Fred Cuming RA
Anita Klein PPRE
Robert J Benton
The 2008 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition again presents an important showcase for work by both established and lesser known British artists: this year's show has attracted some of the best work seen in the charity's eighteen year history. Around 600 hundred works feature in the exhibition, the majority chosen during the open submission process.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is unique; work is selected not by committee but by six individual selectors. This ensures that a wide range of art, differing in medium and style, is shown. Each selection is hung separately to emphasise its own distinctive identity. All the work, however, has this in common: all of it is for sale and all of it is good.
Entries for this year's David Gluck Memorial Bursary for Drawing were equally impressive: close on 100 artists submitted work of a quality that so impressed the Discerning Eye Educational Advisory Board judges that the shortlist was extended to six. Those shortlisted artists are displayed here at the Mall Galleries. The winner, to be announced at the Artists Private View, will receive £1,000 to help develop his or her art. The short listed artists are: Alexandra Blum, Kate Genever, Karen Griffiths, Marianne Holm Hansen, Alexis Soul-Gray, Julian Walker.
An important advance this year has been the revamp of our web site and the launch of our online catalogue. This will ensure that the work of exhibiting artists reaches an even wider audience and increases the chance of a sale. Work not sold during the Exhibition will remain on sale through the site until 1 January 2009.
The past year saw the death of Michael Reynolds, a supremely gifted artist and one of the founders of The Discerning Eye, back in 1990. Brian Sewell and Tony Humphreys record their memories of Michael elsewhere in this catalogue.
Thanks this year again go to ING Wholesale Banking for its continued commitment; to the selectors for their time and enthusiasm; to exhibition organisers Parker Harris; to Chief Executive Tony Humphreys for his stewardship of the charity over many years and to Bob Benton, who stepped down last year after five years as Chairman. Bob remains closely associated with Discerning Eye: he is a 2008 selector and will continue to offer a purchase prize. Special thanks are due to Brian Sewell for his support.
I have much enjoyed helping to mount this year's Exhibition. I am sure that it will delight many.
I would like to use this opportunity to announce two major new initiatives by The Discerning Eye.
The first is the creation of an acquisition fund which will be used to start The Discerning Eye's own collection of works. Once established, this collection will be loaned to regional galleries and other interested venues which seldom have the opportunity or finance to mount their own exhibitions. To start this fund, The Discerning Eye will contribute an initial £20,000 from its own resources. Thereafter, we hope that the existence of the Collection will offer a destination to which supporters and/or artists can make donations of either cash or works, so that we can build up a touring exhibition which spends the majority of its time 'on show'.
The second initiative is the introduction of another annual prize for artists. This will be known as the Michael Reynolds Founder's Prize, in memory of The Discerning Eye's founding father Michael Reynolds. I am pleased to announce that this will be a purchase prize to the value of £2,500 and that this year it will be co-sponsored and selected by Brian Sewell. The winning work will become the first work in The Discerning Eye Collection. Subsequent prize winning works will also be acquired for the Collection.
In addition to starting the Collection with the first Founder's Prize winning work, we think it appropriate that any Discerning Eye collection has some works from Michael Reynolds and therefore we are currently in discussion with the Fillip Foundation in Holland to acquire some of Michael's' paintings. This will not only indicate the level of quality we want the collection to achieve but also provide at least some of Michael's works with a permanent and public home with a wider reach; something that we know he would have appreciated.
Since Michael first conceived the concept of an exhibition of small works, The Discerning Eye has touched many people. From the selector 'challenged' by the selection and hanging of his chosen works, to buyers finding the courage to purchase a painting for the first time and the painter whose confidence was re-ignited by having a work selected via the open submission. Many have a story to tell. Earlier this year, when our former Chairman, Bob Benton, invited Michael to exhibit in the 2008 ING Discerning Eye, the exhibition directly touched Michael, the artist, again. He was delighted and accepted immediately.
