Competition for a spot at a grand exhibition at the Mall Galleries. Featuring a solicitor-turned-sculptor, a retired police officer and a man who enrolled in art school aged 50.
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Britain's top artists make big money. Their works can go for millions.
Nine million, five. Ten million. Ten million, five. 11 million.
Up and down the country,
thousands of ordinary people are also trying to get a piece of the action.
They're putting their necks on the block for the chance
to sell at the hottest exhibition in town.
It would just be a great experience.
I don't want to make a fool of myself.
I'm very passionate about what I do. I'm really passionate.
These artists could stand to make some serious cash.
What price do you put on it?
But first they need the seal of approval from three of the art world's toughest critics.
I feel I've seen this on... on the wall of a Chinese restaurant.
Their hopes are in the hands of the Hanging Committee.
Fantastic piece of work. The best thing I've seen so far.
But I think you're one to watch for the future.
It's time to Show Me The Monet.
Hello and welcome to Show Me The Monet.
Over the past few months, ambitious artists,
both amateur and professional, have been appearing
before our rigorous judging panel -
the Hanging Committee.
David Lee has been critiquing art for over two decades.
Known for his brutal honesty,
his pet hate is highfalutin art speak.
A great work of art is one that's capable of speaking to everyone,
because it's in a language that everyone understands.
As an auction house expert,
Roy Bolton knows what it takes to make great art.
Technique is important,
because sloppy amateurism always distracts from the message.
And contemporary specialist Charlotte Mullins has applied
her critical eye to some of the industry's most prestigious competitions.
If a work doesn't have emotional impact,
in my opinion it fails to be art and it becomes decoration.
These experts were the gatekeepers to our exhibition and only
the very best work got past them and went through to the Mall Galleries.
I would love to see this in our exhibition. Absolutely yes.
Coming up on today's programme -
David and Charlotte go head to head...
Why do you call it a realist painting, David?
I think unless you've got a brain the size of a pickled onion,
the term "realist painting" is perfectly self-explanatory.
..and the judges struggle to make head or tail of one artist's explanation.
It's like to divide the three-dimensional,
illusional perspective in a Euclidean two-dimensional.
Eltham Palace in South London was given
to Edward II by the Bishop of Durham in 1305.
It became one of the most important royal palaces in Tudor times
and was known for its beautiful gardens.
And it was here, in the Great Hall, that the artists faced
the judges in the hope of landing a place in the exhibition.
'First up was Anthony Marn from Oldham.
'He's a retired police officer, turned full-time dad.
'Orphaned at an early age, he had to give up the chance
'to go to art school in order to get a job to support himself.
'Now at the age of 48, he's finally able to pursue the passion
'he had to abandon as a teenager.'
-Lovely to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
Retired policeman, frustrated artist?
Yes, most of the time, yeah.
I paint when I can now, but I've got two young children. Charlie's one
and Jessica's seven, so I spend most of my time as a full-time dad.
So here you are, Show Me The Monet.
What...what do you want to get out of this?
For me, it's just an opportunity to have
the Hanging Committee tell me what they think of my painting, really.
I don't expect to become an overnight success,
but I don't think you'll ever get the opportunity to have
that kind of critique of your work anywhere else.
If you do get to the exhibition and you sell, what would you spend the money on?
The kids, I suppose.
They're always wanting something, you know, and it's not cheap these days, is it?
It isn't cheap. All right, good luck with the judges.
-They're through that door right now.
-Thank you very much.
'When he was at school, Anthony's art teacher spotted a talent in him
'and encouraged him to go to art school.
'30 years later, he wants to know if his teachers were right.
'Has he got what it takes to become an artist?'
-Anthony, welcome to the Hanging Committee.
-Please tell us something about your painting.
Well, it's oil on canvas.
It's painted with a palette knife and it shows the two stairwells
of a mill that was being demolished in a town called Mossley,
to the north of Manchester.
And I painted it actually as they were knocking it down.
The inspiration for it is the mills were a big part of Manchester.
I think of all the thousands of people that would have gone up
and down those stairs over the 150 years that the mill was there.
So quite a meaningful thing.
-Can you tell us what you value this painting at?
-Anthony, do you mind if we come and have a look at it?
'Anthony regrets not having had the chance to go to art school.
'He missed out on any formal training
'and has had to teach himself everything he knows.
'But has he achieved a high enough standard?
'Will his oil painting, entitled Twin Towers, impress the judges?'
I'd like to talk to you about the title.
You've called it Twin Towers. That's an incredibly emotive title,
not obviously directed at a mill, but at events in America in 9/11.
Why did you give it that title?
When I first saw it, that's the first thing I thought of,
you know, with all the rubble around it
and the two stairwells standing up like that.
I do realise that some people might not like that title.
It is a very emotionally overwhelming title, but I think it's taking me the wrong direction.
-I actually think the title is the best part of the painting,
because I think if you have the guts to bring emotional baggage
into your work for other people to re-digest
that's a very good starting point.
'There's more to a work of art than its title
'and it's Anthony's skill as a painter that's being judged.'
My problem is with this, Anthony, is that...I don't think
-it's as well painted as it ought to be for a realist painting.
The areas in front of the building, I'm not sure what they are.
They look like sort of flourished brushmarks,
rather than observed things that might get me
to where you want me to go, which is an old industry dying.
Why do you call it a realist painting, David,
because surely an artist can be expressive in the foreground and suggestive?
I think unless you've got a brain the size of a pickled onion,
the term "realist painting" is perfectly self-explanatory.
It's something that you can recognise.
'So, Anthony's painting has clearly got the judges going.
'But his work will be judged on three criteria - originality,
'technical skill and emotional impact.'
It's original to you,
and it's original to me, because I know this area...
..and, you know, I know what it's like
with jagged mills across the landscape,
where once there was a very distinct architecture.
John Piper did exactly this much, much better 50 years ago,
and I just see John Piper,
his derelict and destroyed buildings coming out of this.
'While the subject has tapped into David's northern roots, he has criticised Anthony's technique...
'..and for Roy, it's lacking in originality,
'because it reminds him of a mid-20th-century landscape painter.
'Will that stand against him in the vote?'
Charlotte, would you like to go first?
It's no from me, I'm sorry.
I'm afraid it's also no from me,
but I think there's a lot in what you've done. Thank you very much
-for showing it to us.
'It's the end of the road for Anthony,
'so no treats for the kids today,
'but the judges clearly think he's got talent,
'so hopefully he'll be selling his art in the future.'
How do you feel about that?
I take on board everything they said and I understand why they said it.
But I'm quite happy. I got this far and that's good for me.
You said that you wanted to hear critics.
You wanted to get their opinion and see how you were getting on. How are you getting on?
Well, I like that picture, so at least I'm taking it home again.
To win a place in the exhibition,
we invited artists from all over the country to send us their work.
We had entries from both amateurs and professionals,
and the standard was incredibly high.
'One of those to make it through to the Hanging Committee was
'Caroline is a 50-year-old solicitor turned sculptor from London.
'After many years working in the City, she's decided to leave
'the law behind and concentrate full time on sculpture,
'but she's used to pulling in a decent salary.
'Will she be able to make a living from her art?'
-I'm Chris, nice to meet you.
-Just a little bit more about you. I mean, you have a twin sister. Is that right?
-Who IS an artist?
-Yes, she is a professional artist.
She is the one in the family who spotted my ability
and she encouraged me to go to evening classes first of all,
and then do a part-time diploma in sculpture.
So what would it mean to you,
with this big decision that you've made,
if you actually got through to the exhibition?
I think it would definitely encourage me to start approaching
key London dealers, to see if they would take me as an artist.
We have a quite a prestigious exhibition. You could sell there. What would you do with the money?
What I'd particularly like to do is actually use the money to finance a trip to Austria,
in particular, going to Vienna and see the works of Gustav Klimt.
-OK. I wish you the best of luck.
-Thank you very much indeed.
Just through there are three judges
-and you've got to convince them...
-..not me. Good luck.
Caroline has taken a huge gamble.
She's given up the high-powered life of a City lawyer
for the uncertain world of an artist.
She thinks she's ready.
But will her layered resin, ink and Perspex sculpture
convince the judges she's got the necessary talent?
-Caroline, welcome to the Hanging Committee.
Could you introduce your piece, please?
It's called Ghosts and what I wanted to do was create
a completely original and unusual sculpture,
to really challenge people's perception of what is a sculpture,
but also to challenge people's perception of reality.
What are they looking at? In the same sense that if we do think of ghosts,
we think of them as being intangible forms.
Could you tell us how much you would charge for this piece?
I would think around £2,500.
-OK, can we have a closer look?
-Yes, please do.
A spot at the Mall Galleries would mean the world to Caroline.
It would put her work in front of a wider audience
and, if she manages to sell this sculpture,
she'll be able to finance that longed-for trip to Vienna.
But the judges' approval doesn't come easy.
There will have to be something quite exceptional about Caroline's work
to earn her a place in the spotlight.
Caroline, I'd like to focus on how it was made.
You used old snaps of somebody, or something, did you?
-Actually not. There's no photography in it.
I have created the images myself.
I've used ink, I've used Perspex strips.
I've used other materials, as well,
but I've built it all very carefully out,
to create this illusion that you are in fact looking at a photograph.
When you started talking about it as a sculpture, I thought you were slightly misguided.
Because, from here, it looks like a flat, two-dimensional image
cast within resin, like an insect trapped in amber, or something,
but when you get up close, there is that depth to it
and you cannot place the image in any one...
-It's slightly holographic, isn't it?
Caroline's technique seems to have fascinated the judges.
And that's no mean feat.
Are either of you seduced by this, um,
this stock phrase of all artists working now -
"challenging perceptions of reality"?
Two words that rile me most are "challenging" and "perception".
Phrases like "challenging perceptions of reality"
make me want to throw up on the floor.
I think... Sorry, if I just may come in here,
I think it challenges our perception of what is a sculpture.
The one thing I immediately felt
when I looked was genealogy, our love of the past, of looking back,
but I wondered if genealogy, that sense of our collective past, played a part in how you work.
Actually, that's very insightful of you to say that. The figures that one sees
could be debutantes. And you probably notice, they all look away from one another.
So they're in isolation.
Sometimes, when we look back into the past,
we ourselves are somewhat isolated, because it's our own personal history.
They do look like a group of glamorous debutantes,
-or maybe the cover of a 1950s Vogue magazine.
Are they intended to be generic people?
Or is there any relation to you?
I think I intended it to be generic, really.
I wanted people to feel drawn in and think perhaps it could be part
of their own personal history that they were looking at.
Caroline's sculpture seems to have struck a chord with Charlotte and Roy.
But has it worked for David?
My problem with this is that it seems to be
from a genre of photography-cum-sculpture,
which is looking back, which is about ghosts,
which is very familiar, but I don't find this affects me,
because I can't see precisely what it is is going on.
I think this is a good example of technical ability being used
for an original idea and it has emotional impact.
It's gentle, it's subtle, but I want to look at it again and again,
and I think that's possibly enough.
So Charlotte and Roy are interested in Caroline's allusion to the past.
But it seems to have left David cold.
So, is she still in with a chance?
Caroline, I'd be very pleased to see this in our exhibition.
-So it's a yes from me.
It has something, but I can't make up my mind.
But it doesn't matter, anyway. You're in the exhibition. I will see you at the Mall Galleries.
-Thank you very, very much indeed.
-Thank you, Caroline.
Well, that's proof for Caroline that she made the right decision
to turn her back on a high-flying legal career.
Her work is now on its way to the Mall Galleries.
The Mall Galleries, and Caroline was trying to keep cool, calm and collected.
I think it's always quite nerve-racking.
It's a bit like a first night of a play, quite frankly.
You're excited and nervous in equal measure, really.
There was no sign of any first-night nerves, as Caroline chatted away
to members of the public, art dealers and collectors about her work.
But was anyone going to make a bid?
Any offers on her work were made in secret and subject to a 10% sales commission.
The results of the bidding were handed to me,
in a sealed envelope and only revealed when I opened it
in front of Caroline and her twin sister, Angela.
So, just remind me, how much did you want for this?
Doesn't sound too much, £2,750. What do you think, sister? Is it OK?
I think it's very reasonable.
-Very reasonable. OK. And what were you going to spend the money on?
-A trip to Vienna,
to see the wonderful art collections there,
and obviously to bring my sister along, as well.
-Suddenly we've got a lot more at stake.
-We have, yes!
A trip for you two. OK, then,
here we go.
OK. So you wanted £2,750.
Well, we didn't get any offers on the night.
-Which... We are surprised.
-I have to say that I'm not disappointed, actually,
because I've been delighted by the response that I've had, really.
And I've had people ask me
to actually include this in subsequent exhibitions.
Give her a round of applause. Lovely to meet you.
She didn't sell, but, since then, Caroline and her sister
have teamed up for their first joint show at another London gallery.
Hopeful artists from across the UK stood before the Hanging Committee.
The standard was very high and only the cream of the crop went through.
Cambridge maths graduate Don Berry
brought along a pencil drawing of his friend Rebecca.
The focus of the drawing is the eyes and the rest of the composition is designed
to try and lead the viewer in to the detail of the face.
And Charlotte was certainly drawn in.
I'm quite mesmerised by her eyes
and by your skill to make those eyes feel like she's watching me.
What you have done, with no training, is very sophisticated.
But David begged to differ.
I think far from flattering this girl, you've made her look like a dumb blonde.
I'm afraid I would also say, not quite yet, so no.
Professional artist Este MacLeod presented a still-life painting inspired by a holiday.
Roy found aspects of Este's technique original,
but her use of colour didn't go down too well with David.
There's no warm colours in that.
One of the reasons why I think it looks a bit dead
is because, um, there aren't any.
I deliberately not wanted to make a complementary colour in it,
because I do a lot of red and green.
To me, it was almost a challenge keeping it within this blue.
Despite her explanation, Este's painting didn't manage to win over the judges.
Next up was professional artist Sarah Stokes,
with an abstract painting.
It was at a stage where I was being very playful
and kind of, like, experimenting, because I really needed to get my energy
quite swiftly out onto the, er, canvas.
But some of that energy was lost on David.
The chaos at the edges doesn't mean anything at all.
I think you've just been filling it in.
Then, I suppose a lot of abstract art is just filling it in, as far as I can see.
Sarah explained what drives her work.
Because I haven't been to art school,
I'm constantly trying to find a way to actually express myself.
And Roy was mesmerised.
I'm staring at it and I will continue to do so, and I can come back to it again and again.
That's very, very rare for me in anything abstract. It is a yes from me.
Great, thank you.
But, with just one vote, Sarah's painting didn't make it to the Mall Galleries.
22-year-old Patricija Stepanovic wanted £400 for this photograph of her boyfriend's back.
The model has Marfan Syndrome, which is a connective-tissue disorder.
He's very tall, he's six foot eight, and he's ten stone.
And the initial picture didn't look promising.
It's a close call, but no.
One down, two to go.
-It's a yes.
-It's a yes from me.
-You are going to make the exhibition.
-OK, thank you.
'But would the photograph make any money for the Slovakian art student?'
You wanted £400 for this image of your man behind you,
who's standing there rather nervously. Sadly, you haven't had any offers.
-Commiserations. Sid, come over and give her a cuddle.
-Well done, my darling.
-But was it an enjoyable experience, the whole thing?
-Yes, it was.
I'm just sorry you didn't get any cash, but a big round of applause.
Well done. Bad luck.
Next to arrive at Eltham Palace was 55-year-old architect,
Giorgio qualified in his native Rome,
but then he met and fell in love with a Scottish lass
and followed her back to Edinburgh, where he now lives.
Giorgio specialises in new and listed buildings,
but he's also a keen amateur photographer,
'who dreams of breaking in to the fine-art market.'
-but also full-time artist.
Half and half. I divide myself in two pieces.
By the way, architecture and art are like this.
Ah, I like that.
-Would you say you were a successful artist?
Well, I'm not very well known in the market,
but I, you know, I sold some pieces, yeah.
OK. There's a lot at stake here, because if you do get to this exhibition and you sell,
you get a bit of cash in your pocket. What would you spend it on then?
Well, maybe producing more work.
Or maybe for travelling with my wife. Maybe in India, or, yes, here.
-All sounds very exotic.
-Yeah. Thank you very much.
-Good luck, sir.
-The judges await through that door.
-Thank you. Thank you very much.
-See you later.
-Thank you. Bye.
Giorgio would love to give up architecture and devote himself to art full-time.
He's hoping the judges will think he's got the talent to do that.
Could this photograph, entitled Imaginary Landscape Number 13,
be his ticket to success?
Giorgio, would you tell us something about this, please?
Well, it's, um, this work for me is like an interaction,
more than a relationship, with my external reality.
Usually we see things, but we have to...
In art, I think, we have to look at external things.
I use cut-outs in front of external reality.
And, for me, it's like to divide the three-dimensional, illusional
perspective in a... in a Euclidean two-dimensional,
contrasting with the 19th-century guise of space and time.
I think we should have a closer look, so we understand what you're talking about.
I'm so sorry. Absolutely.
Giorgio's dive into the deep end of art theory
and philosophy seems to have lost the judges.
Hopefully, a closer inspection of the work will reveal
the mystery of his universe to them.
Giorgio, I'm just a simple country boy, who likes looking at pictures.
Is the section
of horizon in the middle section that's lifted up,
-is it the continuation of the photograph's horizon?
-I don't want to look perfect,
-because I don't believe in perfection.
-But is that a continuation of that landscape?
Well, it's not a perfect, but, you know, the reason why
I'm putting these two parallel lines, because it's like that
I do hope that in a curved space they're going to meet.
Giorgio's off on another tangent here.
Giorgio, it looks to me like I'm in a hotel by a Scottish loch
and there's something blocking the view of the sliding glass door. Does that worry you?
It doesn't worry... Nothing worries me. I'm very interested to have any opinion.
Giorgio, your head is fizzing with art terminology and amazing segue-ways
from one subject to the next, but we're not seeing that in the work.
The work confuses me.
I think you possibly need to rethink what you're trying to say
in your art and simplify the message slightly.
Absolutely, yeah. Thank you.
So, Giorgio has taken the judges on a philosophical journey,
but will it end with a place in the exhibition?
-No problem. No problem.
That's... Thank you very much.
It's also no from me. So we won't be seeing you at the exhibition.
-Thank you very much.
Giorgio's imaginary landscape hasn't cast a spell over our judges
and so I think he'll have to stick with the day job for a while longer.
'And his wife will have to wait for that holiday.'
I was watching very closely
and I couldn't quite understand some of the theories that you were coming out with
-and I think the judges were struggling as well, weren't they?
-A little bit.
-A little bit.
Maybe I was speaking too much about theory.
Maybe next time I will say, "I don't know."
-I assure you, I assure you...
-It's been an experience.
-This isn't going to put you off, is it? This whole experience?
-Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
'Next up in front of the Hanging Committee
'was 55-year-old textile artist Amanda Richardson, from Cornwall.
'Amanda has been working
'as a full-time artist since the 1970s
'and has had solo exhibitions across the UK.
'But her biggest market until now has been America,
'where she lived for ten years,
'and where she's sold numerous pieces to private and public clients.'
What are your ambitions, then? Because you're very successful.
Show Me The Monet is just a small, little programme.
It suddenly occurred to me it might be a way of raising
the profile of textile art in this country.
A lot of people buy my work and they love it,
but I do notice with some people a reserve.
They literally ask themselves, "Is this art?"
-And so I... I have to put my head above the parapet now and again
-and say, "Well, it is."
-So you're representing your art form, almost?
-I am. Yes.
-OK. And if you sold, what would you spend the money on?
It's how I make my living.
So that's... It sounds boring, but it does...
First it goes on the bills and, um, and then it goes on the garden,
and I'm sure I'll find some way to treat myself, as well!
-The judges are through there.
Amanda has taken a big gamble coming here today.
Textiles are taken very seriously as an art form in America,
but, in this country, they're seen more as craft than fine art.
She wants to challenge this perception
and she's hoping the judges will back her.
But I've got a feeling she may have her work cut out.
-Could you tell us about your work, please?
I see my work as expressing the excitement I feel
in the natural world.
I live in the far west of Cornwall,
and so I'm surrounded by wild and gorgeous landscapes.
But I also have a garden
and it was last spring - it was just glorious after a hard winter.
And then I saw this guy and, I tell you, he was the man.
He owned the place.
And I looked at him
and he had his courting plumage and he was gorgeous.
And I looked and I thought - artistic opportunity.
How much do you charge for something like this?
This piece is £4,500.
Thanks very much. We'll take a closer look.
Amanda's textile collage was inspired by a scene in her garden.
So it's fitting that, if she sells this piece,
some of the money will be spent on the upkeep of that garden.
But first she'll have to convince
some very tough judges that this work belongs in their exhibition.
Amanda, could you talk a little bit about how you make this?
Because, from here, we could mistake it for a painting,
-but it's made of thousands of pieces of cut material.
What I do, obviously, first I decide on a subject,
then I select the fabrics for it and then I hand dye them all.
When all the dye work's finished,
I iron glue onto the back of all of the fabric
and that holds the weave together.
-And none of this is sewn?
-It's all glued on the surface?
-All glued, yes.
Layers and layers of fabric. Used in the way you'd make a paper collage?
I have to say, it's an exceptional technique,
I've never... I've never seen anything this intricate, um, or complex.
I've never seen anything like this before.
I'm really impressed, especially by the...
the iridescences of colour in the pheasant, which...
That's really amazing, how you do that.
Well, the judges are clearly impressed by Amanda's technique.
But will they see her textile collage as a piece of art?
I would expect to find this in a craft exhibition,
or an embroidery festival,
and I imagine you come up against this a lot.
The divide is really a European tradition.
If you look at the Middle East, Asia,
they have never had these divisions of what is art and what is craft?
Will Amanda manage to blow the craft label out of the water
and convince the judges that her piece does qualify as art?
Amanda, I'm bowled over looking at it.
It is an incredibly visual, textural object.
However, the subject of the art itself,
which is what we're here to look at,
is a pheasant in a beautiful meadow.
And that isn't something that
I would be able to return to again and again and feel different things.
It's not deep enough in its subject matter.
The sticking point seems to be, for us,
the divide between art and decoration.
And decoration can be the most beautiful subject.
It's magnificent in what it is,
but I just don't see it going beyond into art.
Amanda, it's going to make me go away and really think seriously,
so that I can get clear in my mind
what is the stage at which something as good as this is,
as celebratory as this is, becomes acceptable as art?
Even the judges are confused. That's a first.
I think we'd better go to a vote.
-Amanda, it's a no from me.
-With regret, it's a no.
-OK, fair enough.
-It's a no from me too.
-But if you come back next year, I may say yes...
..having thought it through properly.
-OK. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
-Thank you for showing it to us.
So Amanda's textile collage won't be appearing at the Mall Galleries.
But she has achieved something today.
She's shaken up the art establishment with all its rules and regulations
and sent David into a bit of a muddle.
I had hoped to break down a barrier,
which is clearly still a barrier for many.
It's been there obviously for my whole career.
And it shows there's some distance still to go.
-You have knocked a few bricks out.
-You're shaking it a bit, that barrier.
-Just not quite enough.
-No, not quite enough. Well, it's been lovely to meet you.
-And keep knocking those bricks out.
-Indeed. I shall, I shall keep on going.
-Thanks very much.
-Sorry it didn't happen this time.
Artists of all ages queued up to go before the Hanging Committee,
but only a few would go through.
'Next up in front of the Hanging Committee was amateur artist
'Graham Stokes from Wolverhampton.
'Now 69, Graham enrolled in art school aged 50,
'after taking early retirement from his job as a municipal engineer.
'He now paints full-time
'and has been struggling to make a name for himself as an artist.'
When you were an engineer and you were working every day,
did you sort of dabble as you were working, get home and...?
-Not so easy.
Keep your hand in, perhaps at a weekend,
or drawing the kids, or things like that.
-It's still a hobby. Show Me the Monet...
No? It's a hobby, it's a profession, is it?
-Technically, I'm self-employed as an artist.
-Right, OK, I like this.
And I do exhibit in open shows.
I would say it's more than a hobby, I'm quite serious about it.
That's what I wanted to hear, that you're serious about it. That you're not dabbling.
I mean, here you are, you're going to go and see three very respected, experienced critics.
What would it mean to you for them to give you two yeses and take you to the exhibition?
Well, I'd be over the moon about it.
If you did manage to get to the exhibition and you sell and make some money,
-what would you do with it?
-My family's in Scotland. I've been thinking about moving.
So I think, probably, it would go towards that some way.
My goodness. So it will be a real life change, then?
Well, yes, I think so.
-Well, I hope you find what you're looking for, sir.
-Thanks very much.
-Hopefully, you will take a step closer to Scotland.
This is a big moment for Graham.
He only went to art school at 50 and now he's about to present
his work to three of the toughest critics in the business.
He submitted an acrylic painting called Bent Bollards.
-Welcome to the Hanging Committee.
Tell us about your painting.
I've been working on this sort of topic for a few years,
sort of suburban landscapes, I suppose you might call them.
The subject is a place called Chelmsley Wood, near Birmingham.
And I try to look for things that are slightly different,
or interesting, in what's almost an everyday situation.
In the case of this painting,
you've got a forest of bollards,
and some very rich surface areas,
like the partially sighted crossing point.
Could you tell us how much you charge for paintings like this?
This one, about £500.
So, Graham, you're asking 500 quid
for a picture of a road crossing on a council estate.
That encapsulates it, yes, I suppose.
-Do you mind if we have a closer look?
Graham made a very brave decision
when he left engineering to try his luck as an artist.
And he does see art as a career, rather than a hobby.
But he's been knocking on the gallery doors for some years now.
Could this be his big break?
Graham, I rather like this style of painting.
It's very clean, it's very crisp.
Some of the areas - maybe like the sky - you could work on a bit.
I find the very precise style very interesting.
There's no dirt, there's no graffiti,
there's not, indeed, any leaves on the ground.
There are few things I don't quite understand.
The sky looks like the Aurora Borealis to me.
It's sort of blue and red in verticals, which I don't quite get.
Um, in a way, I saw the sky as being a slight departure
from the preciseness of the rest of it.
I think you could probably work on your technique a bit.
Some of the work in the trees is a bit, you know, iffy.
It's OK from this distance, but not particularly brilliant when you get close to.
I think the judges have warmed to Graham's realistic style.
But his painting will also have to deliver on a deeper level
to get him a place at the exhibition.
I grew up in a street quite similar to this.
I imagine a lot of people watching this live in streets like this.
You have to connect to that memory, in a way,
or make it go beyond what you're seeing.
The problem seems to me that emotional connection for me. It's just lacking.
Graham, I think painting probably the most common view in Britain,
in many ways, um, should have a broad appeal.
But I agree with Charlotte, I think it might not do.
It's a clinical scene, which has got more interest in it
than the picture would suggest it ought to have.
It's strange in that way.
I'm uncertain about this
in an emotional way, but that's usually a good thing where I'm concerned.
I think we'll consider our votes now.
Er, Graham, for my vote,
I'm afraid it's going to be no.
It's a definite yes from me.
Sorry, I find this really hard.
I'm just going to have to say no,
but it's very close and thank you for showing us it.
Thanks very much for showing us your work.
That was so close. Graham was within striking distance of a place at the exhibition.
But, in the end, his painting didn't quite come up to scratch for Charlotte.
-That was close.
-Yes, it seemed to be.
-Would you change?
-Are you going to leave here and do something different?
-You believe in yourself that much?
Well, I wouldn't say I was arrogant about my work,
but I've still got enough interest in what I'm doing to stick with it.
Excuse me one second. I'm just getting the producer in my earpiece.
Apparently, the judges have been talking
and they do want you to go back, which is an unprecedented...
-Don't celebrate! They might take a yes away!
-Could you go back through the doors, because they want you back? I'll keep my fingers crossed.
'Well, this is astonishing.'
Hello again, Graham. I've asked you to come back.
I've reconsidered. I'd like to change my vote.
I would like to say yes.
Well, thanks for that.
I can't take my eyes off it.
I did find the subject slight. But it doesn't matter, it's enough
-and I look forward to seeing it again at the Mall Galleries.
-OK, thanks very much.
-Thank you, Graham.
-Thanks. Thanks, then.
That was a bolt out of the blue.
It seems that Graham's unobtrusive street scene somehow worked its magic at the last moment.
It'll now be going on show at the Mall Galleries and, if Graham sells it,
he'll be able to put the money towards his move to Scotland to be with his family.
At the exhibition,
Graham's slice of suburban life was quite a draw with the crowd at the Mall Galleries.
I mean, it's a bit overwhelming.
I didn't think there'd be this many folks.
Somebody said that his mother-in-law lived in a house like that.
That's part of what the work's about, really.
It's a kind of connection to many folks.
So did Graham's street scene strike a chord with anyone?
Any bids were made in secret
and subject to a 10% sales commission.
The results of the bidding were only revealed
when I opened the envelope in front of the artist for the first time.
-How much did you want for this?
-580? Because originally you said 500.
-I did, yes.
-But then you thought, 580, with a bit of commission.
And you wanted to spend the money on?
Well, a possible move to Scotland.
My daughters and their family live there.
So that's what it'll go on.
-Right. Shall we get on with it?
Everybody hold your breath. So in this envelope we'll find out
-whether you had any bids at all last night.
Well, don't know, really. I'm keeping an open mind.
-We have had an offer.
It's for £300.
What do you think?
I mean, obviously, you wanted 580.
-And £300 is £300, isn't it?
-It is indeed, yeah, yeah.
-And it all adds up.
-In that pot.
What's your gut feeling?
-Yeah, I'll take that.
-Mate, congratulations. Well done.
Big round of applause.
Wow. Retired civil engineer Graham has certainly been on a journey.
He braved the Hanging Committee,
was turned down,
only to get a dramatic last-minute reprieve from Charlotte.
And now he's accepted an offer
on his painting.
Well, that's it for today.
But join us next time on Show Me The Monet,
where the judges will be meeting more hopeful artists in search of success.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In front of the Hanging Committee is Caroline, 50, a solicitor-turned-sculptor from London. After many years working in the City, she has decided to leave law behind and concentrate on sculpture full time. But she is used to pulling in a good salary - will she be able to make a living from her art? And will her layered resin, ink and perspex sculpture convince the judges she has got the talent to go through to the exhibition?
Anthony from Oldham is a retired police officer turned full time dad. Orphaned at an early age, he gave up on dreams of going to art school in order to get a job and support himself. Now, aged 48, he is finally able to pursue his passion. But without any formal training, will the standard of his work be enough to impress the judges?
Graham, 69, from Wolverhampton, enrolled in art school aged 50 after taking early retirement from his job as a municipal engineer. He now paints full time but has been struggling to make a name for himself. He has been knocking on the gallery door for some years now, so could his acrylic painting entitled Bent Bollards be his big break?