Two critics, two artists and two collectors make up the judging panel for the ING Discerning Eye annual exhibition, a show of small pieces by artists who have either been personally invited or have publicly submitted their work for consideration. The exhibition creates a unique opportunity for lesser-known artists to see their work hung alongside that of internationally-recognised names, with the only restrictions on the work a limitation in size.
This year’s pieces have been selected by artists Dale Lewis and David Remfry RA, recording artist Beverley Knight MBE, banker Mervyn Metcalf and critics Jo Baring and Tabish Khan. The open submission process was run online and, for the first time in the exhibition’s history, the show has also been entirely virtual. The online gallery remains open until the end of the year, with opportunities to purchase works and read commentary and introductions by the selectors.
We’re proud to say that eight TNG Artist Members – Angela Bell, Liesel Thomas, Martyn Burdon, Sarah Jane Moon, Selby Hurst Inglefield, Tim Benson, Clive Bryant and Gina Soden – all feature in the exhibition. We caught up with a few of them to hear about the work they have on show.
Liesel Thomas: Self Portrait as Working Class Hero – A Tribute to John Lennon
“This year marks the 80th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth and the 40th anniversary of his death. His song Imagine was number 1 in the charts when I was born, shortly after his death. Like most Brits around my age, his music and that of the Beatles echoed throughout my childhood and teens, and he’s one of the few artists I come back to time and again.
“His songs are still so relevant, and I was reminded of the lyrics to his political song ‘Working Class Hero’ from the album Plastic Ono Band as the nation applauded our key workers and the NHS during the first lockdown in England. While we showed our appreciation from our doorsteps, they remained underpaid and underfunded by the Government.
“This painting depicts me as a John Lennon fan, wearing a replica of a T-shirt Lennon himself had been photographed wearing, on the wall in the background is the cover for the Plastic Ono Band album.” Liesel Thomas
Martyn Burdon – Kathryn
“This painting was completed in acrylic on canvas, it’s of my friend Kathryn. It’s a fairly informal portrait and I think it captures some of her energy and playful spirit. It’s great to have my work selected for this exhibition and wonderful that small works are celebrated in this way. The painting is 40cm x 40cm and I think it has quite a lot going on in quite a small space.” Martyn Burdon
Sarah Jane Moon – New Flat (A Gathering Of More Than Six People)
Sarah Jane Moon has described the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition as “a really wonderful online presentation and varied collection of small work”. Her selected piece, “New Flat (A Gathering Of More Than Six People”, was previously displayed in the And What? Queer Arts Festival exhibition Queer Art(ists) Now.
Moon is currently also exhibiting “Lola Flash” in the BP Portrait Award at the Aberdeen Art Gallery, “Juno” in the Society of Women Artists online exhibition, “Back to Life” in the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition (online & at the Mall Galleries) and five paintings at Art For Youth (online only).
A recent virtual exhibition of her work ‘Painting Lives’ is documented online at artnorth-magazine.com/sarah-jane-moon.
You can experience a virtual tour of Moon’s studio, created by The Net Gallery, here
Clive Bryant – Lydia, Beethoven and Jimi Hendrix
“It was such a thrill and honour for me to have all three of my submissions selected for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition this year (my first year of submitting, too!). It is quite a unique exhibition, where two artists, two collectors and two art critics each make their own selections from all of the entries, resulting in six different “mini” exhibitions in the same room.
“Because of COVID-19, the exhibition is online only this year… The other interesting aspect of this exhibition is the limitation of size to under twenty inches in any dimension, which naturally influences the pieces that artists submit. I chose to submit three portraits: two in oils and one charcoal.”
“Lydia is a notable figure of the local church and she came to the portrait session with a striking headscarf which I implied through expressionist brushstrokes to surround the finer features of her face. Painted from life, there is a freshness to this portrait that I think would have been destroyed had I gone back into it on subsequent days. It displays Lydia’s liveliness alongside her inner strength.”
“My father was a pianist who idolised Beethoven. Growing up, at the front of the LP rack stood a copy of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, which had Joseph Karl Stieler’s portrait on the cover. I must have seen that portrait every day for years.
“I had Beethoven’s symphonies playing in the studio while I created this painting, concentrating on the 9th symphony because it is his most “extreme” work. I love its intensity, which is what I wanted in this piece: to visually describe the audible tension in the music, with the unusual colouration reflecting how his final symphony was so radically unconventional in its day.”
“I was a professional guitarist in the 1980s and, for me, Hendrix was the epitome of guitar playing. He was SO expressive, and so ridiculously cool! A true pioneer with a sound that few musicians can touch even today.
“Black and white seemed the right approach for this late ‘60s icon, and anyway, I love working in charcoal. Generally, I see the creation of art as a form of alchemy. Artists take base materials – coloured minerals in liquid binder, or burnt wood – and apply them onto a surface of some kind, to create something of value. Something that we connect with and that moves us.
“For me, portraits created from charcoal on paper are the ultimate alchemy – changing the most base of materials into a form of life. Nothing beats the feeling I get when a portrait comes alive, just as, to me at least, Hendrix does here. He may have died fifty years ago, but he lives on through his music and imagery.” Clive Bryant