Albert Irvin RA
An overseas commitment meant that for the first time in five years I was unable to attend the selection day back in September at which the works on show at this year's ING Discerning Eye exhibition were chosen. So, like the visitors who will pass through the Mall Galleries over the next ten days, the first opportunity to view the show is going to be when I walk through the door.
My guess, given the group of selectors assembled for this year's show - which include Doris Lockhart, founder with her former husband of the Saatchi Collection, Bert Irvin RA, a noted abstract expressionist and ING's Gerald Walker, who last year awarded the £5,000 ING prize to an abstract work - is that there would be fewer figurative works and a higher than usual number of abstract works. I hope I guessed correctly because, as Chief Executive Tony Humphreys makes clear elsewhere in this catalogue, this is exactly what the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition should be about. Open to all-comers, all ages, artists with varying levels of competence, an annual show with the ability to surprise, to please and to provoke. Apart from the limitation on size, there are no other restrictions in submitting to the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition: unlike many other shows we do not dictate the medium, or the style in which the work is made. We do not restrict our exhibitors to working in watercolour, or oils, or their subject matter.
The Discerning Eye selection process invites six individuals, each an expert in their own field, to make a considered and personal judgement on the works submitted for hanging. The result is six separate, highly personal, exhibitions within the whole, ensuring an eclectic mix.
It is often said that the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition offers something for everyone.
The unique success of The Discerning Eye has caught the interest of art lovers overseas. Tony Humphreys has been working diligently to export the DE concept abroad and it is likely that Discerning Eye USA, or DE Germany, or DE Japan, will soon become a reality.
Again, my thanks to all who have worked so hard to mount the year's show: the selectors who sifted through 2,700 works in a single day, Parker Harris, our exhibition organisers, the staff at the Mall Galleries and, of course ING Wholesale Banking, without whose support this remarkable exhibition would not be possible.
Welcome to the 2012 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition. This is our 21st exhibition and our 'coming of age' was marked by a record number of over 2,700 open submissions works arriving at the Mall Galleries for selection. Whilst it is impossible for the majority of those works to be hung, the steady increase in numbers reflects how important this exhibition is to artists.
One of the reasons for this is the equal opportunity every artist has year on year to be selected. Whilst watching the selection process this year, I saw many works that I recognised as being from artists who might be considered 'regulars' at the exhibition, not be selected. As disappointing as this must be for those particular artists, this is what the Discerning Eye is and should be about. We want the exhibition to continue to surprise and the variation of selectors, each with different tastes, ensures this. As I always say to artists, a rejection this year can be selection the next, so keep trying!
One of this year's selectors is ING CEO Gerald Walker. Notwithstanding his and ING's continued support of Discerning Eye, Gerald is a selector because he is himself a collector and lover of art. His taste tends towards the contemporary and this shone through at last year's exhibition when he gave the main ING purchase prize to an abstract seascape by Neil Canning. As a result, this work joined the ING collection and in September Neil was given a solo show at ING's 5th floor reception area which, with over thirty of Neil's colourful works on the walls, looked spectacular.
Gerald didn't know of Neil's work before last year's exhibition which underlines how the ING Discerning Eye really can introduce artists to new audiences.
On the theme of introducing artists to new audiences, I am also pleased to refer you to our new relationship with Artspan. You can read all about Artspan (www.artspan.co.uk) on our website, www.discerningeye.org or in the latest issue of our Newsletter where you will find special Discerning Eye offers to artists who would like to set up their own websites through Artspan. I would also like to thank Artspan not only for its sponsorship of the Artists' Private View on Thursday 15 November but also for its purchase prize of £1,000.
I would also like to thank our event organisers, Parker Harris, Mary Dodwell, Liam Donelly and the Mall Galleries where I can confirm we will be exhibiting for at least our next three exhibitions.
Finally I would like to thank all of the artists who submitted works and of course our panel of selectors who, having been through the difficult task of selecting and hanging their own sections, can now enjoy the results! May the buying begin!
