Galleries - April 2016

Curators, so our major London art institutions would have us believe, are the new arbiters of artistic value and intellectual worth, the figures to whom artists now have to defer if they want to get exhibited. It’s not been a good idea on the whole, as many commentators have frequently pointed out, words and theories tending to shape the choices quite as much as the visual. It is with all this in mind that the initiative by two Essex based painters, Robert Priseman and Simon Carter, to set up Contemporary British Painting i n 2013 came about. An artists’ collective seeking “to explore and promote current trends in British painting through group exhibitions, talks, publications and an art prize”, it has already orchestrated the donation of over £1m of painting by British artists to museums and galleries across the country, as well as an exchange programme with artists in China. Now comes the prize part of their brief, The British Contemporary Painting Prize, with not just a £ 2,000 purchase prize for the winner, but also a solo exhibition at the excellent Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in 2017 and a critical essay on their work by critic Paul O’Kane. Alongside that there is an exhibition of the 15selected finalists at Richmond-upon- Thames Museum later this year and Huddersfield Art Gallery in 2017. The key thing about it though is that the original submission will be assessed entirely by practising artists – some seven of them – before going forward to a very distinguished panel of critics and curators – Francis Bacon writer Michael Peppiatt among them – to pick the winner. The call for entries closes on 1 May – more details on page 50. A great example of artists taking matters into their own hands finally. Signs of spring with news of two artistic events, both somewhat dependent on hopefully more benign weather and longer days – the Alde Valley Spring Festival (23 April to 22 May) and York Open Studios. The first of these, in exquisitely beautiful East Suffolk, is organised by the charismatic artist and local landowner, Jason Gathorne-Hardy, on his farm and the workshop buildings situated therein. Despite the name, it consists of a series of seasonal exhibitions, residency projects and land work running until early autumn; this year’s theme is appropriately entitled ‘From this Land’. It is always well supported by top professional artists and craftsmen in the region and beyond, so well worth catching if you’ve never been before – check their website for details. Meanwhile York Open Studios, the first of its kind I have encountered so far this season, and consisting of some 100 selected artists and makers working within a ten mile radius of the city, is opening its doors for five days over two weekends, 15 to 17 and 23, 24 April. Well established and well organised, this makes a visit to York this month sound rather enticing! Now in its seventh year, Reading Contemporary Art Fair (23, 24 April) seems to have become a well established event with some 100 exhibitors, consisting of both individual artists and selected galleries, showing in its attractive venue close to the Thames. Taking a leaf out of Affordable Art Fair’s book, they keep the price range sensible too – £40 to £4,000 – and have lots of excellent workshops and activities for both adults and children. A nice touch here too is that a number of the exhibiting artists are contributing miniature canvases that will be sold for £45 each in aid of The Prince’s Trust, this year’s chosen charity as it was last year. A NTENNAE from left R ebecca Jewell ‘Speckled Egg’, Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery Simon Wilcox ‘Winter’, Esprio Art, Reading Contemporary Art Fair John Piper ‘Beauvale Priory’, Bohun Gallery Artists for artists 8 GALLERIES APRIL 2016 Spring is sprung Fair progress