Notwithstanding Michael's death in April, I am pleased to say that, with the help and support of Peter and Anne Marie Borsboom and the Fillip Foundation in Holland, Bob is, as planned, still able to include six of Michael's works in his selection. Needless to say, these could be the last works by Michael that you will see for sale in an 'open' exhibition such as this – therefore I would urge you not only to seek them out for a viewing, but also to buy. This could be your last chance!
Foreword – Brian Sewell
Michael Reynolds is a name that may be unknown to most of the ING Discerning Eye's current contributors, but they owe him a great debt for being its founding father in 1989.
A painter all his life, a painter for whom drawing lay in every brushstroke, a painter who could draw with such precision that it was as an engraver that he won a scholarship to the British School in Rome, he had nothing but contempt for the fashionable nostrums that in the Swinging Sixties began to overtake art as he knew it – not for him the flabby flapping canvases to which even the Royal Academy then opened its doors, not for him the caprice that to become an artist a student had merely to have ideas that broke the ancestral boundaries of art and amused misguided theorists, not for him the near dominant notion that gigantic scale is an acceptable substitute for both craftsman execution and intellectual idea.
It was his conviction that the intense and trenchant small canvas might be an effective discipline in reversing the overwhelming trend toward the vapid flaccid large, and after a thousand discussions in a thousand pubs, Michael flushed and furious, aggressive and often foul-mouthed with frustration, a casual entertainment for the onlooker, conceived The Discerning Eye. This open exhibition restricted to small works of art, with associated prizes, was long in parturition: a birthplace was needed, a permanent home, sponsorship and some sympathy from at least some part of the establishment too, but Michael, never the diplomat, was not the proper man to find them. They were, nevertheless, eventually found, and the annual exhibition got off to a surprisingly good start in 1990, the range of judges – two critics, two artists and two collectors – seeming to ensure a wider, more generous, less doctrinaire approach than, for example, those of the Turner Prize. Alas, too many critics followed their own agendas, often entirely contrary to the purposes of The Discerning Eye as conceived by Michael, and 'collectors' became a euphemism for celebrities brought in to attract publicity. When the Eye began to stumble, Michael (who would have liked to do all the selecting himself), feeling that subversion had corrupted his ideals and that he himself was about to be usurped, became, first, even more rancorous and vituperative, and then, in 1996, abandoned his brilliant baby. Soon after, still bruised, he abandoned Britain too, and went to live in Groningen, there to be 'adopted' by a married couple who, in indulging him, gentled his combative nature and gave him peace enough to develop a late flowering – these last nudes and portraits are among his best.
When cancer, taking its time, killed him in April this year, that in the obituary columns of our greater newspapers he was given more attention than ever in their arts pages, would have tickled Michael's wry humour. But one thing about them caused me some considerable distress; it was that the obituarists gave me almost as much credit as Michael for establishing The Discerning Eye. I had little to do with its nuts and bolts. He bent my ear; I held his hand. It was a sound idea, I supported it; and when it began, he and I together worked our way through the thousands of works submitted – for us there could be no preliminary weeding. My only misgiving about the structure of The Discerning Eye lay in selecting the judges, for it was always my belief that only those who wholeheartedly supported Michael's aims should be appointed – democracy has no part to play in even the smallest plot to change the art world.
'Tell Brian to protect my reputation' was Michael's deathbed admonition to a mutual friend – a heavy burden for a critic who knows how fragile that reputation is. Michael was never more than an exhibitor at the Royal Academy – never an ARA or RA; the state did not offer him a gong – a CBE might have amused him; the British Council did not exhibit his work in any of their far-flung circuses; the National Portrait Gallery almost rejected his last portrait of Bernard Haitink – 'the best thing I ever did,' he thought; and, gadfly and maverick that he thought himself, he was in every aspect of his life and work, an outsider. His founding The Discerning Eye is the only peg on which I can hang his reputation, this annual event a reminder of the man, his beliefs, his work and his integrity. Long may it last.
