Our venues
Our museums and galleries

Also in this section…?

Transcript of podcast by Sacha Craddock on 'An Ornamental Hermit' by Geraint Evans

Introduction: Sacha Craddock is an independent art critic and curator. As one of this year's jurors, here Sacha talks about the prizewinning painting, 'An Ornamental Hermit' by Geraint Evans.

Sacha Craddock: This is a strangely highly realistic picture at one level, another level it seems to have a very strong relation to photography. And there's a family group and it's as if people are posing for a snapshot, or a family snapshot. So we have two lots of space, one where you have receding space and some kind of description of a very sort of well-off but sort of suburban garden, slightly kind of educated background perhaps the kind of, the suburbs of the university or something like that.

And then you have this family and they're in a way laid in a very kind of formal frieze-like way, which is to do with photography, to do with a snapshot but almost as if each one of these people has not necessarily existed in terms of each other obviously in pictures before. And then in the middle is this ridiculous sort of hermit person who obviously is a barking member of the family who does live in a tree house and acts out something wearing sort of healthy looking sandals. And so there's this relationship between the context which is sort of in a way very ordered and decent sort of suburban garden and then the fact that this kind of thing carries on as well.

And it's an interesting picture because it has all this rather heightened sort of way of painting where every single stone is described almost ridiculously. So it's not really the way we look at stones, it's not about really retreating imagery where you actually deal with the image in front and then there's a diffusion towards the back. In fact what you've got is this sort of, almost like an obsessive train spotter type, boyish way of painting which is kind of very deliberate. Here, from left hand side to the right you get a sort of relationship from space to space where things are picked up, stones are picked up, leaves. And so it's very kind of heightened to create though an anti-realist feeling because it's an unreal situation.

So it's clever because it feels as if the picture is being made to record something but the recording is not of actuality but it's of about a sort of rather strange atmosphere which exists within the family. So in fact you get this fantastic relationship between obvious description and then overblown description between the people within the context and the boulders. And the fact that the garden is a bit of a, it's not exactly the kind of garden of very, very free-thinking, free-spirited people, it's also the garden of sort of rather nervous proper family as well. I mean it's incredibly middle-classed, they almost look American. Anyway I'm going off on a flight of fancy! But it's almost like they're so proper that they could almost be Ivy League type American people who are visiting professors here. So that's a very over-zealous understanding, and then you can't see into the hut itself.

Now in terms of its relationship to art, I mean it's part of a kind of freedom about being able to describe and represent, which is very current and a lack of fear about description. But obviously what we're looking at is not, not observation we're talking about a whole relation to portraiture and imagery in a life in an era of photography or post-photography where the painter represents on many planes, which is to do with sort of photographic planes. I wouldn't say that this person has actually hung out in a garden quite like this to actually represent it. As we look across this very unnatural green with the stones that have been thrown there that actually create this sort of - obviously if you were to actually take a machine out to cut it you'd have a hell of a time - so it's sort of very difficult.

Everything's facing in towards this family, there's no real sense of outside intrusion, so there's a metaphor for the strangeness that exists within domestic situations and the things that carry on that actually you don't necessarily see, you don't necessarily know and in a way you don't necessarily care about. And there's a sort of pride within this but also a sense of resignation on her part and the child thinking 'oh God this is normal' and the man, maybe he's a husband. Maybe he's thinking about his work as well. They're all in other worlds. So it's an interesting work and beautifully executed.