slap-dash standards where anything goes.
However, to those like myself who believe that drawing skill is the base of good art, there is hope for the future. I have been a judge of the Singer & Friedlander/Sunday Times watercolour competition for the ten years of its life, and during that period I and the other judges have noticed a marked return to skill in much of the work submitted, particularly that of students.
Perhaps we are slowly returning to the great days of English art!
Selector Profile: Susan Moore
Matisse once expressed the hope that this art might be 'something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue'. It is a statement – one of many ideologically 'incorrect' pronouncements - that has embarrassed contemporary critics of this founding father of Modernism. Modern art is just not supposed to be enjoyable.
The Discerning Eye, which is in part selected and in part an open-entry exhibition, offers a rare London platform for a wide range of artists – from recent art school graduates to established and even senior figures – to show work that is not made to conform to any fashionable agenda. Given it confines itself to works of art of a domestic scale, it seemed appropriate to seek out work for private delectation. The strength of such work is its ability to convey a sense of intimacy, an evocation of mood or place. It gives pleasure through felicitous line, keen observation, exuberant colour or bravura handling. My abiding impression as a selector of The Discerning Eye is of how few artists today value these qualities.
Selector Profile: Brian Sewell
I have deliberately ignored the rules of The Discerning Eye.
In past years the quality of its exhibitions has been inevitably dependent on the random business of selection from random submissions of which far too many have been of abysmal quality dipping to a point unacceptable beyond the walls of the amateur art club of Scrotum Magna.
In an attempt to redress the balance my selection has been (with a few exceptions) not from the open submission but by invitation; I have chosen six artists observed in the last year or so as working comfortably within the ancestral traditions of European painting and sculpture, some with simple and direct appeal – painting pictures to live with, so to speak – others demanding an intellectual response and some awareness of art history.
The choice of artists is mine, the choice of work exhibited is theirs and each, with a dozen works or so on view, offers us, as it were, a one-man exhibition of his current work, in small, specially prepared for this year's Discerning Eye.
This allows us to see his work in far greater depth and breadth than has been customary and to make a better judgement than is possible from an isolated offering.