ING is delighted to be sponsoring the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition again this year. The selectors have made their choice from over 2,000 works of art submitted by artists from across the UK. We were pleased to hear that the works submitted were of a very high standard and that the selectors have had such a positive response from their invited artists.
Our London office is home to one of the City's premier art collections, featuring work by artists such as LS Lowry, Ivon Hitchens and Samuel Palmer. We welcome numerous art interest groups to our offices throughout the year to see this collection. ING Group, headquartered in Amsterdam, has a collection of over 20,000 Dutch contemporary works of art. These credentials as a collector of fine art are complemented by the active role ING plays in the art world as a major sponsor, for example of the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands.
In London, ING has an imaginative art programme which seeks to develop opportunities for up-and-coming artists and to bring their work to the attention of new audiences. This year we have also been fortunate to receive a grant from Arts & Business to enable 25 members of staff to develop their knowledge of art by attending a course of sculpture lessons. They learnt the basics of wood carving, assemblage and modelling in clay and produced work for an exhibition in our office.
The Discerning Eye, with its objectives of encouraging a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts and creating opportunities for artists, is a natural arts partner for ING. For artists in the process of establishing their careers, the exhibition creates a forum to display work alongside internationally recognised names and the opportunity to sell in an exhibition freely accessible to the general public. For the audience, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to view, and perhaps buy, work in a wonderful range of styles from a wide range of artists; work that is domestic in scale and reasonably priced.
ING thanks the selectors, the artists, the Discerning Eye and the Parker Harris Partnership for all their efforts in preparing for the exhibition. It just remains for me to wish the ING Discerning Eye 2008 Exhibition every success.
John Howland Jackson CEO
ING UK & Middle East
ING Group is a global financial services company providing banking, investments, life insurance and retirement services. ING Group has offices in more than 50 countries and over 130,000 employees. ING Wholesale Banking is one of the six business divisions of ING Group and is responsible for providing a range of services to ING's corporate and institutional client base. In the UK, ING Group also provides direct savings banking through ING Direct; car and general leasing; and real estate financing, development, and investment management.
Selector Profile: Fred Cuming RA
The artists I have invited show a wide range of artistic style and interpretation. Some of these are well known and established on the art scene, but there are some new faces among those invited and in my selection from the open submission.
Artistic styles apart, they all share in my opinion a quality we describe as the 'Discerning Eye', and they show us a fascinating and lively cross section of artistic creativity.
Fred Cuming RA studied at Sidcup School of Art from 1945 to 1949 and the Royal College of Art between 1951 and 1955, where he gained a Rome Scholarship. He has exhibited throughout the UK and more recently in America. He was elected Royal Academician in 1974 (ARA in 1969) and is an Associate of the Royal College of Art.
Selector Profile: Anita Klein
Collecting art can be as creative as making a drawing, sculpture or painting. When we draw we are, in essence, selecting: what medium to choose, what information to describe and what to leave out, and which type of mark will best express our purpose. What we end up with when we draw, and when we select things that we like, is a kind of self portrait. The best collectors, like the best artists, create with their selection an intriguing and exiting whole that is more than the sum of its parts. I believe that all good art tells us more about the artist than that artist may wish us to know. Art should not be just a demonstration of ability, although ability is essential. Really good art exposes the artist, and by doing so reaches out to other people, communicating shared emotion. As well as exposing the artists, the works I have chosen for the ING Discerning Eye say something about me, as does the music I listen to, the books I would recommend and the friends I choose. Each picture or sculpture expresses the artist's own particular vision and was chosen because it touched me in some way. There are some works by artists who have long been an inspiration to me, some by good friends, some that immediately stopped me in my tracks and made me have another look, and many that I wish I had done. If I could afford to this is what I would have on my walls at home. I hope that visitors to the exhibition will share my joy in these pieces, maybe even enough to take a couple home with them.
