David Elliott Q&A
How did you find the process of judging the Sovereign Art Prize?
Fascinating. There is a wide range of different kinds of work and it’s good to do it blind - in the sense that one doesn’t know the name, age or country of origin of the artists.
What did you bring to the role of judge from your own line of work?
Over 30 years’ experience of setting up and running museums of modern and contemporary art all over the world, as well as curating hundreds of art exhibitions over this time.
Did you set out with a clear idea of the criteria you would be judging the works by?
Yes. Simply quality. Of course quality has many faces and as part of this I looked for creativity, talent, originality, timeliness, an awareness of cultural and historical context, a sense of what may be beautiful (even in terrifying aspects) and a strong affirmative life force which may at times be expressed by a sense of separation or outrage.
Are there themes that recur from the art that you have judged?
Not so much themes as genres: a particular kind of misty landscape, critical realist portraits, views of temples and so on.
What single piece stood out for you and why?
Traditional Japanese painter Kumi Machida’s boldly drawn babies’ heads and local boy Simon Birch’s nervous portraits that were shown a couple of years back.
This year, I really liked a large drawing that seemed like a 17th century anatomical diagram but when you look more closely it shows a strange metamorphosis between human and insect.