If there’s one thing for certain, at this year’s John Moores exhibition there’s such a multitude of different work that no matter what style of painting you prefer there’s something for everyone. Its not meant to be a crowd pleasing tactic though, more to show the length and breadth of British contemporary painting.
This year the Painting Prize has slightly changed, instead of announcing an outright winner of the £20,000 pound prize, they have shortlisted five artists and plan on announcing the winner in a couple of months time so all of the artists get their chance to shine. I know all of this from partaking in a tour led by Angela Samata, the Walker Art Gallery’s leading curator who has planned and organised the Prize for the last six years.
As part of the gallery tour Angela explained the history of the Prize and its role within contemporary art. I also found it really interesting to hear about the selection process, the fact that the jurors aren’t told who any of the artists are, their background or ‘position’ in the art world. This year rallied around 2,500 entries which were shortlisted to 250 entries and further whittled down to just 50. Its then Angela’s role to curate which pieces go where within the gallery spaces… not an easy task. Even the hanging specifications for each piece can vary massively and she has a team of ten assistants to do this.
So, onto the art itself.
Now, I will admit that I wasn’t blown away by their selection. But I have already said that there’s such a diverse range of painting styles on show that there’s bound to be something you’ll like. My immediate favourite is ‘Freezer’ by Susie Hamilton, I love the topic… people who raid freezers, going from one to the other, without thought, just shifting through the frozen products alone and detached from the outside world. I like her use of paint, the cold air penetrating the atmosphere, distorting their figure against the gleam of the cold supermarket floor. Plus her style is so distinctly different to others. This is another main reason for liking it as I find a lot of the other work, well, a tad flat.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s some excellent work and the technical prowess on show is of a very high standard but overall its just not very exciting in my eyes.
Other standout pieces I liked were Juliette Losq with her huge watercolour and ink painting of a creepy, rubbish filled backyard, brilliant and a good bet for winning the Prize surely. Especially as watercolour pieces were never allowed to enter the Prize until about 20 years ago as it wasn’t deemed to be a ‘proper’ painting medium. David Dawson’s colourful suburban painting with an inch-wide depth of oil paint… he was also Lucien Freud’s assistant for years. Frank Pudney’s ‘People 69104′ an amazing amount of technical skill to produce 69,104 people in his map-like floating world. Conor Nial Rogers small painting of his back garden, produced on the front of a Quavers pack and appropriately named ’88 Calories’.
I also like the paintings in the Prize’s Chinese counterpart exhibition, a breath of fresh air that I kind of wish this year’s UK’s prize had incorporated more of…
I definitely recommend taking one of their fantastic tours as you will learn so much about the Prize and get more of an insight into the individual pieces of art, particularly as they are holding regular ‘Tuesday Talks’ where an individual artist talks about their painting… a must if you’re planning a visit.
I was also told that there will be a BBC documentary on in September with a ‘behind-the-scenes’ sneak peek into the Jurors selection process… can’t wait for that!
John Moore Painting Prize on until 30th November 2014