The American portrait artist Aleah Chapin has won the 2012 BP Portrait Award, at London’s National Portrait Gallery, for her raw, honest, gentle depiction of a family friend. Her standing, front-on nude.
‘Auntie’ was chosen from 2,187 entries from 74 countries for the £25,000 prize money and a £4,000 commission. The painting is part of a series of female nudes with which Chaplin has a long-standing interpersonal connection. Chaplin said of the work: “The fact that she has known me since birth is extremely important. Her body is a map of her journey through life. In her, I see the personification of strength through an unguarded and accepting presence.” Chaplin lives in Brooklyn, having just completed an MFA in painting at the New York Academy of Art. She gained her BFA at Cornish College of the Arts in her native Seattle and was a resident at the Leipzig International Art Programme in Germany in 2011. She has received numerous awards including the Posey Foundation Scholarship, and the Judith Kindler and Kyle Johnson Scholarship for innovation in the Arts. Her work has been shown internationally in both solo and group shows.
The public will be able to see Chaplin’s work, as well as the other three shortlisted entries, as part of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery featuring 55 paintings from this year’s competition, which opens Thursday 21st June. The second prize of £8,000 went to Ignacio Estudillo for ‘El abeulo (Agustin Estudillo)’- also a depiction of a relative, his paternal grandfather. He said: “I worked with artificial light and with a chromatic scale, mainly within the black and white spectrum. I painted the portrait larger than life size but the model was in a natural position. I made this painting because of my grandfather and his life experiences attracted me. It’s not a purely analytical portrait but it’s a way of showing a part of the human condition to which he belongs. At the same time I transmit his own nature and my idea of him as a conflicted, unstable, passionate human. I’m not only creating a portrait of my grandfather but also revealing a part of myself.”
Alan Coulson took the £6,000 third prize for ‘Richie Culver’, his friend and fellow artist. Coulson said: “My aim was to produce a direct and honest painting that would capture Richie’s unique appearance alongside his easygoing nature.”Jamie Routley won the £5,000 BP Young Artist Award prize for his triptych ‘Tony Lewis’. The subject, Tony Lewis, has a newspaper stand at Baron’s Court Tube Station and works in ‘The Four Vintners’ wine shop. “I didn’t set out to paint a triptych,” says Routley, “but I found after each painting there was more to say. A past had been hinted at during the sittings for the first painting that I couldn’t leave alone. Tony told me that for the first time in decades he’d found an environment that was both stimulating an allowed for quiet reflection. So we continued… It was an intense and profound experience for both of us.”
The BP Portrait Award is regarded as the best showcase of figurative painting in Britain, and has been running for 33 years- the last 23 of which have been sponsored by BP. The 2012 Portrait Award Exhibition will also include the work of the BP Travel Award 2011 winner Jo Fraser. This year’s travel award was won by Carl Randall, for his proposal to travel along the Nakasendo Highway between Tokyo to Kyoto in the footsteps of Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858). On route he will record the people, their livelihoods and the landscape as finds them today in contrast to what was portrayed by Hiroshige. Carl’s final work will consist of a series of small-scale portraits and they will be displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2013 exhibition.
For the third year running, the exhibition will be complimented by work from the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation project. Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this project is to provide 14-19 year olds with ‘a series of workshops and online resources’ in order to ‘offer young people new opportunities for learning and creativity through portraiture.’
The competition was judged from original paintings by this year’s panel:
- Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
- Dr Augustus Casely-Hayford, Curator and Cultural Historian
- Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery
- Martin Jennings, Sculptor
- Nicola Kalinsky, Interim Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery
- Des Violaris, Director UK Arts & Culture, BP
Words: Jack Castle © ArtLyst 2012
The exhibition is on at the National Portrait Gallery from 21st June- 23rd September 2012. Admission free.