Sunday, 7 August 2011

Cork Street Open 2011, judging the highlights etc..

I was recently asked to be a judge for the annual 'Cork Street Open', with over 2,100 entries! All the proceeds go to charity, the beneficiary this year being PAPYRUS, who extend support to young people dealing with suicide, depression or emotional distress. Their work is extremely important & buying art from the show will go a long way to help.

As you can imagine it was a huge job, with 4 judges in total and a lot of work to look at. The submissions were varied and there were some real surprises amongst them. There was heated debate amongst the judges, as you might expect for such a massive amount of work to agree upon. You may like to read the blog entry by the Daily Mirror columnist for a view from the other side of the trenches! Personally, I am of the opinion that the vibrancy of our adjudication is proof that we were taking our roles seriously enough to disagree when we felt strongly about a piece of work. Individually we fought our corners so that, together, hopefully, we got it right - as right as personal taste allows. This, however, is for the audience to decide.

I have put only a fraction of the works I liked here in this blog, but please go & see them for yourself if you can, as reproductions never equal seeing something 'in the flesh'. Naturally, the first image is the photography prize winner that I had been asked to choose. This was an instant favourite for its beauty & simplicity. The paper aeroplanes encircling the tree shrouded in a light mist create a mysterious narrative, which is achieved without fancy photoshop trickery of any kind. A photograph of an installation whose construction can be understood reminded me of the charming fashion images by Tim Walker, whose imagery & creative use of props really bring his photographs to life. I look forward to meeting Jo Metson Scott & Nicola Yeoman who made this.

Then there is the painting that truly makes me want to paint just by looking at it. ('Sweet Dreams 1' & 'Sweet Dreams 3' by Alex J Hanna) There is nothing like the surface of oil paint on canvas or board, reflecting the world in magical tones, light & shade bringing even the most ordinary things into another way of being. Two pillows did just that & again the simplicity imbued the work with a magical quality, worthy of prolonged viewing.

The Winner of 'Best In Show' was hotly debated, resulting in Simon Shepherd triumphing overall with his comically titled 'Divide & Conker'. It is a ceramic work, so much more delicate than it appears.

Still life works were the highlight for me, with wonderfully executed renderings of bottles in a stylistically strong work by Jo Harris.

Food stuffs, jewellery & traditional vases all preserved in paint - perhaps to enjoy beyond the life of the objects themselves - were a joy to behold.

The painting titled 'Sausages' may be small but it is perfectly formed. I loved it!

Portraiture was prevalent, however I have only chosen one here as it speaks to me more than most. The 1920's & 30's stylings of 'Portrait of Liis in Goggles' by Sally J Fuerst felt like a work made in that era & appealed to me although the sitter was no-one I know, with her green lens' these indirect windows upon her left much to the imagination. Thoughts of murder mysteries or perhaps Amelia Earhart with a gothic twist, riveted my gaze.

Further mysteries ensued, with the Victorian influenced gloves pleading in an antiqued display case, conjuring Sherlock Holmes & Jack the Ripper into the proceedings. Technically stunning, with undertones of the late great Louise Bourgeois in her work 'Hand' 2001(Red fabric, wood, glass and steel 12.5 x 21 x 14 inches). The aptly named Eliza Bennett could use her name to step straight into a Victorian novel herself, wonderfully suited to her work. 'Pleading Affluenza' is not just a pair of gloves, they have been made from scratch to alter the proportions of the hands, elongating the fingers so as to emphasise the pleading gesture they make. Even the brass plate on the front adds to its authentic feel.

Two landscapes really made impressions for similar reasons. Firstly, the strange choice of a 'Hedge In Winter, Tregannick Farm' by Ryan Rodgers blocking what looks like a more traditional view of the countryside is more intriguing for it.

I also couldn't resist the conceptually strong & refreshing (excuse the pun) painted miniatures inside bottle tops titled 'Landscape For Emergency' by Iguna Gremzde. They were a welcome view during the hot sticky evening we spent judging in the Metropolis that is London.

Other small works which charmed were the cotton bud sculpture by Emily Margot & a tiny blue tit/plane titled simply as Silver Bird' by W M Hudson.

Animals & insects featured heavily in the entries we saw including a stunning drawing of a fly squashed inside a Book of Common Prayer.

What could have been the ultimate 'Best In Show' was the oddly pleasing 'Another Thursday on the Farm' by Georgia H Fiennes, with a pig, asparagus, blackbird stacked painting that has to be seen.

The quiet subtly fascinating 'You Are What You Eat - Gazelle' by Merlin Evans (another wonderful name) could easily be lost amongst the louder imagery on display, but well worth a close look.

'Nightflyers' by Sharifa Brooks Read won the 'Intaglio Printmakers Award' which pleased me no end as the combination of a few of my favourite things (planes, origami, flight, trains, 1920's & 30's design) all culminated in a beautiful print which is more than worthy of a prize.

Finally the carefully etched lines on metal created by Ben A Gooding are titled according to the number of lines on display (I must take his word for this, life is far too short to count them) are perfect to reflect upon (quite literally) decorative & despite appearances anything other than square.

Picture credits:
Winners of the Photography Award chosen by yours truly: 'Formations' by Jo Metson Scott & Nicola Yeoman
'Sweet Dreams 1' by Alex J Hanna
'Sweet Dreams 3' by Alex J Hanna
Winner of Best in Show:'Divide & Conker' by Simon Shepherd
'10 Bottles' by Jo Harris
'Sausages' by Amanda Coleman
'Four Shallots' by Rosemary Lewis
'Shell and Brown ribbon' by Rosemary Lewis
'Still Life - Vases' by Rusty Ashman
'Portrait of Liis in Goggles' by Sally J Fuerst
'Pleading Affluenza' by Eliza Bennett
The Founder & Director of 'The Cork Street Open' Kathryn Roberts, in front of 'Tranquillity VII' by Peter Goodhall
'Hedge In Winter, Tregannick Farm' by Ryan Rodgers
'Landscape For Emergency' by Iguna Gremzde
'Conglomeration' by Emily Marjot
Silver Bird' by W M Hudson
'Trapped I' Annie Ridd
'Another Thursday on the Farm' by Georgia H Fiennes
'You Are What You Eat - Gazelle' by Merlin Evans
Winner of the 'Intaglio Printmaker Prize' : 'Nightflyers' by Sharifa Brooks Read
'784' by Ben A Gooding (& detail of '784')

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