Anita Klein studied at Chelsea and the Slade School of Art. She is a Fellow and past President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and has work in many private and public collections in Europe, the USA and Australia, including the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Selector Profile: Bob Benton
Having been involved with The Discerning Eye for the last 12 years what a privilege it has been to have been a selector and seen the enormous array of talent amongst British artists.
Making choices was both exhilarating and sometimes just plain difficult. But I enjoyed selecting and I hope there's something in my selection that everyone can enjoy.
Bob Benton is Managing Director; Head of Media (UK) at leading independent financial services firm, Canaccord Adams. Bob was the Discerning Eye Chairman from 2003 - 2007.
Selector Profile: Brenda Fenton
I was honoured to be asked to select works for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition. An exhibition of such high standards and diverse interest, reflecting the tastes of its founder, the late Michael Reynolds who so inspired many of us with his great works and personality.
I drew on works from previous prize winners as well as from the open submission. All of which provoked immediate subjective response – figurative with qualities deserving greater attention, and also working well with the small scale required. I enjoyed the whole experience as I hope will all the visitors to the exhibition.
Brenda Fenton is a former fashion illustrator who has been a valued supporter of The Discerning Eye for many years.
Selector Profile: Frances Carey
The Prints and Drawings collection of the British Museum, where I spent the greater part of my adult life, is a remarkable confluence of the old and the new. Artists of all ages from the mid-fifteenth century to the present day cohabit to the instruction and delight of the public, who are freely admitted to the exhibition gallery, the Students' Room and now may consult much of the material online. Above all, the collection facilitates an endless series of 'conversations', between the works themselves, between those who consult the collection, those who are represented in it and those who have the privilege of working for the British Museum.
My choice of artists for the 2008 ING Discerning Eye is governed by the desire to set up a new set of 'conversations' between artists of very different backgrounds and styles. All have originality, integrity of vision, dedication of purpose and a way of 'seeing' the world which enlightens me constantly. The value of exhibitions is the opportunity to witness juxtapositions that might not otherwise occur, and to appreciate the physical qualities of the works concerned - their scale and manner of execution. Whether they are multiples or unique examples, whether produced by purely autographic or photographic and digital means, there is no substitute for experiencing 'the actual'.
Frances Carey is an author and former Deputy Keeper of Prints and Drawings and currently Head of National Programmes at the British Museum.
Selector Profile: Robin Morgan
Everyday I work with images, illustrations and photographs and everyday I marry them up to descriptive narrative and frame them on a page that conveys the essence of a story. The effect must be immediate, compelling the eye to look deeper, longer. The aim is to leave a lasting, informed impression.
I accord the same principles to art. Every picture tells a story. The same goes for paint, stone, clay, metal, pen and ink. It must tell us a story. The story can be eclectic, imaginary, provocative or deeply personal, intuitive and intimate. It should fill us with something - grace, awe, empathy, discomfort or bewilderment. It can soothe or challenge, but in the end it has to captivate.
I have included photography in my selection - for too long disregarded by purists as an art, as was graffiti for thousands of years, as was rock 'n roll for a decade. The cultural and educational emancipation of Britain that began in the late 50s and continues today, has democratised art and design allowing its appreciation to filter down from the establishment. Today every teenager in Britain leaves school with a degree of understanding - that anywhere one person employs an instrument to compose and create excellence can rightly call themselves an artist. Who today would argue Eric Clapton's guitar or Banksy's spray can are not art forms? So too is the work of the gifted photographer who opens our eyes and minds as they do.
The ING Discerning Eye embodies that spirit of art democratised - how else would I, who knows nothing about 'art' but what he likes and dislikes, have been invited to select? What hangs on the walls is testimony to the ING Discerning Eye's necessity outside art's purist curation of national collections or the patronage of commercial galleries. You can love or hate what you see hung on the walls, but they are people's stories, the stories of artists. Love 'em, hate 'em, that's not what matters. What matters is art is never indifferent.
Robin Morgan is the Editor of The Sunday Times Magazine. He is also an award winning journalist, author and judge for the British Press Awards.