Sir Jonathan Miller CBE
Joan Bakewell CBE
How quickly another year has come around and how exciting it is to have another stimulating exhibition.
The Discerning Eye team, Parker Harris and our sponsors ING are now beginning to feel like a colony of support for art and artists and everyone works hard to push the reach of the Discerning Eye forward into new areas such as the Arts & Business initiative that has led to artists giving drawing classes within the ING offices.
A huge thanks to the selectors and artists for a varied eclectic selection of art and I hope there is something for everyone to enjoy and be inspired in this year's collection. A special thank you to Joan Bakewell for opening the exhibition and we hope to see you all back for the Discerning Eye 2006.
Robert J Benton
Drawing is a central and pivotal activity to the work of many artists, a touchstone and tool of creative exploration that enables them to visualise their perception as they make manifest their ideas.
Rarely seen in full throttle in exhibitions, remaining largely hidden from view - categorised either as a minor activity or remaining an intimate and unseen element of the artists practice - drawing continues to be a significant and important activity to many. This includes established artists, art students, researchers, educators and those in cognate disciplines, such as archaeology, medicine, law, architecture and design, who use drawing as a means of communication and identification.
There are distinct ways in which drawings can function. It can distinguish and aid us in understanding our complex world through signs and symbols, by mapping and labelling our experience. It can also enable us to discover through seeing - either through our own experience of seeing and observing or through the shared experience of looking at another's drawn record of an experience. It can have a transitory or temporal relationship with the world; or provide a record of lasting permanence. It can be prepositional, preparatory, visionary, imaginative, factual, generative, transformative, performative; it can convey potential, as well as actuality in the realisation of ideas and concepts. What is certain is that the graphic language is prevalent and rich in its application and associations.
Images are teased from the raw materials, and the act of drawing, through the responsive choices and decisions made, defines the thinking process behind the activity. Through whichever medium is chosen, it invites all of us to remember and identify with our urge to make marks, to touch things, our impulse to make an imprint, an inscription, a signature.
The history and practice of drawing is as long and extensive as the history of our culture, a primary means to translate, document, record and analyse the world we inhabit. We are able to trace in our mind the marks that record the process of thinking and in making the drawing, we are able to read, follow and explore our decision making, adapting and re-qualifying where necessary.
In this context, it is notable that the Discerning Eye has chosen to celebrate and support drawing through the award of its bursary for drawing this year. It reflects a growing interest and commitment to the activity of drawing and the increasing recognition of the value of drawing as a primary research tool for artists and as a universal and vibrant language. ". . . a great drawing is either confirming beautifully what is commonplace, or probing authoritatively the unknown" [Brett Whiteley (1939-1992), Tangiers Notebook 1967].
Professor Anita Taylor RWA
Vice Principal Wimbledon School of Art
and Director of The Jerwood Drawing Prize
The 2005 Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary
In August this year, Discerning Eye launched the 2005 Drawing Bursary. It was advertised nationally and artists were asked to submit up to six images of their drawings as well as a written statement detailing why they felt they deserved the bursary.
From over 100 applications, the Discerning Eye Educational Advisory Board short listed four artists for this £1000 award, asking each to exhibit up to four works in a special section of the 2005 Discerning Eye Exhibition. The short listed artists were: Joan Gabie, Suzanna Harris-Hughes, Tiziana Mazzoli and Annabelle Shelton.
The announcement of the winner was made at the Artists Private View evening on 17 November 2005 when the bursary was awarded to Joan Gabie.
ING Wholesale Banking is once again delighted to be sponsoring The Discerning Eye Exhibition. It is the seventh consecutive year in which we have been associated with this important event in the UK′s art calendar.
ING Group is one of the world′s leading financial institutions with offices in more than 50 countries and 114,000 employees. ING Wholesale Banking is responsible for providing a range of services to ING's corporate and institutional client base, while other ING Group businesses in the UK cover direct savings banking, asset management and real estate.
