Are you the next Chagall? Enter Arthouse and find out

By Simon Round, May 18, 2012
Last year’s Art House winners, Aileen Jampel (left)

Last year’s Art House winners, Aileen Jampel (left)

After last year’s successful exhibition, Art House returns this year to the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Artists, whether amateur or professional, are invited to submit up to three works. The best of these will be displayed at the LJCC’s home at Ivy House in north London.
So what are the judges looking for? And what distinguishes a great painting from an ordinary one? We asked four Art House judges about the process of deciding which entries should be displayed at the exhibition.

Julia Weiner
Teacher and art critic
l “The first thing to catch my eye is composition. Is the piece nicely composed? Does it please the eye? Or maybe it is quite jarring, but still compelling.

“Colour is really important to me. Of course, there are prints and drawing which are not coloured, but if it is a painting, I am attracted to daring, inventive or pleasing use of colour.

“The ability to draw well is also crucial. Anyone can see that Picasso can draw amazingly well even though his figures might not be not the way one would see them in real life. Line versus colour is a big art historical debate. A lot of the work we get in Art House is traditionally figurative and in those works I would be looking for something to show that the artist is able to draw and can cope with perspective.

“We don’t want anything that is terribly derivative — where you look at something and say, that’s just a copy of such and such.

“The most important thing is for a piece to catch the eye and have something really inventive whether in subject matter or composition. Last year we had some wonderful works on glass and I have already been asked if its OK to submit something on glass this year. The answer is yes — if it can be hung on a wall and doesn’t need electricity, then it is fine. Photography is welcomed. We are looking for unusual angles and unusual subjects — that is the key. The work doesn’t have to be Jewish. We had some strong Jewish work last year but we did reject some Jewish paintings as well.

“Last year’s winner was a very traditional flower piece which was beautifully rendered and colourful. I want to include everyone because this is a community exhibition but unfortunately there is only so much space.”

David Glasser
Chairman of the Ben Uri Gallery
l “For me it is about a high degree of competence and practice, and about the ability to engage. Those are the things which are the principal criteria when judging art competitions.

“We’re not interested in pastiches — we try and avoid the artist that reproduces somebody else’s concept, even if they add their own flavour. We look for originality, distinctiveness, a degree of professional practice and ultimately engagement.

“The engagement element is subjective — there are a many great paintings in the world which don’t do it for me. But originality is not subjective — either a piece is influenced by Damien Hirst or Vincent van Gogh or it is not. Professional practice is not subjective either. Distinctiveness is subjective to a degree but more to those who are not knowledgeable than those who are. This issue of originality need not be the critical thing because a lot of great artists painted very similarly. Artists are influenced by other artists. The difference is that good artists add something, whereas the average artist replicates it with a twist.

“The problem with judging is not with the artists who are exceptionally able — those are the easy ones. The problem is when you’re down to the ones in the middle. We examine how subtle the painting is, how many layers it has. You can have a drawing which is very nice but has no depth to it. You can’t look at it from another angle. Most great artists have two or three layers. The really great artists have many more.”

David Lewis
Private collector and LJCC deputy chairman
l “The first thing you are looking for is original talent. You are looking for something which you can notice from the other side of the room. If you can notice it from the other side of the room that is always rather encouraging. You are looking for something that makes you think — that can relax you or excite you, depending on what mood you are in. Also, something that stirs a reaction, whether good or bad, cheerful or miserable.

“By definition, when you look at an artwork, your reaction is subjective. The ability to become objective depends on how disciplined you are and your knowledge and experience of looking at things — your ability to rise above that initial impression. That said, great masters have always copied other great masters from Rubens and Velazquez onwards. Rubens was always copying everyone else.

“It’s fine to be inspired but not to copy, to take other work as your inspiration and add your own stamp to it. Amateur artists should be inspired by the works they have seen both ancient and modern, but they shouldn’t produce copies.

“There are some disagreements between judges but we usually find a consensus. I would describe objectivity as an infinite number of subjectivities added together. When you think you are being objective you are still applying a subjective view which is conditioned by your training and your experience.”

Patrick Bade
Senior tutor at Christie’s auction house
l “There are no hard and fast rules with judging. I would say that it’s totally subjective, so artists should not be discouraged if rejected. For me, judging is instinctive — I don’t have a checklist. I would add that all of the judges come from a different angle but even then it is quite rare for us to disagree. Every now and then there is a divergence of opinion but in these cases we tend to go with the person who has the most positive view.

“Essentially what we are trying to decide is whether a painting succeeds in what it is setting out to do Considering that this is basically an amateur exhibition, last year there were some works of a very high standard.”

Art House, organised and hosted by the London Jewish Cultural Centre in partnership with the JC, invites amateur and professional artists to submit works for exhibition at Ivy House.
A diverse team of curators, including a professional artist, an expert in fine art, a renowned collector and the JC’s art critic, will select the works for display.
l Art House will accept paintings, drawings, prints and photographs.
l Works must be submitted to Ivy House on August 30, August 31, September 2 or September 3.
l Works must be ready to hang and must be no larger than 1.5m x 1m.
l Artists must be 16 or older.
l Entry fee is £10 to submit one work or £25 for a maximum submission of three works. The fee is non-refundable.
l Exhibitors may sell their work.
l Not all works submitted will be chosen for display.
l Selected works will be displayed from September 9–October 11.
For full details, terms and conditions and entry form visit

Last updated: 12:24pm, May 18 2012