Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Culture
In a world where art prizes are so often concerned with image- making and material gain, it is refreshing to find one whose purpose is entirely without cynicism. The aim of the Gilchrist Fisher Award is both to encourage young artistic talent (under the age of 30) and to honour a brilliant art student who died from cancer at the tragically early age of 24. The pounds 3,500 prize money comes not from an institution, but from the pockets of the friends of the late Alasdair Gilchrist Fisher.

This is not an event to engage the attention of the tabloid press. It has no celebrity reception and no television coverage. Furthermore, the works are exclusively on the theme of landscape. This might sound uninspiring, until, that is, you look at the work on view. On the two occasions that I have served on the (unpaid) jury for this modest prize, the standard has been impressively high.

This year's winner, Andrew Cranston, is a Scot who paints with an eye to the achievement of his fellow countryman William Gillies, tempering his lyrical, enigmatic landscapes with an engaging, often whimsical narrative. While all six finalists on show here are worthy of attention, Simon Willems is also particularly worth looking out for. Willems creates large-scale paintings which have the half-remembered look of an old master sketch, and re-contextualizes them by inserting smaller, contrasting panels, to produce landscapes that are concerned with the very practice of painting the landscape.

Both of these artists work with a confidence and self-assurance which belies their age. Willems was born in 1971, Cranston two years earlier, and it is inspiring to be reminded that, amid the hullabaloo of deserved praise attached to the current young Turks of British conceptualism, the more traditional media continue to be pursued with such admirable vigour.

Cadogan Contemporary Gallery, 108 Draycott Ave, London SW3 (0171-581 5451) to 20 Jan

Left: detail from Andrew Cranston's 'Base Camp'

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