Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond is the winner of the 2016 BP Portrait Award. The artist was announced at the National Portrait Gallery, Tuesday 21 June 2016. The prestigious first prize – in the 27th year of BP’s sponsorship of the competition – was won by 38-year-old Cambridgeshire-based artist Clara Drummond, for a striking portrait of her friend and fellow artist Kirsty Buchanan.
Drummond was selected for the BP Portrait Award in 2013 and 2014 for portraits of the same sitter, having previously been selected for the exhibition with different sitters in 2006 and 2009. When Kirsty sat for Clara for this portrait she wore a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working on an exhibition at the time with the William Morris Society Archive. This is the first time she has been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award.
The judges, including artist Jenny Saville and writer Alan Hollinghurst, were impressed by the portrait’s skilful execution and its subtle and enigmatic qualities. Athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill presented Clara Drummond with £30,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £5,000. The portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 23 June when the BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition opens to the public.
The second prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Bo Wang, 34, for Silence, a portrait depicting his grandmother lying on her hospital bed a month before she died.
The third prize of £8,000 went to artist Benjamin Sullivan, 39, for Hugo, a portrait of the poet Hugo Williams painted in the study of his Islington home.
The BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by British artist Jamie Coreth for Dad Sculpting Me. First Prize: Clara Drummond (27.09.1977) for Girl in a Liberty Dress (260 x 370 mm, oil on board)
Born in Edinburgh, Cambridgeshire-based Clara Drummond studied modern languages at Cambridge University before going on to study at the Prince’s Drawing School. Her portrait of Girl in a Liberty Dress is of her friend, the artist Kirsty Buchanan who would wear a vintage Liberty dress at sittings. Both artists were working with the William Morris Society archive on an exhibition and were looking at the hand drawn patterns for fabrics, wallpapers and tapestries by Jane Morris and May Morris, William Morris’s wife and daughter. Drummond says of Kirsty that ‘she is inspiring because she is always immersed in the ideas around whatever she is making at the time, history, nature, mythology and art all feed into her work, so when I am drawing or painting her it feels more like a collaboration than a portrait sitting.’ Previous portraits include artist and model Iris Palmer for BP Portrait Award 2009, and her friend, actor Ben Whishaw, from 2005.
Judges’ comments – Girl in a Liberty Dress: ‘This year’s overall winner was noted by all of the judges for its subtle, enigmatic nature, and for the indelible impression the artist’s skill makes on the viewer.’
Second Prize: Bo Wang (03.12.1981) for Silence (1000 x 1160 mm, tempera on board)
Chinese artist Bo Wang is a lecturer at Suzhou University of Science and Technology in Jiangsu. He studied at the Ilia Repin St Petersburg Academic Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and has exhibited at the National Art Museum of China, in Beijing, and the Xinjiang International Exhibition Centre. His portrait depicts his grandmother lying on the hospital bed a month before she died, while she was in the terminal stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak. ‘Sometimes she tilted her head and looked at me,’ says Bo Wang. ‘There was too much emotion in her eyes to be expressed in words. I almost forgot about painting techniques or any specific style, just trying to use my brushes to communicate silently with my grandma. I can strongly feel the state of a dying life when I think of her eyes’. Bo Wang says the work of Paul Gauguin is always in his mind when thinking of this portrait especially the artist’s enigmatically titled masterpiece – Where are we from? Who are we? Where shall we go?
Judges’ comments – Silence: ‘The judges found that Bo Wang’s portrait of his grandmother in a hospital bed as she lay dying was a moving and deeply affecting portrait.’
