This week sees the opening of arguably the most important and certainly the most expensive show ever put on at the Mall Galleries: The Threadneedle Figurative Prize, which runs from 20 August to 6 September. Graphics of the 71 selected entries are online (title link) although you can't vote for your favourite until 19 August (voting closes at noon on 3 September). I'm usually enthusiastic about exhibitions at the home of the Federation of British Artists, but this show is a sad disappointment. The lay figure used to promote the competition implies that representations of the human figure are the subject of this award, but no. The selectors have chosen the widest definition of "figurative", which is "non-abstract". So anything goes, from landscapes to a dog. That would be fine if works of high quality had been submitted and selected, but no again. The bulk of selections are unimaginative and poor in execution. The 7 shortlisted entries aren't the best by a long way. If this event is "showcasing the finest in contemporary British figurative art" it's time for Brits to toss their paintbrushes into the bin! However, all is not lost. I spotted a few excellent urban landscapes and four paintings which I thought outstanding for different reasons:
Paul Brason - Eighteen (CLICK)
Mary Jane Ansell - Anima/Animus (CLICK)
Marie Harnett - Delysia Doorway (CLICK)
Tessa Coleman - Winter 1565 (CLICK).
Paul Brason's fine portrait of his 18-year-old son cleverly uses dramatic lighting to symbolize the break from childhood to adulthood. Mary Jane Ansell's Anima/Animus has fun with gender roles. Marie Harnett's entry is one of a series of paintings inspired by movie stills. And Tessa Coleman's Winter 1565 plays around with the perspective of Pieter Brueghel's brilliant painting The Hunters In The Snow. All four artists communicated a fresh vision to me.
Whatever you think of my favourites or the standard of entries in general, I believe it is important to cast your vote. We are the punters, and there is big prize money at stake (CLICK). If you don't fancy the show or can't visit it, do cast your vote online.