An Irish artist’s striking portrait of the Belfast poet Michael Longley by Colin Davidson has won the BP Visitors’ Choice 2012 in BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London this year.
‘The Dialects of Silence’ (Portrait of Michael Longley) by Colin Davidson from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, received 2, 814 votes from visitors who are invited to name their favourite portrait in the annual competition-based exhibition. This year, 23,381 votes were cast between 21 June and 9 September 2012 – some 11 per cent of the approximately 220,000 who had visited by close of votes. Davidson, 43, caught the public’s imagination for his penetrating painting of the distinguished Irish poet Michael Longley CBE, 73. He says in his portraits he strives to ‘capture the moment when the sitter is lost in their own thoughts.’
The second most popular was Silent Eyes by Greek artist Antonios Titakis (2,009 votes), and the third Today You Were Far Away, a self-portrait by another Northern-Irish artist Ian Cumberland (1,266 votes). Fourth position went to the BP Portrait Award First Prize winner Auntie by Aleah Chapin (974 votes) – an unusually high Visitors’ Choice placing for a portrait endorsed by both the public and the judges. For the third time this year, visitors were able to vote on a touch-screen positioned just outside the exhibition, which runs at the National Portrait Gallery until 23 September 2012. The top three can be seen at
Colin Davidson (15.10.1968) for The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley) (2,814 votes) (Oil on linen, 1270 x 1270 mm): Colin Davidson undertook a BA (Hons) at the Art and Design Faculty of the University of Ulster, Belfast and has been appointed an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions in Dublin, Belfast and New York and numerous group exhibitions including the BP Portrait Award 2011. The portrait is of the Irish poet, Michael Longley and was made from life. Longley met the artist at the launch of the new Lyric Theatre, Belfast, where the foyers are hung with portraits by Davidson. One of Northern Ireland’s foremost contemporary poets, Michael Longley is, says the Poetry Foundation, ‘renowned for the quiet beauty of his compact, meditative lyrics’ which are also ‘marked by sharp observation of the natural world, deft use of technique, and deeply felt emotion’. Since his debut volume, Ten Poems in 1965, Longley has won the T S Eliot Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Prize and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.
Antonios Titakis (30.06.1971) for Silent Eyes (2,009 votes) (Acrylic on canvas, 2200 x 1540 mm): Antonios Titakis is a graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts. His work has been seen on display in the Athens War Museum and in the 2009 Athens Biennale. This portrait is of the artist’s friend Dimitra and is part of a larger body of work. Titakissays of the method used: ‘I used black and white acrylics, focusing on the delicate balance of tones. Broadening the spectrum without adding a third colour has been a challenge.’
Ian Cumberland (16.03.1983) for Today You Were Far Away (1,266 votes) (Oil on linen, 1500 x 1000 mm): Ian Cumberland studied fine art at the University of Ulster. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions in London and in numerous group exhibitions in New York, London, Dublin and Belfast. He was selected for the KPMG Emerging Artist Award in both 2009 and 2010, and won First Prize in the Davy Portrait Award, 2010. His work was included in the BP Portrait Award 2009 and won third prize in the BP Portrait Award 2011. This self-portrait was painted in the earlier part of this year.

Photo:  Auntie by Aleah Chapin winner of BP award 2012 and Michael Longley by Colin Davidson first prize peoples award.

Until 23 September 2012, National Portrait Gallery, Admission free
Supported by BP

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