Our connection with the visual arts is well established. At our London offices we have a fine collection of Modern British art, British watercolours and historical portraits. In our global headquarters in Amsterdam and in offices around the world we have an extensive collection of contemporary Dutch art. We have many groups of visitors to the bank to look at the collection and we also use our exhibition space to show the works of promising young artists who are seeking to make a name for themselves.
As a result of our sponsorship of the annual Discerning Eye exhibition we have benefited from projects undertaken in partnership with The Discerning Eye and Arts & Business under the latter's New Partners Scheme. This year's project, The Drawing School, involved 35 members of ING staff being tutored to draw by artists from The Prince's Drawing School.
ING feels strongly that its art collection should be used in imaginative ways to benefit the local community. Our collection and the permanent collection at the National Maritime Museum are currently being used by GCSE level art students as sources of inspiration for a 2006 exhibition Re-inventing, co-sponsored by ING and Wimbledon School of Art. Also in 2005, with our colleagues in ING Real Estate Investment Management, we ran Invisible City, a project during which children from a school in Hackney were given access to high profile City buildings. Artwork inspired by these visits will hang at our offices in a selling show in December 2005.
We wish The Discerning Eye every success in its 2005 exhibition. ING is proud to support a charity whose dedication to individuality and excellence has ensured, for the fifteenth consecutive year, an immensely professional and highly regarded platform for the exhibition of artistic talent from across the country.
John Howland Jackson
CEO, ING UK and Ireland
Selector Profile: Catherine Goodman
A large part of my invited selection is made up of work done by the students and tutors of the Prince's Drawing School in Shoreditch where I am Director. I wanted particularly to give the students an opportunity to show drawings, as these are not often seen on gallery walls. The students are all past members of our Drawing Year. A post graduate year of study during which they draw for two days a week in various workshops, some in the life studio or on the streets of London or in museums and galleries. I am often struck by the personal and particular nature of the drawings particularly the ones of our bit of London, Old Street, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and the City. They are all seen here, as are landscapes and portraits.
The School focuses on drawing from life - on constant reference, while drawing, to actual appearance - the belief being that practice strengthens hand and eye and concentration nourishes the imagination.
Drawing is taught as a means of expression, a method of enquiry and a way of understanding; an art that reaches above and beyond copying and description. It is a universal language and a fundamental form of communication.
Members of the faculty, all practising artists, direct our courses and arrange weekly seminars and wide-ranging lectures. Expeditions are part of the programme, locally, within Britain and beyond. Studio spaces are available for all students.
So this selection is the work of the school as well as a few new watercolours by our President HRH The Prince of Wales. I have added some really impressive paintings from the public submissions and hope that this small show will hang together well.
Selector Profile: Sir Jonathan Miller
It wasn't until I was about 15 that I took any notice of art, and even then I don't think I thought of it as Art, with a capital A. I found myself enjoying what I now know, but didn't then, were Impressionist paintings. I was taken to the Tate and was entranced by the atmospheric world of late nineteenth century French riverside scenes. Paintings by Monet I suppose they would have been, Sisley and Pisarro. They conjured up an exotically sunlit world which was mysteriously different from the glum black and white of English post-war austerity.
I don't think I paid much attention to the painting as such, and it never occurred to me that I might have a go at doing it. I was too much involved in messing around with chemistry and dissecting earthworms and frogs. The odd thing is that my father did draw and paint, and had done so, rather skilfully, since he was a boy. And he managed to do all that as a doctor. Still, I wasn't tempted to emulate him and it wasn't until some years later that I became consciously interested in art and began to visit galleries regularly.
But when I was at Cambridge I got to know several art historians - people like Francis Haskell and Michael Jaffe - and as a result of our frequent meetings, my attention was drawn to painting as an art and to the interesting problems of representation. Even so, I was never tempted to try my hand and although I'd become quite knowledgeable by the time I came down from Cambridge, I was too busy learning to become a doctor to do anything more than visit museums from time to time. So I can't say what it was that made me start doing it... i.e. making things. But it may have been the gift of a Pentax camera when I was in New York in the early sixties which set me off in the direction I've now taken.
