Gus Cummins RA
Britain is not a nation of gardeners, nor even as Napoleon is said to have remarked, a nation of shopkeepers. Rather, it is a nation of artists.
That was the judgement of Julius Bryant, one of this year's Discerning Eye selectors, after two days casting his eye over the 2,500-odd entries for the 2009 show. Julius, Keeper of Word and Image at the Victoria and Albert Museum, was astonished, he says, by the productivity and diversity of the artists, both professional and amateur, who submitted work.
He expands elsewhere in this catalogue on what he identified as 'a need to paint' by those artists but, first, let me thank him for his enthusiastic support, which this year has led to the launch of the V&A Acquisition Prize.
The V&A will acquire for the nation a work from the ING Discerning Eye exhibition. There will be no cash involved (apart from payment to the artist for the work) but the winner's exhibit will be added to one of the important national collections of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and book and computer art held by the V&A.
I find it hard to think of a more exciting and rewarding honour for an artist.
Discerning Eye supporters will also benefit from our association with the V&A. The museum has agreed to organise exclusive visits for Discerning Eye Friends and Members to inspect the V&A's spectacular collections.
My gratitude goes to all the selectors who gave up their time to embrace the spirit of The Discerning Eye. I also would add my thanks to our generous sponsors, ING Wholesale Banking, and to exhibition organisers, Parker Harris, without whom there would be no show here at the Mall Galleries. This is the start of my second year as Discerning Eye Chairman. I am delighted that I found myself lucky to have inherited such a highly enjoyable role in an organisation that is going from strength to strength.
The numbers of submitting artists are up; the quality of the work superior. We have committed financial support, enhanced recognition and, importantly for the artist, more prizes.
All of this goes to better achieving the founding principles of The Discerning Eye: to encourage a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts and, above all, to promote good art and artists.
Chief Executive’s Statement
Over the years I have often stated the importance of a good sponsor and how much we value our continuing relationship with ING. Twelve months after the world was shaken by events in global banking that signalled the start of the current recession, this relationship is even more valued. ING's financial support enables us to mount the annual ING Discerning Eye Exhibition and therefore has a direct impact on the livelihoods of the artists whose work we will enjoy and hopefully purchase.
Another crucial aspect of any exhibition for artists is the award of prizes. Prizes not only help an artist sell more work, but in time can help them establish higher prices; crucial if an artist is to become a full time professional.
Discerning Eye has since the very first exhibition given prizes: cash prizes, such as the Meynell Fenton Prize donated very generously each year by Brenda Fenton; materials, to help reduce the artist's costs; or something non financial (but nevertheless just as significant) - a club membership (for example the Arts Club prize, awarded in 2007 and 2008) or perhaps a solo exhibition.
However, in recent years the purchase prize, given by an individual or company who actually acquires the work, has substantially expanded the awards on offer at the Discerning Eye annual exhibition. Of further benefit to an artist winning a purchase prize, Discerning Eye does not deduct its standard sales commission. This approach benefits everybody. The prize giver acquires a work, whilst the artist receives the full value of the prize and has a useful acknowledgement to add to his CV. The value of the £5,000 ING Purchase Prize is even further augmented as the winner also knows that their work will form part of one of the major corporate collections in the world.
This year, I am pleased to announce a new purchase prize to be given by our exhibition organisers, Parker Harris, who will award a purchase prize of up to £1,000 for print, to celebrate Parker Harris' twenty one years in partnership. I would like to thank them not only on behalf of the winning artist but also on behalf of the Discerning Eye for their continued enthusiasm and contribution to our efforts.
In addition, our chairman John Penrose, who has created a Discerning Eye room at his new Dollar Street Gallery in Cirencester, has agreed to show all 2009 prize winning works for a further three weeks after the London exhibition, where we hope those artists will be introduced to a new audience and perhaps new buyers.
Finally, I would like to welcome Gerlach Jacobs to his first ING Discerning Eye exhibition as CEO, ING Wholesale Banking UK and Middle East and to thank him and ING for their continued support. We hope that you, your staff and clients enjoy this year's exhibition.
Foreword – Anita Klein
Original prints vs reproductions
The word "print" covers a lot of things these days. The Tate sells "Cezanne prints", the Sunday supplements offer "signed Picasso prints" for £100, and at the other end of the spectrum, artists paint on a shiny surface and take a unique print by pressing paper into their painting. Most printing techniques were first invented for mass reproduction of words and images, but each new technique has very quickly attracted artists to experiment, not only in order to make extra copies of an image, but because of the particular quality of mark making that can be achieved. Ever since the first prints there have been reproductions, copies of paintings or drawings made to disseminate and sell. However, with the invention of photography, reproductions became both easier to make, and more faithful to the original. In the last ten years in particular, computer technology has enabled artists to make very good quality photographic reproductions of paintings and drawings that are sometimes hard to distinguish from the original.
I have no problem with reproductions. I would rather have a Picasso poster on my wall than a bad original print. However, as an artist who makes prints I would like to explain why artists' original prints are so different (and superior) to reproductions. The distinction is simple; Artist's original prints are conceived as prints from the outset. They are not photographic reproductions of artwork that pre-exists in some other medium. There is no "original" apart from the marks made on a block, plate, computer, stone screen etc. by the artist. Unfortunately many painters do not understand this distinction and are lured by companies offering to make "prints" of their paintings. The truth is that one cannot make a print "of a painting", only a reproduction.
These reproductions, which are actually just good quality posters, are often signed and numbered as if they were original prints, and some (see the Sunday newspaper supplements) are offered as "signed limited edition prints" when even the signature is photographically reproduced. Signing and numbering prints is a relatively new convention. Rembrandt didn't do it, and the lack of edition number or signature does not make an original print any less original. However buyers like to know how many prints there are in an edition, that the edition is limited, and in our celebrity culture a signature tends to add value, be it to a catalogue, a book or a picture. Reproductions are often published in limited editions. To my mind this is pretentious. I print 25 of each of my drypoint etchings. Each time I take a print the metal is worn away a bit and after 25 I consider that the image has faded too much from my intention. The edition is therefore limited to 25. Not all original print techniques are self limiting like this, yet there is a convention that when a whole edition has been printed the plate, screen or block is destroyed or defaced in some way to prevent extra copies being printed. With a reproduction, unless the original painting or drawing is destroyed, a limited edition is a nonsense piece of marketing. But why, you might ask, does this matter if I like a reproduction and an artist has signed it?
I think it helps to consider why artists make "real" prints. When an artist makes a picture, he or she has at his or her disposal a number of ways of making a mark. These include pencil, charcoal, many types of paint and sizes of brush. Each medium can be used in many varied ways to communicate the symbols and signals of touching, feeling, stroking, grasping, remembering and being moved by our subject matter, be it abstract or figurative. If these methods of mark-making can be seen as the language of art, then printmaking is a way of greatly extending our vocabulary. There are feelings that can be expressed better by a delicate lithographic wash or a bold woodblock impression than in any other way. Each printmaking technique offers the artist its own new range of marks. I include digital printmaking here. Computer technology, like screenprinting and lithography before it, offers ease of reproduction. However this does not mean that these techniques can only be used to make reproductions. Each technique has its own range of mark-making possibilities, offering an extension of an artist's vocabulary. An artist can choose to work with a mouse on a computer screen, an oily crayon on a litho stone or power tools on a block of wood. He or she can choose a sharp engraving needle or scissors to cut a stencil, to dab ink onto a metal plate or use a roller to spread it. A piece of lino can be cut with a gouge or eaten away slowly with caustic soda. The artist can also choose to work with a "master printer", someone whose technical expertise in making original prints enables the artist to explore even more mark-making possibilities. All these are ways of making original prints. Each one of these techniques has been chosen by the artist as ways of best communicating visually.
Compare this with an artist who does a painting he likes and wants to be able to sell more than one copy. He takes a photograph and has a poster made. This enables buyers to enjoy something of his original painting for less money. As I said, I have no problem with this. However the artist originally chose a medium for his painting, say watercolour or oil on canvas. However faithful the reproduction, the medium has changed. It is not as the artist originally intended. The size is probably different. Almost certainly the texture is different. If you like the image and it goes with your sofa, then buy it and enjoy it. However it will always be the same as an image cut out of a book when compared to an original print which is a work of art in its own right, on a par with a painting, drawing or sculpture.
Anita Klein PPRE
ING is delighted to be sponsoring the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition again in 2009. We were particularly pleased to hear of the popularity of the open submission this year, with the selectors making their choice from around 2,500 works of art from artists based across the UK. The selectors have also had a positive response from their invited artists.
ING has a long-established interest in art. ING Group, headquartered in Amsterdam, has a collection of over 20,000 Dutch contemporary works of art. Our London office is home to one of the City's premier art collections, featuring work by artists such as Stanley Spencer, LS Lowry, and Samuel Palmer. We welcome numerous art interest groups to our offices throughout the year to see this collection. The collection is complemented by a programme of temporary exhibitions which seeks to develop opportunities for artists and to bring their work to the attention of new audiences.
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. Long term sponsorships, such as our partnership with Discerning Eye, lead to many positive benefits for a range of organisations and individuals, and these continue, and in many instances become more important, in times of recession.
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. All that remains is for me to wish the ING Discerning Eye 2009 Exhibition every success.
Gerlach Jacobs CEO
ING Wholesale Banking UK, Ireland & 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 40 countries and over 120,000 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: Gus Cummins RA
Selecting work for an exhibition is always daunting. To 'judge' the efforts of fellow artists. However, some thought provoking and uplifting pieces appear. For me, skill and good taste alone are not enough. Challenging ideas and a personal point of view are more compelling.
