“If one is a master of one thing well, one has insight into and understanding of many things.” This simple quote by Vincent Van Gogh sums up in one sentence the importance of all artists learning the tradition, rules and methods of the Old Masters, even if those lessons are later inverted or even discarded altogether. Which is exactly the creative path Picasso took! The Young Masters Art Prize seeks out contemporary artists who adhere to the stylistic elements championed by past Masters such as Michaelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio. There are wide interpretations of both the term ‘Old Master’ and the word ‘young’. Perhaps some of the talented middle-aged artists who have their work on display are potential Young Masters as regards the timeline of history rather than the timeline of their lives. This is what makes this celebration of talent so exciting.
On October 4th the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery in Piccadilly hosted the launch of this competition, the displayed paintings, photographs and sculptures from previous entrants giving a broad idea of the standard required this year. This call for artists, run by the Cynthia Corbett Gallery, is in its fourth year and on a mission to find talent that neither models nor mimics the greats but is merely grounded in its classic lessons of form, light and perspective. Reinvention is actively encouraged.
Charlotte Bracegirdle’s The Entombment of Christ is a fine example of the equivocal spirit of the prize. Yet tucked away at the far end of the gallery, as it is, it seemingly represents the essence rather than the vanguard of the competition. And like all the work exhibited at this well-attended launch, it required much squeezing through crowds and detailed examination before full appreciation of this elusive essence. Once there you will find all is not as it seems because she uses already existing reproductions of Old Masters’ work and reinterprets these images by painting on them.
For more probable gallery vanguards there are paintings in the front gallery that at a glance bring to mind 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring and photographs that if they were frescoes wouldn’t seem out of place on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Bracegirdle’s approach, however, might seem to some a more fitting example of Old Master and Contemporary Pupil. Forty years after another Modern Master Picasso showed the world canvases in post-modern transition from figurative through to abstract, Bracegirdle’s work puts a clever twist on this restless contemporary desire to refuse to take form exactly as it appears to be.
Look out for the Young Masters Art Prize 2017!