Over the years I became more and more interested in snapping abstract arrangements and, without thinking I might do anything with them, I compiled album after album of these non-scenic pictures. But one thing led to another and in recent years I've been making things out of collected odds and ends. Assemblage you might call them. And I have to admit it's become an obsession by now. So it's a pleasure to be on a panel which allows me to see how many people are working away at drawing, painting, etching and sculpting, happy to submit them for public exhibition. How good some of them are and how difficult it was to choose. And quite exhausting.
Selector Profile: John Orbell
My interest in pictures started at school when a very committed art master introduced his somewhat sceptical pupil to the appreciation of art and architecture. Of all the lessons of my school days these are the ones I remember - they are the only ones I remember. Why are they so etched? I wish I could articulate an answer! They lifted the soul of a bloody-minded teenager who was not looking to be uplifted.
So when I joined Barings in 1977 and found the task of managing the firm's art collection tagged on to my job, I could hardly believe my good luck. Here for the first time I witnessed others being uplifted by art. These 'others' were, of course, the staff.
I very quickly learnt two things - a huge constituency of real interest existed and people with the most unpractised of eyes could instinctively pick out strong pictures and were unhappy with anything else. Even the most resistant could be uplifted!
But there were other lessons to be learnt. Artists need support. In particular they need space to show their pictures, people to come and look at them and the confidence that this creates. These lessons should have been obvious but they came as a surprise when we initiated ING's art programme following its acquisition of Barings' business in 1995. Being able to deliver on this, albeit in a modest way, was hugely thrilling and, for me, an ING career highlight.
Part of this programme was ING's involvement with Discerning Eye in a wide range of events. Many of these, in one way or another, brought artists and staff together; it was extraordinary fun and enormously rewarding. But the annual Discerning Eye exhibition was central in this programme. It has huge strengths, bringing together established and aspiring artists, identified only by name, on one high profile platform. If testimony to success is needed, attend the artists' preview which buzzes with exuberance.
Being part of this year's selection process was as privileged as it was enjoyable and self-indulgent. I can't wait to see my selection hung. What will people think? Will I be challenged? My taste is on the line! My own discerning eye never so much in the spotlight! I sense the artist has been here before me!
Selector Profile: Martin Smith
As you might imagine I was flattered and thrilled to be asked last year to act as a selector for The Discerning Eye. Having accepted, however, I must confess that when the identities of my extremely distinguished fellow panel members were revealed to me, my delight began to take on a rather queasy, sinking sort of tinge. 'How', I thought to myself, 'can I possibly survive several days of jolly banter with these artistic tyros without the awful reality emerging about my true qualifications for this important and challenging task?' For, best beloved, the truth is that I am a fraud.
Yes of course I have acquired many paintings and sculptures in my life, although it would be presumptuous of me to dignify them as a 'collection'. I feel that over the years I have developed quite a clear sense of what I like, and indeed been rather struck by the fact that whenever I check the valuations of my treasures for insurance purposes it invariably turns out that the ones I bought as investments have bombed, whereas those acquired simply because I liked them have surprisingly often evolved into quite nice little earners.
For me, the selection process has always been a gratifyingly simple one, driven simply by enthusiasm, and completely unhampered by any form of expertise or knowledge of the subject in hand.
So when I turned up on selection day, armed only with a copy of Teach Yourself Art' and a smattering of native chutzpah, I was braced for the worst. Things started cordially enough, but then took a nosedive when, just as I was about to raise my hand to claim my first picture, the great Doctor to my right growled '0 God that is so frightful - please take it away'. But I stuck to my guns and, rather like Kevin Pietersen working his way into a long innings, slowly the ball seemed to increase in size and my self confidence with it, and I finished up with what I at any rate felt was a selection of 30 or so really wonderful pieces of art.
Choosing my own artists was, on the other hand, an unalloyed pleasure. With the help of Liz, my beautiful and knowledgeable daughter-in-law, and by dint of a very satisfying process of foraging as far afield as London, Gloucestershire, the South of France and Cape Cod, we identified a group of amazingly talented, mainly young artists whose work is as impressive as it is pleasing. I do hope you agree.