I respond to 'visual poetry'; which seeks a more oblique route - (not too literal.) Work that gives clues to the artists' thinking processes, inviting us to engage in dialogue and speculation.
I sense that many of us experience anxiousness when 'stepping-off' 'safe ground', but artists and musicians who 'shift their ground' and take risks, are the ones I find most life affirming.
It's good to see work I wish I had done: (a metaphorical kick up the behind.)
Selector Profile: Lincoln Seligman
I was very pleased to be asked to be a selector for this year's ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, an exhibition I have always enjoyed for its eclectic breadth of talent.
The artists I have put forward, some well known and some less so, work in very different styles and media, but each are, in their own way, both original and very good at what they do. It was fun to be able to suggest people whose subject matter and ways of working exploit such varied sources. It may appear that they have nothing in common but, treating my role as an opportunity to be wholly subjective, I find that they all 'say something' to me. I hope you enjoy them too.
The open submission yielded a rich and diverse crop, ranging from the humorous to the very dark, and from the hard won to the brilliantly quick. The selection process was an enjoyably spontaneous exercise - a fairly immediate visceral reaction to each work as it came up. Again the choice was personal, though sometimes echoed and endorsed by fellow selectors. But I do believe that each work deserves to be looked at closely, and I hope that visitors to the exhibition can make time to enjoy that process.
Selector Profile: Julius Bryant
Mention the Victoria and Albert Museum ('the V&A') to most people and a flood of favourite decorative arts will fill their minds: fashion, furniture, sculpture, ceramics, silver and jewellery are among the V&A's more familiar national collections. It can come as a surprise to learn that there are ten other national collections, including watercolours, the art of photography, portrait miniatures, pastels, commercial graphics (including posters), designs and architectural drawings, computer art, illustration, the art of the book and the works of John Constable.
Among my responsibilities as Keeper of Word & Image, these works are available via the V&A's website and may be seen, without appointment, in our Prints and Drawings Study Room and in galleries throughout the museum. I have endeavoured to reflect this range in my selection from artists' submissions, which includes watercolours, photography, computer and book art. I also chose works that share that very English sense of humour through dry understatement.
Among the artists I invited to exhibit I admire in particular those painters who demonstrate the potential of watercolour (the medium too often associated with polite, conservative good taste) to take us by surprise. I feared at first that the set limit on dimensions might prove a hindrance but many artists have succeeded in creating windows into measureless space where the eyes and mind can roam. The selection committee proved to be an exhausting couple of days as we made swifter, more instinctive choices to secure the best or most relevant for our own hangs, from 2,500 submissions. At the end, on cool reflection, very little had to be edited out, the standard being so high.
I trust that the same spirit of instinct and urgency will be shared by collectors, for your choices complete the creative process that begins with the artist's need to capture and convey a curious moment of inspiration.
Selector Profile: Jackie Wullschlager
“If you feel a psychological shock in front of a painting,
buy it without further ado.”
Sergei Shchukin, letter to his daughter
The most thrilling part of my job as The Financial Times art critic is encountering a vast range of contemporary work. It has been an honour and a pleasure to select for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition and thus to shift, briefly, to the other side of criticism: to put my own choices and taste on the line instead of judging other people's.
I always thought that the advice of Sergei Shchukin, the great Russian collector of Matisse and Picasso, was pertinent as a guide not only to buying but also to looking at, responding to and spending time with works of art. For the ING Discerning Eye, I invited those artists - ranging in age from 21 to 89, and working in locations from Peckham to Zurich to Johannesburg - whose exhibitions I always anticipate with excitement, and whose new pieces, even when I know their work well, often startle or unnerve me. They work in many media and span the spectrum from figurative to abstract, though most, I realise, occupy that tense, fertile terrain between the two.
It is an enormous privilege to be able to show work of this quality, to set up conversations between the artists, and to discover, in the open submissions, fresh voices. I thank all the artists for taking part, and for continuing to provoke and delight.
Selector Profile: Peter Bowles
I have collected ever since my wife gave me a saved up fifteen pounds to buy some carpet cover for our bare floorboards, and I came back with my first painting instead. The marriage has lasted despite this, and so has my love of paintings, sculpture and a very high regard for all artists.
One particular artist chosen by me I also have a deep love for, as she is my daughter.
I felt honoured to be asked to select for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, and having been involved in a few casting selections in my time, was highly aware of my responsibilities in choosing and of course rejecting.
Selector Profile: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
I love the whole concept of the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition; the bringing together of a diversity of artistic eyes to create an exciting, eclectic and invigorating show.
What struck me was just how romantic we all are these days. I was quite seduced by what I felt was an extremely lyrical mindset that's colouring art with a wonderful, wistful dreaminess. I've always believed that it's not compulsory for art to be aggressive or to pick a fight with the viewer. Art is about telling a story and there's absolutely nothing wrong with a story that has a happy ending.