Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

Review: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

General 

The artwork is, as usual, very good. The marketing less so. I expand on both below.

I had a general impression while walking around the exhibition that the overall size of artwork was maybe smaller this year. I wouldn’t find this in the least bit surprising if artists are trying hard to keep their artwork affordable in the context of the current economic challenges.

What I did see were a LOT of red spots – mostly for smaller artwork priced at less than £500.

I applaud the SWLA for consistently sponsoring bursaries and projects recording habitat and species and the environmental challenges to species diversity – which you can see in the North Gallery.

Artworks

Sculpture by Adam Binder and original prints by various artists

This is always an excellent exhibition – primarily because it promotes artwork by those take inspiration from the natural world who work primarily from life in terms of observation in the field, rather than meticulous copying of photographs. 

This leads to a great range in terms of diversity of styles.

The exhibition also  includes the Out of the Frame room which shares fieldwork made by SWLA artists who visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Denmark in May for the second part of the SWLA Wadden Sea Project. 

However, it includes an awful LOT of artworks which feature birds. I’m well aware that some ornithologists are avid art collectors and birds typically sell well. 

However, I’d welcome more artwork of wildlife from different classes of wildlife. Importantly, given its focus on artwork arising from observation this inevitably means that it excludes very many species which might be seen in other wildlife exhibitions e.g. there’s a dearth of big cats – much favoured by those who work from photographs.

View of East Gallery
View in North Gallery

Most artwork comes from artists in the UK – but it also includes artwork from artists in different countries.

The show always celebrates the diversity of life on the planet and our artists have been busy collecting images and portraying encounters from Africa to the Arctic as well as our home shores.

In terms of artworks from the open entry, I noted that – unlike some other exhibitions – the selectors of this exhibition are not afraid to select several artworks by individual artists of merit from the open entry.

view of part of the North Gallery

Hanging of the exhibition

I liked the way this exhibition has been hung in such a way that the majority of artworks by member artists have been grouped which provide a very coherent view of what an artist produces. In some ways this reiterates what we see when viewing the exhibition online. For me it means that art collectors and those who are fans of an artist can see most or all of their artwork in one place – making decisions as to what to buy somewhat easier.

I also liked the way that original fine art prints have been grouped into specific areas of the exhibition. Hanging prints together enhances all prints and eliminates the competition with paintings.

Robert Gillmor’s death in 2022 is of particular significance. He was a Founder of the Society of Wildlife Artists and also a Past President. I’ll miss his spare but effective linocut prints in future exhibitions. One was used as the feature image for the cover of the Catalogue.

Tribute wall of linocuts by Robert Gillmore MBW PPSWLA (1936-2022)

Blackthorn Blackbird by Robert Gillmor
– used as the image for the front cover of the catalogue

I spotted a painting of a Snoozing Macaque by Toby Wright which I thought was rather good – and refreshing change from all those birds!

Awards & Prizes

Awards are VERY important to artists. They 

  • represent recognition of their expertise 
  • help them get accepted as an exhibiting artist by art galleries
  • go on their CVs and websites and are generally used to help promote both artwork and the artist’s career.

In relation to generating entries for open competitions, a decent set of awards tend to generate more open entries – IF there are lots of awards or decent cash prizes.

I’m now going to repeat a view expressed about a previous exhibition at the Mall Galleries – which reflects a change which I find very odd.

award winners on the exhibition website at the Mall Galleries

I cannot find any acceptable explanation – as to why Sponsors  and sponsorship should so be so low key and/or be ignored in terms of awards and prizes.

  • there’s no list of prizewinners at the front desk. I was told people could see the labels – however…..
  • It’s difficult to spot labels for prizewinners on the wall as the label looks very much like one of the standard labels providing basic details about the artwork artist media and price. Why can’t award labels be a slightly different colour to highlight the award more clearly
  • in the Online Exhibition, artworks which win prizes are labelled merely as “award winner” in the titles. 
    • The actual name of the award – which generally includes the sponsor – only gets highlighted in smaller print
    • Nothing is stated about what the artwork is for

By way of contrast, the SWLA has a page on its website where it includes motifs of current sponsors – but makes no effort to say 

  • either what the awards are about 
  • or who has won them to date.

This is NOT the way to get repeat or new sponsorship! Neglect the reasons why sponsors provide awards and prizes at your peril. 

Other art societies I know – which get LOTS of sponsors – are those who go to the trouble of

  • making sure the sponsorship is VERY clearly highlighted on the website and in the online exhibition – and s
  • uitable views expressed about how grateful the art society is for the sponsorship. 

It’s simply not enough to say it’s highlighted on Instagram or Facebook when not everybody views art on social media or to make names of sponsors a footnote to an exhibition.

Art Societies have to work hard to get and keep sponsors. That’s not evident at the moment on the Mall Galleries website or in some FBA Society exhibitions. It’s almost as if they’re ignorant of a very basic fact of marketing life when it comes to sponsorship.

REFERENCE: Society of Wildlife Artists


2021

2020

2019
2018
2017

2016 – Review – Society of Wildlife Artists 53rd Annual Exhibition
2015 – Review: Society of Wildlife Artist’s 52nd Annual Exhibition (2015)
2014 – Video: 2014 Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 – Review: 50th Annual Exhibition – Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 – If you want a lot of people at the Private View……
2013 – Society of Wildlife Artists – a new book and a bursary
2012 – Review: 49th Annual Exhibition – Society of Wildlife Artists
2011 – Review: Society of Wildlife Artists – Annual Exhibition
2009 – Society of Wildlife Artists – Annual Exhibition 2009
2008 – 45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2007 – Society of Wildlife Artists at the new Mall Galleries

Angelia S. Rico

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