From 6,500 entries from artists around the UK, 628 artworks have been selected for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition by a panel of celebrities and tastemakers. In this feature, we look at which artworks caught the judging panel’s eye.
On the opening night of the exhibition, which took place on Thursday, 16 November 2023, the educational charity The Discerning Eye and Dutch bank ING announced the prize winners, with 17 outstanding artists receiving prize money close to £15,000 in total.
The selection panel for the exhibition, sponsored by the Dutch bank ING, comprised:
- Tony Adams MBE, former England footballer and manager.
- Eliza Gluckman, Director, Government Art Collection.
- Chris Levine, a light artist famous for his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, Equanimity.
- Péjú Oshin, curator, writer, and lecturer, Associate Director, Gagosian.
- Ian H. Watkins, singer and actor.
- Julian Wild, sculptor, fellow of The Royal Society of Sculptors.
The ING Purchase Prize, worth £5,000, was awarded to Christine Brunnock for her mixed-media seascape titled Emergence (above). Christine hails from the picturesque Cornish seaside town of St Ives. From here, she produces art that evokes the rolling waves of her coastal hometown. Christine’s masterful use of painterly texture, vibrant blues, and expressive brushstrokes brings the sea’s energy into her canvas.
“Creating art has always been a way to express myself,” she said. “Immersing myself within Cornwall’s wild and raw environment, I set out to capture the experience of being there. Responding to the elements and energy, exploring the patterns and layers of ancient rocks and studying its interaction with the ocean.”
The Discerning Eye Founder’s Prize, an accolade honouring the charity’s founder, Michael Reynolds, worth £2,500, went to the London-based painter Andrew Torr for his compelling cityscape Estate (The House of the Hanged Man).
Originally hailing from Yorkshire and now a resident of London, Andrew focuses on nocturnal scenes in his neighbourhood. “I’ve lived and worked around the open spaces, the commons of the South West of London for most of my life”, he shares.
“I’ve always seen something remarkable in those spaces – the melancholy, expectation, the beauty and the romance in them – especially at night. As much as my paintings are poems about London, they are paintings about the twenty-first-century city.”
The Discerning Eye Chair’s Purchase Prize, worth £1,000, was awarded to Jonathan Alibone for his painting ‘A View of The Forest at Dusk, With Rising Smoke’.
In a nod to the Romantic tradition, this moody nocturnal painting represents a cloud of white smoke ascending amid shadowy dark pines, inviting viewers into a captivating realm where the external landscape and inner emotion intertwine.
Based in Northampton, Jonathan describes his work as a meditation on the duality between nature and culture.
“My paintings are a meditation on the conflict between the deep geological past and a profoundly uncertain future”, he explained.
“Specifically our precarious relationship with the natural world, with our environment and our history, signifying upheaval and the destructive activities that alter and transform both physical and imagined landscapes.”
The Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary Prize, worth £1,500, was awarded to Paul Dilworth for his entries, three intimate portraits: ‘Mum Asleep’, ‘Mum in the Afternoon’ and ‘Mum watching television’. Chosen by Discerning Eye’s advisory Artists’ Educational Panel each year, this bursary allows the recipient further to develop their practice.
“I very much enjoy drawing, people especially,” said Paul, “I do this as a first step to create an oil portrait. I try to capture an expression or mood. Accurate drawing is absolutely essential.”
Eleanor Dunn claimed the Mervyn Metcalf Purchase Prize for ‘OH BOY!’ —a hyperrealistic pencil drawing that transcends the boundaries of art and reality.
Every stroke of the pencil breathes life into this close-up portrait of a teenager. Every meticulous detail is laid bare —the delicate blond hairs of a nascent moustache, the skin’s pores and freckles, and each strand of blonde hair framing the face. The subject gazes directly at the viewer, devoid of a smile, inviting contemplation.
“One of the best possible ways a person can look closer at a subject is by drawing it, and this is where my practice begins,” she said.
“I use graphite pencil to recreate images as accurately as I can. Interrogating subjects in obsessive detail, I find qualities that are unnoticeable in real life. The subject that I choose to look closer at is that of sex and physical connection. Each blemish, expression and imperfection is recreated to build an image of raw feeling.”
