Visual Arts: Objective vision

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Indy Lifestyle Online
`The Discerning Eye' presents small-scale works which make ideal Christmas presents. But, in the past, there has been a minor problem with quality control

The Discerning Eye is an annual exhibition, with prizes, aimed at a deliberately domestic audience. A show, in other words, of small-scale works to buy and take home. It's no accident that they always hold it a few weeks before Christmas.

The formula for the exhibition is always the same. Six selectors (2 critics, 2 artists and 2 collectors) each invite artists to contribute a few works which are then are added to many more gathered from open submission. Then the selection begins, with each of the panel choosing their own mini- exhibition - if, that is, there is anything that they deem worthy of their support. A problem for one of the selectors, the critic Brian Sewell, who has described the quality of previous submissions as "abysmal... dipping to a point unacceptable beyond the walls of the amateur art club of Scrotum Magna".

This year, he's bent the rules a little by sticking almost exclusively to the artists that he invited, which isn't quite in the spirit of the thing, but preserves his critical dignity. With the exception of Sewell, who makes his own announcement in the catalogue, we aren't told who invited who, or which pictures came from the open submission, but it's fairly easy to guess.

Among the best of a very varied bunch are: Sarah Armstrong Jones's little landscapes - there, I'm sure, by the invitation of her cousin HRH Prince Charles, one of this year's designated collectors; Frances Borden's self portraits and Harriett Mena Hill's architectural landscapes, both in the selection of the critic Susan Moore; and Jennifer Durrant's Matisse-like abstractions, chosen by the painter Michael Reynolds. There are more than 400 works in all, none of them bigger than 20 inches. Happy shopping.

`The Discerning Eye', Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1, (01372 462190) 20-30 November