Peter Blake RA
Dr Sally Bulgin
Dr Frank Whitford
The catalogue for the 1991 Discerning Eye exhibition acknowledged the pivotal roles played by a number of people in the creation of what has become an important annual event in the visual arts' calendar. At the start of what promises to be another successful exhibition, I want to take this opportunity to recognise the pioneering work done by the artists and art lovers whose idea it was. At the risk of offending - without intention - those I am bound to leave out, the list of 'founders' must include Tom Coates, Annabel Elton, David Gluck, and Ian Laing. All of them were 'in at the start', and still give their valued support. Michael Reynolds is the man perhaps most closely associated with Discerning Eye, and we owe a great deal to his commitment and determination over the years.
Discerning Eye is more than an annual exhibition. As an educational charity we organise master classes, where established professional artists offer guidance to those who want to develop their own skills, and stage the Discerning Eye debate - this year the motion will be to 'collect or to view?' We now have in place our Education Advisory Board which will advise the trustees on the further development of our educational programme, and we are continuing to work with companies which want to offer opportunities for their employees and clients to view and participate in the visual arts.
ING Barings Charterhouse Securities is one of those companies. Chief Executive Bob Benton is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable supporter of the arts, and ING Barings Charterhouse Securities is a great supporter of the Discerning Eye. Last year ING Barings Charterhouse Securities were recognised as an award winner under the Arts & Business Pairing Scheme by Arts Minister Alan Howarth, on behalf of Arts & Business, in recognition of its generous support of the Discerning Eye. ING Barings Charterhouse Securities have generously agreed to continue their support of the main Prize for work in the exhibition and in addition have generously agreed to purchase £7000 of work at the Discerning Eye Exhibition.
Arts & Business has also given enormous assistance and financial support to the Discerning Eye and we are grateful for their continued cooperation towards to the achievements of our aims.
In acknowledging support, I must also mention GCI Financial who, as well as providing a purchase prize, have given additional financial support.
Cazenove and Co also have contributed to the cost of this year's exhibition, and we are grateful to BMP DDB, Bob Benton and Tony Humphreys, Meynell Fenton and Facade International for general prizes.
The Discerning Eye exhibition could not take place, of course, without the work of our selectors and this year's panel has worked hard and given generously of their time to select what I hope you will agree is a visually stimulating exhibition.
John Caine MBE Chairman
Foreword – David Gluck
David Gluck ARCA, VPRWS, RE, NEAC
I was delighted when the Discerning Eye organizers asked me to be an artist selector for the 1998 exhibition. For me to be able to choose a personally selected exhibition of around one hundred works in total, composed of a combination of invited artists' works and those from a large open submission, was a new and challenging venture yet at the same time it was very exciting. I also looked forward to working with five distinguished selectors. I felt fairly well-informed about the particular distinctive nature of Discerning Eye as I had shown in the exhibition and had visited it over several years.
I clarified how I was going to approach my task. My aim was to bring together works in both the invited and open sections that not only reflected my broad taste in fine art, but also gave a view of current fine art practice. I was anxious to show a large number of artists, whose work I admired and who used a variety of media and approaches. I gave particular attention to selecting artists I thought could successfully resolve ideas at the relatively small scale permitted by the rules. I felt certain, from my teaching experience in major art schools, my participation as a member in several national art societies and general knowledge of the art world, that significant works are produced by artists of all ages. I therefore decided to include students, recent graduates, both young and older artists, some established and some not so widely shown. I also wished to include a strong printmaking element, as I am a painter-printmaker with an interest in all forms of printing. Therefore in the invited section I asked a wide range of artists to submit two or three pieces. The work included a variety of painting, sculpture, book-art, printmaking, both traditional and computer-generated and mail-art. At the same time I decided to use the same selection criteria at the open section judging.
I had previously sat on many selection panels, varying in size from six to over thirty people, for group shows, national exhibition-competitions and in every instance works were chosen by a majority vote. On quite a few panels I had the frustration of seeing what I considered outstanding pieces being rejected by lack of votes from other selectors, but that is clearly the nature of the process. However, the Discerning Eye open section selection was very different. The very large number of works were presented to the six selectors by a group of helpers and plenty of time was allocated for individual scrutiny. A single vote for a work meant it was put aside for inclusion in the selector's section. I particularly remember that the first work I accepted was the third work put before us. I hesitated a little, registered my vote and the picture was selected. I felt immediately that I had exposed my taste and standards to my fellow selectors. There was a certain abrupt finality similar to taking part in a dutch auction where the first to bid buys the object. By the end I had selected a large variety of quality works which I anticipated would supplement my invited works. Every work accepted had my endorsement, whereas in the majority voting system my view was subsumed. This year's exhibition stipulation of 25% taken from the open submission will, I believe, have a positive effect and give a slightly different flavour to the show with good representation from both the invited and open sections.
