Thursday, 30 June 2011

BP Portrait Award 2011

The 2011 BP Portrait Award opened at the National Portrait Gallery last week so with much excitement I hot-footed it up to London at the weekend to have a look at this year’s selection. The only problem with going to see a show when it’s just opened (or just before it finishes) is that it’s pretty crowded. There was much weaving and jostling as we dodged from one painting to another, all out of sequence and diving for a free space wherever there was one. Not how one wants to experience a show really but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The BP Portrait Award is a prestigious annual competition which attracts entrants from all over the world. This year there were 2,372 submissions, which doesn’t sound that many actually when you consider that the competition has been going for 32 years and is therefore renowned throughout the art world here and abroad. Maybe portraiture just isn’t that popular these days.

55 works were selected; out of those, the prizes were awarded as follows:

First – Wim Heldens, Distracted

Second – Louis Smith, Holly

Third – Ian Cumberland, Just to Feel Normal

Young Artist Prize – Sertan Saltan, Mrs Cerna

Travel Award – Jo Fraser, Flora MacGregor

It’s disappointing that there doesn’t seem to be anything published about how the judges came to their decision. Apparently they select without knowing who the paintings are by to avoid any form of bias. These things are always so subjective though, and I find I rarely agree with the decisions. I really liked third prize winner Ian Cumberland’s Just to Feel Normal (take note of the size – 1500 x 1000 mm - not a small painting) but the first and second prize winning paintings, well… meh.

There were many other striking works in the show but one that particularly stood out for me (probably because it had a narrative element) was I could have been a contender by Wendy Elia (at the top of this post). There’s plenty going on in this painting which is an interesting take on the family portrait. It shows the artist herself with her children and grandchildren, some in photographs and postcards. The title adds another layer of meaning relating to her career as an artist and a woman in the art world.

I also liked David Carter at Home by Richard Brazier. The perspective was interesting as were the surroundings; I like the way the sculpture on the table echoes the pattern on the carpet. I also like the slightly uncomfortable way the subject is sitting. The diagonals of the legs disappearing out of the canvas give the feeling that maybe the subject was anxious to be off – even though he’s wearing his slippers!

There is the usual range of sizes from the gargantuan Holly with its imposing frame to the rather sweet and intimate Portrait of my father by Tomas Georgeson at just 300 x 230 mm. Smaller still are Matthew Schofield’s Six Decades, a series of six paintings each 10 cm square. Who said big is beautiful?

This year’s BP Portrait Award has the usual high standard of work and is well worth a look. If you’re interested in portraiture check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting to hear yr views, thanks.
    - Caspar

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