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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Threadneedle Prize at the Mall Galleries

Wow! There's a cool alternative to the Turner prize. This rather odd and rare show heralds a more confident kind of representational art. At last!

Written by Valerie Pezeron

Man on Fire courtesy of Tim Shaw.

To be honest I had not heard of the Threadneedle Prize before nor was I rushing to attend the preview party on Wednesday the 1st of September. The Mall galleries have managed over the years to develop a reputation as the purveyor of stuffy exhibitions.

Phenomena (1) courtesy of Jarik Jongman

But no! No this new cool kid on the block of a prize with its decisively rock n roll intention of freeing figurative art from the shackles of conceptual taste. Move over Turner Prize. It was a nice surprise to get acquainted with this young show at a time when similarly funded prizes are running scarce and the government siphons money erstwhile dedicated to the Arts to programs deemed more “in the public’s interest”.

Oil Baron courtesy of Martin Roberts.

Detail of Moon Loght courtesy of Mark Entwisle

Let’s huff a long sigh of relief! At last art on display that does not pretend to be what it’s not… Yep, more about this dedicated art lover has been more than once unimpressed by the shovelful of bad abstract material pushed down her throat! But let’s not be mistaken by what kind of art Threadneedle is offering us either; theirs is a bold break from the past with a new kind of figurative art that does not pretend to ignore the Tate came that way and altered the artistic landscape.

Displace courtesy of Louise Folliott.

This second will last forever courtesy of Fiona Finnegan

This year the public is encouraged to choose the Visitor’s Choice award’s £10,0000 winning entry. Let me tell you what I was definitely not going to vote for! Some things seemed rather gimmicky to me such as the upside down portrait of Georgina by Oliver Jones. It’s upside down so it is clever so it’s in?

It’s a Bloomin’ Marble! courtesy of Garry Martin

Plexus courtesy of Valerie Jolly and Toilet Pipes courtesy of Thomas Doran

The exhibition’s booklet read, “our selectors have chosen a smaller but more coherent exhibition than previous years” with 2,170 submissions to arrive to a final 46. So why in the world choose such dreary artefacts that seemed to me to make more of a statement than to offer any redeeming value to the overall group! I was mightily unimpressed by Simon Carter’s Gulls on a Breakwater – it’s representational but hey look, doesn’t it seem abstract? Or Enzo Marra’s John Singer Sargent- it’s got thick paint and tonal Sargent palette. Is that all? Toilet pipes seemed to be all the rage this year…

But to be fair the overall level of work on display was very high. I fell in love with the sculptures and installations. Man on Fire by Tim Shaw (see above) got me all worked up and Stuart McCaffer (see below) got the crowd queuing to enjoy its view! Built like a shed, it reminded me of a watchtower somewhere in the Scottish Highlandds. The dichotomy between the sense of isolation and of space and freedom was interesting.

Den courtesy of Stuart McCaffer.

The prize spoke to me most when it was attempting to be political, daring, intriguing or just plain funny. Special mention to Wendy Elia’s Elsewhere, Jarik Jongman’s piece or the Anna Adamkiewicz cabinet.

Cabinet courtesy of Anna Adamkiwicz

Elsewhere courtesy of Wendy Elia

Frame, Figure, Frame, Figure courtesy of Caroline Walker

But my personal favourite was Caroline Walker’s surreal narrative. I am still haunted by the evocative psychological space this painting put me in. Very troubling.

Clee Hill courtesy of Boyd and Evans

The Threadneedle Prize for painting and sculpture runs until the 18th of September 2010 at the Mall Galleries, the Mall, London SW1.


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