Third Prize: Benjamin Sullivan (10.05.1977) for Hugo (460 x 360 mm, oil on canvas)
Grimsby-born Benjamin Sullivan, who lives in Suffolk, gained a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art. His portrait of Hugo Williams was painted in the study of the poet’s Islington home and Sullivan says the sittings were ‘accompanied by, very loud, Elvis and early Cajun music’. The artist had been an admirer of Williams’s poetry, especially his Billy’s Rain collection, and after being introduced to him at a private view in 2014 by a friend, the poet Stephen Romer, Williams agreed to sit for a portrait. Sullivan’s work has been seen regularly in the exhibitions of the New English Art Club, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and he was selected for display 12 times for the BP Portrait Award in 2002, and 2006 to 2015. He has been artist-in-residence at All Soul’s College, Oxford, and the Reform Club, Pall Mall. Sullivan’s portrait of the cosmologist and astrophysicist Professor Martin Rees was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.
Judges’ comments – Hugo: ‘Finely rendered on a small scale, we thought the portrait gave us a strong sense of the presence of the sitter, the poet, Hugo Williams. The painting’s ageless quality is subtly balanced by the appearance of the modern wrist-watch.’
BP Young Artist Award: Jamie Coreth (26.06.1989) for Dad Sculpting Me (1052 x 1202 mm, oil on linen)
Dad Sculpting Me by Jamie Coreth © Jamie Coreth
Jamie Coreth, 26, who was born in London but brought up in Dorset and Wiltshire, is the winner of the BP Young Artist Award. He wins for a portrait of his sculptor father, Mark Coreth, painted entirely from life over the course of a month in his sculpture studio. Jamie Coreth undertook a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology and anthropology at Keble College, Oxford before studying at the London Atelier of Representational Art and the Florence Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in London. As an ex-officer for the Blues and Royals, Mark Coreth is seen wearing his old tank boiler suit, which is covered, says the artist, in ‘great flecks of plaster from previous sculptural adventures’. Coreth says: ‘My father has influenced me greatly in my work and given that it is a relatively strange thing for a sculptor to raise a painter, I thought it could be an interesting father–son project to make portraits of one another at the same time.’
Judges’ comments – Dad Sculpting Me: ‘We were drawn to the timeless quality of the painting and its treatment of a father and son relationship through art. It is a generational painting of the artist’s father sculpting a portrait of the artist.’
BP TRAVEL AWARD 2016 AND 2015: The winner of the BP Travel Award 2016, an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, was also announced last night. The prize of £6,000 is open to applications from any of this year’s BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists, except the prize-winners. It has been awarded to Lithuanian artist Laura Guoke who won for her proposal to travel to one of the refugee camps in Greece. She plans to use sketches, photographs and filmed material to create large-format portraits of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria and the volunteers helping them.
The work of the BP Travel Award 2015 winner, French artist Magali Cazo, is on display at this year’s exhibition. She won for her proposal to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa. There she lived with and represented the artists, apprentices and labourers whose lives revolve around the foundry. Magali was inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape, the architecture and the clothes on a previous visit to Bobo-Dioulasso and has used the sketches made on that trip to develop a series of portraits on wood.
The BP Portrait Award 2016 received 2,557 entries from 80 countries. Judged anonymously, 53 portraits have been selected for the exhibition (National Portrait Gallery, London, 23 June-4 September 2016, Admission free). In 2015 the BP Portrait Award received 329,556 visitors.
The Portrait Award, now in its 37th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 27th year of sponsorship by BP, is a highly successful annual event aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. The BP Portrait Award, one of the world’s most prestigious art competitions, has a First Prize of £30,000, making it one of the largest for any global arts competition.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair of Judges and Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Many congratulations to all our prizewinning and exhibited artists. In my first year as judge of the BP Portrait Award it has been fascinating to see such a range of portraits from artists from around the world. I hope our visitors will enjoy the selection for the exhibition which brings together some really striking examples of the contemporary portrait.’
Ms Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, says: ‘For 50 years BP has proudly supported the very best in UK arts and culture. The BP Portrait Award showcases the best and brightest portraiture from around the world, making it freely available to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On behalf of everyone at BP I would like to congratulate Clara and all the finalists on providing a diverse and engaging exhibition.’
Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond © Clara Drummond