During the two visits last year I had made up my mind to enter the 2014 competition and when the Call for Entries was published I had some work to do and choices to be made. A maximum of three entries are allowed per person so this focuses the mind with the knowledge that the three independent selectors will have no background information, so no contextual references for their selection. It reminded me of the exercises a while ago in this module where the first impression was going to have a considerable part to play, while also remembering the type of work seen in 2013 and how that had an eclectic mix.
The competition is open to the residents of seven eastern counties from Lincolnshire to Essex, attracts 200+ artists who submit 400+ works, of which 80 are chosen to be hung in the three main galleries at the Arts Centre for 6 weeks during October and November. There is a Best in Show award of £2000 and 5 other awards, some specifically for painting and drawing.
The selectors names were not known to me but their CV's were obtained as a guide to who am I showing my work to.
John Frankland, teaches sculpture at the Royal College of The Arts, makes large scale public art projects and is represented by a number of international galleries.
Judith King is a director of Arts&Heritage, an agency that is committed to developing unusual opportunities for artists. She has experience in commissioning contemporary work within an historic context and has worked for English Heritage.
Marielle Sbaihi is My Art Invest's art director working from a gallery in London that allows people to buy a share in contemporary artworks.
Knowing more about the selectors was useful but not helpful, other than they all were working in a contemporary art environment and would therefore (hopefully) not be too receptive to photography that was clichéd, poorly presented and technically flawed.
My strategy therefore was to
- Go as big as I could, simply because I can and the works I had in mind were from MF film and my 36MP DSLR and there would be no quality issues.
- Spend the right money on matting and framing to compliment the large prints.
- Send 3 pieces (£12 each entry fee) that covered a number of styles and genre to maximise chances that something would catch their eye.
- Use simple titles, some descriptive and at least one that was ambiguous, once again to spread the betting that one would work.
Some of the strategy does sound as though a broad brush is being used but I did need to cover as many options within three items with the aim of getting at least one selected.
My selection (see below) was focused but serendipity played its part, and while I like full control sometimes I believe that going with the flow can have advantages. I had been working on Assignment 3 for some while and had a large number of images that were good, a few did not fit into the set that I needed. One in particular had been causing concern and I decided this would be better used in a single image environment. It was to be titled "Day 96 - 2014". I am not sure exactly what day it was taken but in my world one day is much the same as any other and 96 seemed about right. "The Lathe" was a print I had made after an experiment with 120 film processing and while I wasn't so sure about its credentials I did like it for more "photographic" reasons than were perhaps justified. "Front Elevation" was a work I did last year with the 24mm Tilt/Shift lens on the D800 and was already framed and ready to show. Its stark graphic qualities and the lack of vertical perspective making it unusual although perhaps a nod towards clichéd and the use of manipulation.
I intended that all the work should be matted and framed with exactly the same board and moulding so that should I wish to show them together at some time there is a synergy within the presentation style. This didn't quite work out as planned. The framer had all the details of the previous work but when I went to collect the two I was astonished to see an off white matt board and the wrong moulding. The moulding was black and the correct width but had no depth and therefore my vision of the three being the same was gone. There was no time to even complain yet alone have it changed. On further inspection however all was not bad, especially Day 96 which seemed better suited to an off white matt board.
For this exhibition there were clear rules about fixings (none allowed) and how to present the work so that the selectors could see without bubble wrap etc in the way. I decided that as mine were behind glass all that was needed was bubble wrap to the frame edges and corner protectors, leaving the front and back clear. There was another rule about the organiser being able to remove the work from the frame for catalogue photography. This I ignored because the framer completely seals the back with tape and it is impossible to take apart. I included a note that should they need an image I would provide them. I am not sure what happened in the end because they never asked for an image but they did make their own for the catalogue. Award winners get their work in the catalogue and you are not advised of that until the exhibition has opened so I can see why they didn't ask for one.
All the work in the exhibition can be for sale if the artist wishes. Pricing work is a difficult process and having read in last years visitors comments people saying they though the works were too expensive I decided on what I considered a reasonable price, bearing in mind the organisers take 35% commission. Framing was costing £75 per piece so I went for £300 each as a sale price for monochrome and £320 for colour. This will be a net revenue of £195 leaving about £100 for me after costs, which seems far too cheap but this is a regional arts show, not Mayfair.
Once delivered to the arts centre there is a 2 week wait for the results and I am amazed at how during that time I could not settle. OCA assessment is a tense time but with only three pieces, unknown selectors, mixed media etc, it was a huge relief when the result came and I had got two selected of the 84 in the show. A few days later I had to collect the unselected work and while there was asked if I would be attending the opening. They seemed smiley when I said yes and that gave me a glimmer of hope for something more.
Last Saturday was the opening and at 2:30 the awards were presented in a little reception typical of any gallery PV or opening night. "Day 96 - 2014" won the £100 Kings Lynn Signs sponsored award. This is an award by the selectors as a runner up to the main award and as it wasn't a painting or drawing the next best available award a photograph could have won.
The exhibition runs until 29th November.
Day 96 - 2014 (Selected - Award winner)
Front Elevation (Selected)
The Lathe (Not Selected)
In this instance everything about the exercise is positive. At the start I was doubtful that I would get any work selected. Over 400 entries, mixed media and being a newcomer were aspects that were against me. My strategy started by looking at last years show and seeing what worked for them, although this year there were different selectors I entered on the basis that if it was work that I had enjoyed making, was good quality technically the there was more than a half chance. It does take time to prepare and my assignment 3 has got way behind in the process but I believe that entering work into juried exhibitions is another way of gaining exposure and having your work assessed in a different environment. It is costly but there is no gain if no pain and I just might sell a piece which would be amazing.
I will visit the show at least twice during the next few weeks and look closer at the other work. The winner was a very special piece by Viki Simpson from her The burning times set.
Looking pleased at the opening (photograph by Richard Fletcher)