The 2012 exhibition includes 479 works by 188 artists
68% of the artists and 41% of the works were selected from the open submission
ING is delighted to be sponsoring the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition once again in 2012.
ING and The Discerning Eye Exhibition have been in partnership since 1999 and we are very happy to be involved with one of the most important independent exhibitions in the UK.
Art continues to be an essential part of the culture at ING, providing a splash of colour in what continues to be a grey financial horizon. Earlier this year we sponsored the Courtauld's fascinating and critically acclaimed exhibition, Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel. Most recently, our client reception area has been given a new lease of life with an exhibition of works by Neil Canning, winner of the ING Purchase Prize at the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition in 2011. Neil's colourful abstract views of the Cornish Coast and New York have been a most welcome temporary addition to ING's UK Art Collection, one of the finest corporate art collections in the country.
We are continually seeking out ways to share ING's collection with a wider audience. We seek to foster an appreciation of the collection among ING's employees and external art interest groups are regularly welcomed. In addition, our participation in the Celebrate the City Festival enabled over 100 members of the general public to access the collection.
An even greater audience has been reached via external loans. This year four major loans have taken place. Priory Farm by Stanley Spencer was part of the first comprehensive overview of Spencer's work to be shown in mainland Europe, held at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Pallant House Gallery borrowed Mortimer's Farm by Keith Vaughan for an exhibition to mark the centenary of the birth of the British painter. Meanwhile ING's Burnt-out Fire Appliance was lent to the Royal Academy for their memorial to the recently deceased Leonard Rosoman. Rounding off the year, Dulwich Picture Gallery is celebrating English watercolourist John Sell Cotman and will feature our picture Cathedral Church of Notre Dame at Rouen.
ING shares Discerning Eye's commitment to individuality, excellence and increasing opportunities for artists. We recently hosted an exhibition of works by the teachers and pupils of Quintin Kynaston School. All proceeds of sales went towards the QK House campaign to purchase a house for homeless pupils. We are grateful for the support of Discerning Eye's Chief Executive, Tony Humphreys who selected two winning pieces. These were then entered in the open submission for The Discerning Eye Exhibition. We're pleased to say that Peas by QK student Andi Brajshori has made it through to the main exhibition. We will be following his future career with interest.
I thank my fellow 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 2012 Exhibition every success.
CEO, ING Commercial Banking UK, Ireland and Middle East
ING is a global financial institution of Dutch origin, offering banking, investments, life insurance
and retirement services to meet the needs of a broad customer base. ING Commercial Banking
is responsible for providing a range of services to ING's corporate and institutional client base.
Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary 2012
The Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary was launched in 2005 to provide an opportunity for artists to extend their practice by offering the financial support of a bursary.
Open to any artist resident in the UK, artists are annually invited to submit up to three images and a short written proposal that demonstrates how the bursary will benefit their current practice. From this open submission up to six artists are shortlisted and invited to exhibit their work at the annual ING Discerning Eye Exhibition.
In 2012, we are delighted to announce the increase in the bursary to the winner and to each of the runners-up. The winning artist will now receive £1,500 and each runner-up receives £150. The announcement of the winner will be made at the Artists' Private View on the 15 November 2012.
Our grateful thanks go to each member of the Discerning Eye Educational Advisory Board, particularly for their time and good judgement: Tom Coates PPNEAC, Anita Klein PPRE, James Lloyd and Nicholas Usherwood.
Selector Profile: Albert Irvin RA
At the outset I chose a team that I felt was premier league – all high calibre artists at various stages of their development, including as a quid pro quo, two who had chosen me when they were selectors. Then from among the over 2,500 works that were sent in and paraded before us, I was on the look out, like a football manager seeking to add to his squad, for top quality additions to mine. I think I found them.
As with the team I'd already assembled – not circumscribed by doctrinaire considerations, but demonstrating life-enhancing vision, dedicated commitment and using colour well. I'm confident they'll work well together.