But most important of all, slowly but surely as I went through this fascinating process, the truth began to dawn on me: there aren't really any frauds and there aren't really any experts. There is just a multitude of individual eyes and individual tastes, all worthy of consideration. I for one am very grateful to The Discerning Eye for giving me this opportunity to explore my personal enthusiasms, and to lay my artistic paranoia to rest once and for all.
Selector Profile: Joan Bakewell CBE
I am delighted to have been asked to contribute to this exhibition, though I'm not sure that my eye isn't more omnivorous than discerning. I certainly enjoy images over a wide range of tastes, and have relished the chance to confront so many.
The world I grew up in was starved of formal images. In wartime, paper and therefore books were short, galleries were far away, newspapers were monochrome, postcards and reprints rare and treasured. But there was hope. My grammar school had been gifted a series of large framed old master prints for its classroom walls. I devoured these with a passion. Close my eyes and they are still some of my most vivid memories. Then came Picture Post, a glut of sepia photographs of the real world. In 1951 I took myself off to Manchester City Art Gallery - already loved for its abundance of Pre-Raphaelite pictures - to see the Festival of Britain Touring Exhibition set up by the new Arts Council. It was popularly thought of as scandalously modern at the time and I, defying my elders, championed its daring. But one picture stopped me speechless in my tracks. Lucian Freud's painting "Interior in Paddington". I thought it was wonderful then, and I still think so today.
When, 50 years later, an anniversary exhibition brought many of the pictures back together again, I was disappointed to see how small they were, how modest, how tame . . . except for the Lucian Freud.
I have been taking pleasure in pictures ever since. They represent for me an almost tactile satisfaction. I am the person leaning forward across the gallery rope to savour the particular sweep of the brush, to relish the juicy spread of oil or watercolour. Then I stand back to consider the order and shape, bounce back to re-examine the detail . . . I can be quite a menace at a private view, when everyone else is sipping wine and swapping gossip.
How was I to begin to make my choice for this exhibition? I chose to select artists I know who have given me particular insight into the subtle and pervasive power of images. Some hint at arcane and mysterious traces in the world of stone and sea; others articulate today's world with immediate and unwavering boldness, or shadowy suggestion.
At the open submission I found such diversity of subject, of style, and, it has to be said, of skill, that I was overwhelmed. Almost literally. By the end of the first day my eyes had feasted so much I went home and lay down with a cold compress on my forehead. The procession of pictures paraded for our judgement had called for a steady nerve and open heart. I tried to have both. I hope my consequent selection captures something of the range of taste that I enjoy and that others can share.
Selector Profile: Nicholas Usherwood
'discerning - adj. having or showing good judgement or good insight' (OED)
Well, that is indeed a definition to live up to and if, after looking at the 90 or more works of both invited and selected artists in my section, the viewer still feels able to agree that it has been displayed here, then I will be more than delighted. What they may then be able to discern about the choices and decisions in a selection which would seem (even to me!) to cast a very wide net indeed, would seem rather harder to pin down. For a critic in a very exposed position like this perhaps a few words of explanation may be allowed before the works are allowed to speak for themselves.
First is the observation that, having trained as an academic art-historian some four decades ago and then gone straight into teaching in art schools, my best teachers have always been artists themselves - it was only too easy to forget sometimes at the Courtauld Institute that art is not just some abstract, intellectual and historical activity but something actually conceived and then made by artists.
And it is through my friendships and associations with artists also, that most of the things I really value in my life - poetry and music, as well as art itself, has finally come. They have taught me, first, of the close interconnectedness, in form and intention, of these three arts in particular and if there is any one quality that all the pieces here share, whether abstract or figurative, painting, sculpture or drawing, it is the way in which the poetic and the musical can so vitally inform the visual.
The other fundamental lesson they have taught me is that artistic thought is essentially circular in character, an intuitive activity that, through close concentration given both to the world of visual phenomena and the medium through which the perception is to be given physical form, short circuits the essentially linear character of the verbal, academic culture within which we largely live and act. It's what can make art, any art, hard, at first, to come to terms with and then so exhilarating when finally we give ourselves up to it. Because, only then, do we become fully conscious in, and of, the world in which we find ourselves.