Hanging my section was a pleasure. My invited artists had without exception sent very good examples of their work. I laid out all the works both invited and selected. Due to the amazing diversity of the works I decided to make a very simple hang. I first established a complete wall of prints and photo-related works and then positioned the remaining pictures, sculpture and works in display cases in sub-groups which both emphasized an idea or approach and visually worked together. They were hung by the efficient Mall Galleries' handlers. I was particularly impressed with the final presentation of the two mail-art pieces by Nigel Bents who posted both his pieces and, after they duly arrived in the post at the Mall Galleries, he framed them ready for hanging.
Working with the other selectors was as interesting as it was rewarding. It was fascinating to see how their final displays evolved in extremely personal ways from the open section to the completed hang.
The Discerning Eye offers a large array of prizes which are awarded by the prize giver without any contact with the selectors. Many prizes were awarded throughout the exhibition. Several were given to both invited artists and those from the open selection in my section and I was particularly pleased that five prizes were given to my open section artists.
Every time I visit the Discerning Eye exhibition I am immediately struck by the small size of the works and how the six small individual shows, in the names of the two critics, two collectors and two artists, vary in terms of both individual selection and final presentation.
The 20 inches size limit has both commercial and aesthetic implications. Smaller works can be sold at reasonable prices - making them accessible to a varied buying public. I know that some artists, myself included, prefer to work at a larger scale. When I first came into contact with the exhibition, I found the small scale a little restricting. However, after my involvement as a selector, the Discerning Eye reminds me and, I hope, other artists and general observers, that powerful and meaningful statements certainly can be made at a relatively small size.
Every year the six individual sections produce intriguing selection differences and strikingly contrasting hangs. For me, this is the exhibition's essential strength. Is there a discernible difference between the selections made by artists, collectors and critics, or are the six mini shows simply different? These are questions I ask at each exhibition, suffice to say I haven't yet reached a conclusion, but I will still keep on looking every year!
ING BARINGS Charterhouse Securities
This year marks a new chapter in the growth and development of Charterhouse Securities. In September Charterhouse Securities became part of ING Barings, one of the leading international investment banks.
The UK equity arm will, in the short-term, operate under the name ING Barings Charterhouse Securities. The move forms part of the investment bank's aim of building its European Equity Platform. Our corporate broking team is now integrated within ING Barings' corporate and institutional finance division, from where we will continue to provide a high level of service to our mid-sized corporate clients.
As part of the ING Group - one of the world's leading financial institutions with offices in 90 countries – we now benefit from being part of a truly global company. With over 100,000 employees and some £360bn assets under management, ING Group seeks to provide a full range of integrated financial services to personal, corporate and institutional clients through a variety of distribution channels.
Our main focus continues to be the delivery of a specialist UK stockbroking service encompassing high quality equity research, respected sales and dealing team together with market-making in selected stocks.
ING Barings Charterhouse Securities is delighted to sponsor the Discerning Eye Exhibition for the second consecutive year. The exhibition forms part of ING Group's broad commitment to the arts across the world and we are grateful for the recognition from the Arts and Business Pairing Scheme who made us one of their award winners for the Discerning Eye 1999 Exhibition.
Discerning Eye continues to be one of the most important exhibitions in the UK and we very much appreciate the importance of its dedication to individuality and excellence - two of the key characteristics that we strive to deliver to our own clients.
Selector Profile: Peter Blake RA
I have twice before almost been a judge for the Discerning Eye, but had to say no at the last minute because of other commitments. So I am delighted that it is third time lucky, and this year 2000, I am able to do it.
I have chosen a broad range of work from William Green, who was a fellow student at the Royal College of Art, to a group of paintings by the brotherhood of ruralists 25 years after we were formed. With some lovely things in between.
With my fellow judges we had a very interesting day selecting pieces from the send in of works, and when we were each shown the group of things we had chosen, were surprised by the unity of the groups of work.
I am looking forward to seeing the combination of selected works, with work chosen from the send in hung together as a group.
