Visual Arts: Now you see them - soon you probably won't

With Prince Charles and Brian Sewell as guest curators, The Mall Galleries can hardly have been aiming for another `Sensation'. And no, there isn't a YBA in sight. Nor, Andrew Lambirth regrets, much else to tease `The Discerning Eye'.

"The Discerning Eye" is usually an open-submission exhibition selected by six eminent individuals: two artists, two critics and two collectors. The idea is that the public uses a discerning eye to compare and contrast the coming artist with the established. By and large, the works are small, and therefore affordable, though this is by no means always the case.

The problem with all large mixed exhibitions is the muddle. Perhaps the visitor gravitates to the selector whose name he knows best or whose work he most sympathises with, or perhaps admires. This might be Prince Charles or Brian Sewell. Again, it might not. The selector best off in this show is the painter Michael Reynolds. Not only is his own work substantially represented in Brian Sewell's selection, but he has a separate room in which to hang his choice. To find it, enter the Mall Galleries by the front door, and go down the stairs to the right. There you will find the likes of Leonard McComb depicting a group of green and orange ridgy tomatoes; or George Rowlett lovingly lashing on the impasto to capture the East Kent countryside; or Jenny Durrant weaving inventive patterns of rich colour.

Continuing at sub-ground level, the visitor may pass through into the main gallery. There he or she will encounter the other artist-selector, Ray Richardson. This body of work is altogether more tricksy and sophisticated, wreathed in modernist references and knowing allusions. Note the faux- naivete of Simon Laurie, aping the real naivety of Alfred Wallis. Or the Bill Jacklin crowd-scene take-offs by Jonathan Huxley. Veteran abstract painter Bert Irvin contributes two works that look as fresh and joyful as ever.

Further along, the collector AN Solomons reasserts traditional painterly portraits, still-lives and landscapes that are competent but largely uninspired. The exception is a bright interior landscape by Gus Cummins, a table-top strewn with things: a reel, a cylinder, cubes - all sharp colour-accents and mysterious long shadows.

The other collector is HRH the Prince of Wales, whose choice inclines rather towards the quirky than the controversial. Light-filled landscapes are evidently a favourite, such as Norman Sayle's brisk water-colour of a house in Menorca. A more evanescent mood is caught by Sarah Armstrong Jones, cousin to the Prince, and a watercolourist of quiet but authoritative atmospheres. By contrast, three brightly-patterned, almost Islamic, paintings by Kate Montgomery stand out on this predominantly well-behaved and low- key wall.

From there to the critic Susan Moore's choice. Harriet Mena Hill, one of our better younger painters, is well-represented with three paintings. Two feature evocative cell-like structures resembling the pattern of dry- stone walls and fields seen from the air, all dark and bright. The third is of a triple archway with diamond-patterned floor and holy water stoup. Among Moore's choices are also old favourites such as Leonard Rosoman and Norman Blamey, and the hallucinatory realism of Alan Robb's painting, Auchmithie stones and bladderwrack.

If you follow this route through the exhibition, it ends with a bang - Brian Sewell's choice. Typically, Sewell flouts the rules and has invited six artists to submit. A group of works by each of them is hung with other individual items taken from the public send-in. Thus there are 10 dark Goya-esque paintings by Ansel Krut, and a dozen orangey-brown mythic nudes by Igor Kufayev, in which Frank Dobson meets Maillol. The sculpture dotted throughout the exhibition is generally appalling, and Sewell's choice is no exception. The best things in this section are undoubtedly the dozen paintings by Peter Spens - landscapes of real accomplishment.

Prince Charles himself has said he found fascinating the fact that so many of the artists he'd chosen had never been heard of, nor even been to art school. While not for a moment wishing to deprive them of their 15 minutes of glory, the reason that so many are - and will remain - obscure, is that they will never produce anything to change the course of art. However charming, these exhibits could scarcely be called earth-shattering. Nor inventive. Nor challenging. They are in fact far too easy on the eye.

At The Mall Galleries, London SW1, to 30 Nov

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

    Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

    Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific