As an open competition the SPECTRUM art prize encourages a truly unimagined relation to the work itself, where artwork rather than curatorial presumption will dictate the selection. An 'open' exhibition celebrates the ability of an artwork to triumph over context and expectation. This may seem simple but in fact such a principle allows a greater level of openness and surprise. With no predetermined expectation for work the selectors of the SPECTRUM prize recognise the fantastic level of work done across the country by an immense range of artists, amateurs, part timers and workshop attendees.
An exhibition that emerges out of selection from open submission is precious, because it fights the unspoken sense that all 'experts' agree on what constitutes quality. The artistic image seldom has the opportunity to function outside preconceived expectations of authorship and origins. In contrast, the open exhibition allows an element of surprise and discovery and newness to sneak through. It gives artists a greater level of opportunity for it the artwork precedes them. It gives work a chance to be seen equally.
As Chair of the open competition New Contemporaries, which has been going, one way or another, for 50 years, I celebrate the fact that it remains an open call. The same principles apply to Spectrum's open submission: with a framework that is clear and accessible and experienced judges who regard the work above all else without pre selection or knowing anything about the entrants.
A pre-selection, anyway, presupposes an unspoken, agreed attitude to art, whereas the shortlist of work that selectors reserve begins to provide a virtual body, a raw language, a context that can be built upon. Of course there are prevailing, general notions of what is good or bad, but the image, object or concept does, when let loose, have an amazing ability to establish its autonomy.
The good selector - led by what's actually there rather than what he or she wants to see - will allow the artwork to emerge without trying to impose a plan or follow a trend. The resulting open exhibition will have a very different quality than a curated group project. A curator might feel that a whole world of options is open to them, but the open exhibition comes out of the context of itself, the pool is already there.
The open competition allows a three-dimensional sense of possibility.
The process of selection - shadowing the creative process itself - combines knowledge and risk, concentration and vision, and allows the slightest shift in nuance and approach to shine through.
Copyright Sacha Craddock June 2016