The new Tabish Khan Critic’s Prize went to Michael Richards for ‘La Boutique Noir’, an intriguing photograph of a dark shop façade. The photographer captures a sense of mystery through a painterly composition that leaves viewers wondering what’s inside.
“Art collecting should be for everyone,” says Tabish, also known as the London Art Critic. “I wanted to give a prize to a work under £200 so aspiring collectors can see there’s an affordable entry point for anyone who wants to start buying art.”
“Start buying art. That first work could be the foundation for building a collection. The range of prices in this exhibition – starting at £75 – means there is something for everyone here.”
All works in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition are for sale. Because of their small scale (under 20 inches/50 centimetres in any dimension), the works displayed in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition aim to be accessible to all art lovers, even those with limited spaces or budgets.
The ING Discerning Eye exhibition is unique for its focus on small-scale works and its selection process. Each selector makes their choices independently, resulting in the curation of six small exhibitions within the whole.
Proudly supported by ING for 25 years, the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is one of the longest-running commercial art sponsorships in the UK. Since it began in 1999, 11,500 works by 4,000 artists have been exhibited, £300,000 has been awarded in prize money, and over £1 million worth of art has been sold on behalf of the artists.
You can view all of the award-winning works and more than 600 outstanding pieces in total in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition with free entry at the Mall Galleries, London. Viewings take place from Friday, 17 November to Sunday, 26 November 2023, and it is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm until Saturday, 25 November. On Sunday, 25 November, the viewing time is 10 am to 1 pm.
Seven regional prizes, worth £250 each, were awarded by the board of Discerning Eye to outstanding talent around the UK:
- Wales: Nicolette Moglia, Mermaids, selected by Tony Adams
- North of England: Heather Alderson, Close to you, selected by Eliza Gluckman
- Northern Ireland: Joanne Gault, Cré Dubh, selected by Chris Levine
- Scotland: Molly Kent, Error Message, selected by Tony Adams
- South of England: Chris Shaw Hughes, Behind Iceland, Worthing, selected by Eliza Gluckman
- Midlands: Esteban Pena Parga, Untitled, selected by Tony Adams
- London: Henrietta Macphee, A few missing things, selected by Eliza Gluckman
The full list of prize winners can be seen below.
- ING Purchase Prize, £5,000: Christine Brunnock, Emergence, selected by Ian “H” Watkins
- Discerning Eye Founder’s Prize, £2,500: Andrew Torr, Estate (The House of the Hanged Man), selected by Julian Wild
- Discerning Eye Chair’s Purchase Prize, £1,000: Jonathan Alibone, A View of The Forest at Dusk, With Rising Smoke, selected by Tony Adams
- Mervyn Metcalf Purchase Prize, £500: Eleanor Dunn, OH BOY!, selected by Tony Adams
- Tabish Khan Critic’s Purchase Prize, £200: Michael Richards, La Boutique Noir, selected by Peju Oshin
- Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary, £1,500: Paul Dilworth, for his three entries
- Parker Harris Mentoring Prize, worth £600: Lola Betiku, Options (below), selected by Peju Oshin
- Cityscape Prize, £300: Nick Short, Royal Festival Hall Urban Study 1, selected by Chris Levine
- Landscape Prize, £300: Sarah Bold, Big Little Scotland, selected by Ian “H” Watkins
- Sculpture Prize, £300: Cedric Christie, Conflict, selected by Julian Wild
- Portrait Prize, £300: Samira Addo, She’s seen, selected by Eliza Gluckman
- Print Prize, £300: Rachel Ashley, Lost Kite 4, selected by Chris Levine
About The Discerning Eye
Established in the UK in 1990, the Discerning Eye is an educational charity dedicated to encouraging a broader understanding and appreciation of the visual arts, as well as stimulating debate about both the place and purpose of art in our society and the contribution each one of us can make to its development.
In 2021, the Discerning Eye organised a series of online conferences and events, engaging and educating over 5,000 artists on topics such as using social media to promote their art, working with galleries, and communicating with collectors. You can learn more at discerningeye.org.
Read more art news and features here.