John Moores Painting Prize

The John Moores painting prize is a biennial exhibition held at the Walker gallery. For over sixty years this prize has showcased contemporary painting including Peter Doig, Rose Wylie, Mary Martin and David Hockney. The changing movements of art can be traced through its exhibits such as; realism, figurative work and pop art.

When I attended however, I overwhelmingly perceived abstraction. Maybe this is why the figurative work seemed to stand out or perhaps my interests were developing along these lines.

Using the scheme of analysis from the art students critical writing bible How to write about Contemporary Art (Wilson, 2014) I asked the following key Questions:

“What is it?

What might it mean?

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

(section 3:1)

“What is it?

This was a large primitive style figurative canvas by Andrzej Jackowski, inspired by a real-life event; the birth of his son and entitled using Sylvia Plath’s poem  The Beekeeper’s Daughter (Plath, 1960).

What might it mean?

The use of the unusual motifs and fantastical positioning of the figure , complete with the story behind it alludes to the coming journey of life, unknown potential and unknowable path ahead for the youth of the title.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

The positioning of the large figure in the sky with the landscape beneath or as part of the landscape struck me as very different from the other works surrounding which were large abstracts. This was in some ways more intimate and held resonance for me with the use of poetry as a reference.

“What is it?

Large oil on canvas by prominent artist Peter Doig. Figure of his brother absorbed and reflecting in a frozen landscape created in 1993.

What might it mean?

Although Blotter appears as an ‘outscape‘ in that it refers to the paint permeating the canvas during the creative process. It can also be understood as an ‘inscape’ in that it is contemplative. It conveys the idea of contemplation; th unknowable inner thought processes to the viewer, yet we can relate to the moment. The inwardly absorbed solitary figure both reflecting and reflected on the ice amidst a beautiful winter landscape.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

Many facets of this work intrigued me such as the idea of customizing the landscape almost like a theatrical production. In order to attain the desired image the landscape has been designed and altered by water to enhance the reflective qualities for the artist. The solitary figure absorbed in his reflection with the viewer in turn absorbed and reflecting upon it articulates layered levels of perception. The title having a double meaning for the painter’s own process. The use of colour is powerful with a limited palette of cooler colours. The primary source being a family archive photograph – which I can relate to having used them as source material myself. These were all powerful elements within the work and experence of the work for me.

“What is it?

Oil on canvas, painted in 2006 by Martin Greenland of an imaginery landscape of heaven scaled to our human perception.

What might it mean?

This could be construed as a visionary painting using naturalistic elements and places meaningful to the artist. The positioning of Nature in the foreground, painted in a focused and detailed manner, could be a comment on human endeavour on the planet as the space occupied by the town is minimal compared to landscape and sky. Putting our human place in perspective.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

Martin Greenland has used classical as well as local
references and combined these with the imaginery to create a higher synthesis. I find the combination of these elements inspiring as in some respects they are unlimited, yet they retain recognizable references for the viewer.

From my collected triad, the elements that inspired me and I found powerful and meaningful were the visionary yet classical concept; the use of family archive and poetry- which I am developing; the idea of layered perception and what we ourselves bring to the painting experience.

Are we the narrators?

Do we ascribe meaning or are we receptacles for the artistic vision conveyed?

Does the answer lie in both fields?