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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent