First Prize in the Coventry Open 2020: Gabrielle Roberts-Dalton RBSA
Gabrielle Roberts-Dalton was elected associate member of the RBSA in 2014. You can see three of her portraits in the RBSA Open 2020.
I’ve been entering work into the Coventry Open biennial since 2012 and have always held my breath until getting notification of work being selected. You can imagine it’s quite important to me as it’s my home town and in 2014 I had been awarded the visitors vote for an oil painting.
This year I actually felt more nervous, perhaps because I have been lucky to have had at least one work accepted every year I’ve entered. It’s not easy to predict what the judges will choose, each year they change (there is no constant). Obviously each judge will have a certain amount of subjectivity, it’s unavoidable. So for me to receive the email telling me both my works had been selected for the Coventry Open 2020 was fantastic! But the added bonus was something I had never considered – to actually win First Prize.
They notified me my Indian ink drawing ‘The Conversation’- Thin Tissue/Menopause series had been awarded First Prize by the panel of three judges (Aidan Moesby, Alexandra Blum and Sylvia Theuri). I was really delighted, shocked and excited… but I was asked not to tell anyone until the launch party on the 28th Feb – a week and half! Not easy. However, I could celebrate getting both my drawing and an oil painting selected for the exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.
Both works are part of my Menopause series, recent works under the sub-heading Thin Tissue, a group of paintings and drawings exploring the effects of the menopause on body tissue, flesh and mind. In both works the woman (me) is wearing a headdress made from crumpled paper (A ruff or flower head), partly symbolizing brain fog, but also ageing flesh and thin tissue that prevails and changes. I make pieces/props in the studio that I can then bring into the images in my drawings and paintings.
The winning work ‘The Conversation’ (Ink drawing) is slightly bizarre, a woman sitting covered with a headdress, drinking a cup of tea while wearing over-sized gloves. But her bare feet touch the floor with legs veined, sandals discarded alongside a hand mirror and a book titled Cell Death, the mechanism of life. A profile at the top of the picture is larger than life or just nearer to the viewer, maybe the calm side, the inner voice, the same person or another? I always want ambiguity, so the viewer may read the piece differently. The use of different size nibs is always interesting and I like to explore mark making with the fluid technique of using Indian ink with a dip pen. It’s like walking a tight rope, never certain of the outcome, mirroring life’s unpredictability but trying to bring control to the final result. Drawing is the basic form of visual art, the fundamental idea, the first primary image of touch. So for my drawing to win first prize feels an essential validation to me as an Artist.
The opening night was nerve-wracking but exciting. To finally have my work announced as the winner and be awarded my prize by one of the judges and standing for photos for PR (not easy). The biggest thrill was seeing my work hung, and discussing my work and drawing in general with Alex Blum (artist & judge).
The Coventry Open 2020 is exhibited at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in gallery 6 until Sunday 19th April. Admission is free, open Monday to Sat 10am-4pm Sunday 12noon-4pm.
By Gabrielle Roberts-Dalton
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The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue – the RBSA Gallery – in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre. The gallery is open 7 days a week and admission to all our exhibitions is free.
Find out how to reach the RBSA Gallery here.
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