Selector Profile: Chantal Joffe
I really enjoyed being a selector for The Discerning Eye, the process is fascinating - what you like another selector hates, and viceversa, I loved seeing what my fellow selectors chose and how they imagined curating their choices - I am looking forward to hanging my group, trying to make the woman baking gingerbread men with penises fit together with the woman with the cigarette handbag....
I think my group will look great.
Selector Profile: Charles Darwent
I've been thinking a lot recently about the history of British Modernism - whether the words may, in fact, be mutually exclusive. Certainly, what you might call the British Modernist Experience has been markedly different from an American or French one. That doesn't mean it's a lesser history, though, just dissimilar. The works I have chosen for this show range from the recognisably Modernist - the Constructivist paintings of Natalie Dower, say - to the apparently less so: the cityscapes of Roland Collins, which seem to tend towards the British end of the equation. My hope is that seeing the work of these two fine artists side-by-side will reveal the commonality between them. Collins was at art school in the 'Thirties, Dower in the 'Forties. There were many British Modernisms then, as there are now.
Selector Profile: Skye Sherwin
It would be impossible to boil down the qualities that drew me to the artists I selected for this year's show to genre or medium. That said, certain, often quite delightfully different themes did seem to emerge, from urban noir to the absurd. The joy of being part of something like Discerning Eye is the sheer variety of art, in all its freedom and playfulness, you get to experience. A sustained individual vision as well as pleasure and wit are what I'm always on the lookout for. This was here in abundance. It's been an exhilarating privilege that certainly kept me on my toes.
Selector Profile: Doris Lockhart
When I was first approached to be a selector by the organisers of this year's ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, I was hesitant. For a start, I've always denied the roles of public critic and patron. Collecting art, as far as I am concerned, is a privileged, self-indulgent activity that provides private pleasure and a sense of order in a chaotic world.
Besides, the works of good artists no longer needs any one individual's seal of approval in order to float to the top. They can be seen and appreciated all over town, thanks to organisations like ING and the Discerning Eye, the public spaces and young commercial galleries popping up all over the place.
Then I realised that I was being offered a chance to curate part of a public exhibition, and, let's face it, we're all curators at heart. How many times have we seen a show and thought, '...they should have included such and such...' or 'why on earth did they choose that artist ...' The opportunity became irresistible.
I live with works by my invited artists, and those works give me pleasure every day. I have chosen from the open submissions works that engage me. I hope my choices will please and engage you too.
Selector Profile: Gerald Walker
I have been an attendee and host at the Discerning Eye for over a decade. Over those years I have observed with interest the process of bringing together six disparate tastes into one show - and have marvelled at the finished result. Having been a voyeur, I was delighted this year to be asked to be a selector; a great pleasure and indeed an honour. In the early pages of this catalogue, you will see in whose footsteps I follow ... and perhaps appreciate my apprehension as I set forth on this voyage.
Some months on, I am now able to fully empathise with my predecessor selectors who have spoken to me about the joys and anxieties of the role. There is an unquestionable pleasure (and something indulgent) about selecting favourite artists and asking them to submit works - that is the joy.
Counterbalancing this is the anxiety and responsibility of selecting a relatively small number of works from the vast open submission. Applying one's specific tastes implies rejecting a large number of works of great standing and obvious merit. Luckily with six selectors building their collections, there was often room for pieces somewhere. For a large number, alas not. I hope that those rejected will forgive (us) and that, for the selected few, appearing in this exhibition will further their ambitions to achieve critical and artistic success. Your appreciation - or otherwise - is of course the first test of this.
If art can be seen as a window into the soul, I hope that my selection does not reflect the current turmoil in finance. I think that I have avoided that pitfall; rather I hope that the collection will be seen as optimistic and uplifting. There is a gentle tilt of my hat towards my Highland roots with some fantastic work created by northern artists who take clear inspiration from the great light and drama of my homeland. There is also an evident seam which reflects a long held interest in the abstract.
I invite you to view my selection with the hope that you share some of my tastes. Of course, should that not be the case, the wonderful thing about the Discerning Eye exhibition is that you can move swiftly on to graze on the collections of my five fellow selectors - and seek solace there!