Selector Profile: Emma Sergeant
People's taste in art gives me an insight into their character. I learnt more about my fellow selectors by their choice of pictures and sculpture than conversation could ever reveal.
Michael Parkinson's selection showed a love of bold composition and beautiful technique. Dr Sally Bulgin responded to the letter but veered towards work with spiritual intensity as well. Colin Tweedy and Dr Frank Whitford wanted a mortal challenge and Peter Blake loved high colour and soft focus.
Anything with a horse or a powerful head found its way into my pile. You can draw your own conclusions!
Selector Profile: Michael Parkinson
I am an impulse buyer so the almost smash and grab technique employed in selecting so many pictures in so short a time suited my style. I am intrigued by faces, love paintings with a mystery in them, and I'm slightly colour blind. Not all of which explains my choice.
Is there a common factor? Can I come to any conclusions about myself looking at what I chose? Was it really an ink-blot test?
It's for others to judge. A painting tells you as much about the purchaser as the artist.
Selector Profile: Colin Tweedy
Putting one's own taste on the line, by selecting a group of artists' work whom you collect or simply admire, is nerve-wracking enough. But to choose works that catch the eye in the space of a day, from literally a thousand or more submitted, is indeed challenging, but immensely enjoyable. Much of the work submitted is 'traditional' in form. But the quality points to the fact that painting is not dead, nor do you need an art gallery to house it!
In my professional life, I spend every day trying to persuade business to engage in partnerships with the arts. How encouraging it is to realise that everyone visiting this exhibition can buy excellent work that will give lasting pleasure. One of the joys of collecting is becoming a patron, even as in my own case, a very modest one. Artists have always needed patrons, from the senator Mecenas in ancient Rome, to the Medici in Renaissance Florence, to the Sainsburys in modern Britain. But all of us have the opportunity to follow in their distinguished footsteps, even with a small amount of money.
In our own offices at Arts and Business in London, we regularly invite individuals to curate a group of work throughout the offices, to inspire our colleagues and visitors and to encourage others to do likewise. Artists need support, but not only money, also an opportunity to show their work to a wider public. Discerning Eye does just that and can make real patrons of us all.
Selector Profile: Dr Sally Bulgin
It was a real privilege to be invited to be a judge for the Discerning Eye exhibition. It gave me the opportunity to select work that means something to me, on both a subjective level, and personally.
For my invited section I wanted to include mainly artists whose work I had come across outside the usual London exhibition circuit. Some of the paintings by these artists are personal reminders of some wonderfully energizing times spent with them, discussing the diverse ways in which they see the world, and how they use these and other experiences to express themselves or their ideas through their work. I hope visitors to the exhibition may be equally touched or inspired.
My choices from the open section are equally subjective — and shamelessly figurative — as although an enthusiast of nonfigurative art, and strongly influenced by tutors such as Terry Frost when I was a fine art student in the 1970s, I believe that figurative work gets a raw deal from the art establishment in this country and its quieter qualities deserve greater attention.
In making my selection I went for work that provoked an immediate subjective response, and which I felt worked within the small-scale size limits imposed by the requirements of the exhibition.
I hope that my personal love of strong colour, and belief that art should be an enriching experience, will go some way towards making my selection an enjoyable one for visitors to the exhibition.
Selector Profile: Dr Frank Whitford
Almost daily for four years or so I churned out a pocket cartoon, trying to be funny and politically astute at the same time. I was rarely if ever successful, which explains why my career was so short, only briefly extended by changing papers and editors in midstream. It also explains why I've admired real cartoonists ever since. Given the artistic as well as intellectual gifts of so many of them, it's inexplicable why the word cartoon is usually made to sound so patronising (unless, of course, it's the Leonardo that's being talked about).
So I have invited an outstanding cartoonist to contribute to this exhibition. Peter Brookes' brilliant drawings clearly belong to the great English tradition that stretches back to Hogarth and Garay.
The other artists kind enough to accept my invitation work in an invigorating variety of styles, subjects and techniques. There's John Plumb, whose colourful, richly textured abstracts prove that compositions on a small scale can make a big impact. There's Michael Frith, whose superb watercolours are among the best things currently being made in this notoriously difficult medium. There's Lucy Jones, whose energetic paintings are scintillatingly expressive. And there's Paul Gough, in whose impressive pictures the directly observed memorably combines with the allusive and symbolic, the contemporary with the historical.
Please enjoy my selection; but keep it to yourself if you don't. I might otherwise be obliged to think that I'm about as successful an art critic as I was a cartoonist.