It’s was such privilege to be asked to judge the entries in this year’s Community Art Exhibition, and the first thing I’d like to say is a massive thank you and congratulations to each and every one of the artists showing work – it’s a stunning exhibition.
Here are my notes, given as a ‘speech’ on awards night at The Beecroft Art Gallery on Friday 1st March 2019 (apologies for the not-very-good photographs!).
I don’t know if any of you have been to the Ruskin exhibition at Two Temple Place, but one of Ruskin’s quotes they use there is:
“All literature, art and science are in vain, and worse, if they do not enable you to be glad.”
Which I suspect doesn’t mean that all paintings should be of happy sunny uplands; but that art and craft should excite our senses, intrigue our minds, enliven our imaginations and send us out into the world, into our daily lives with new, invigorated ways of seeing.
And I have to say that the work in this exhibition definitely inspires; gladdening the eye and the heart.
Who cannot fail to look at Ann Henson’s “River” and not be immediately transported by those rich greens and blues that softly interweave with each other, illuminated by sunlight? Who doesn’t look again and again at Julie Parker’s “White Vase II” in absolute wonder at her extraordinary skill?
Or the way Therese Ellis dramatizes the effect of autumnal colours in the landscape? Then there’s Tracy Sutton’s “Sunny Garden” inviting you in to sit down there, forever in paradise; and Ian Deaves’ wonderful depiction of Rayleigh High St., Anita Pickles glorious “Anemones…
Colour is something that particularly gladdens me, so it’s no surprise that I am also utterly besotted by that lilac wall in Pauline Grove’s painting.
But I was only allowed two ‘highly commended’…
The first goes to a most beautiful water-colour painting that is full of colour and texture and the patterns of shade and light; and it is full of temptation: I want to smell the flowers and I want to walk along that path into the garden beyond – it’s Susan Monk’s sublime painting of “Sissinghurst Garden”.
The second highly commended goes to such an extraordinary piece of work I don’t even know how to begin to describe it other than to say the maker’s
technical skill and artistic imagination leave me breathless; then, beyond even that, this is a work that is so full of fun that the more you look at the detail the more you smile with pure delight – this is Tanya Mimpress’s “Number 33”.
And so, to the 2019 prize-winner of the coveted Rose Bowl…
This goes to an artist to whose painting, as I walked around the exhibition, I kept returning; it became a sort of reference point for my ways of looking and what it is that gladdens me as a common viewer. Colour, as I’ve said, thrills me. Here it is layered and contrasted, suggestive and reflective, painted with skilled precision and – importantly – a visibly delighted passion. Also thrilling is its ‘sense of place’: the feeling that you’re looking at a scene right alongside the artist. Then there’s the texture – you know when your nerves go all jangly and you can’t decide whether you want to touch or lick or somehow get yourself inside a painting – grrrrrrr! All these things made this picture jump out for me. What made it the winner though? Well, ultimately it’s because as a viewer I can sense not only the passion of the artist, but the conviction, the confidence – that they know exactly how to look at what’s in front of them and with ultimate skill share their excitement of the scene as a painting that will gladden, intrigue and delight, that will enliven our imagination and send us out into the world and our everyday lives with a renewed sense of vision.
So it’s an honour to announce that the winner of the Rose Bowl is artist Sharon Henson for “Canal du Midi” – congratulations!
The exhibition at The Beecroft Art Gallery runs until 2nd April 2019. For further information on SOSAC, the Southend-on-Sea Arts Council, please visit: http://www.sosac.co.uk/