The Walker Art Gallery
18th September - 28th November 2004
There were nearly two thousand entries for this year’s John Moores
23 award. Judges including Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker then whittled these
down to four hundred and then the 56 to be exhibited for the Biennial.
The collection encompasses a wide variety of styles - from almost photographic
realism to the most incomprehensible abstract art.
Five prizewinners were selected from the fifty-six exhibits. Alex Harding
took the top honour, with 'Slump/Fear' - a ponderous and weighty orange
and black combination of oil and gloss on MDF. After applying the paint,
Harding waited months for the paint to dry, and it gives the impression
of collapsing in on itself. Judging by the name, this was exactly what
In second place is Andrew Grassie’s 'The Making of the Painting'
- an incredibly intricate painting of his studio that resembles a photo
unless inspected very closely. It clearly took a lot of skill to produce,
but then it’s just a picture of a studio, so I found myself wondering
Dougal McKenzie claimed a prize for his 'Last of the French Night Marches
(Culloden III)', along with Sarah Pickstone for 'The Park II' and Alex
Pollard for 'Outlaw Vortex' - a menacing and sinister manipulation of
a Robin Hood portrait that swirls darkly as if the bandit folk hero is
being sucked into oblivion!
Other efforts worthy of a special mention include Covadonga Valdés’
'Hideaway I' - which beautifully captures the light and shade of a secluded
wooded glade and made me want to climb into it for a lazy afternoon picnic!
Alternately, Susie Hamilton’s 'Flamboyant Jungle' is a frantic and
glorious tangle of colours. Unfortunately, the judges found room in the
collection for Leo Fitzmaurice’s 'Bayonet' - which consists of a
small box of 13mm steel tacks backed by a massive expanse of white that
he must have spent literally seconds ‘creating’. It is audacious
if nothing else, but drew snorts of derision from almost everyone who
Considering the prestige (not to mention the £25,000 prize money)
attached to the competition, it was disappointing that there is nothing
particularly new or exciting on display. Having said that, the standard
is generally quite high and it is definitely worth a look.
To view the exhibits online, visit