The Four artists short-listed for the prestigious BP Portrait Award 2012, one of the world’s most sought after art prizes were announced today at the NPG. This year the prize received 2,187 entries from 74 different countries. For the sixth year, the competition has been open to all aged 18 or over. 55 portraits have been selected for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which runs from 21 June until 23 September 2012. This year the BP Portrait Award 2012 exhibition is part of the London 2012 Festival, the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.
The four artists shortlisted for the 2012 award are:
Aleah Chapin for Auntie; Alan Coulson for Richie Culver; Ignacio Estudillo for El abuelo (Agustín Estudillo) and Jamie Routley for Tony Lewis.
In addition to a prize of £25,000, the winner of the BP Portrait Award will receive a commission worth £4,000. The second prize will be £8,000 and third £6,000. For the fifth year there will be a BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30. Aleah Chapin, Ignacio Estudillo and Jamie Routley are eligible for this award. The award and the winners of the prizes will be announced on the evening of Tuesday 19 June 2012.
The Portrait Award is now in its 33rd year at the National Portrait Gallery and 23rd year of sponsorship by BP. This highly successful annual event aims to encourage artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. The BP Portrait Award 2011 had 341,050 visitors, the highest ever for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
Brooklyn-based Aleah Chapin has just completed a 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 attended a residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in Germany in 2011. A recipient of several awards including the Posey Foundation Scholarship, Judith Kindler and Kyle Johnson Scholarship for Innovation in the Arts, and nominated for the Joan Mitchell MFA Grant, Chapin’s work has been included in solo and group shows in the US and Europe. Her portrait is of a close friend of the family and is part of a series of nude portraits of women Aleah has known all of her life. She says, ‘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.’

London-based artist Alan Coulson completed Foundation Studies in Art and Design at Harrogate College of Art and Design after leaving school but has no further formal art education and is self-taught. His work was previously exhibited in the BP Portrait Award 2010 and 2011 as well as at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ annual exhibition in 2010, 2011 and 2012. His shortlisted portrait is of Richie Culver, a fellow artist and friend. Coulson visited Culver at his home in west London where he took informal reference photographs before producing preparatory sketches and completing the painting in his studio. He says, ‘My aim was to produce a direct and honest painting that would capture Richie’s unique appearance alongside his easygoing nature’.
Ignacio Estudillo lives and works in Córdoba, Spain and studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Jerez de la Frontera, and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes of Seville. His work has been exhibited at ArtMadrid 2011 and is in the collection of Museu Europeu D’Art Modern, MEAM. His shortlisted portrait is of his paternal grandfather. He says, ‘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.’
Jamie Routley was born in Newport, Wales and currently lives and works in London. After completing a BA in Illustration at Swindon College he left the UK in 2004 to study under the American painter Charles H. Cecil in Florence, Italy where he stayed for four years. His work has been included in several exhibitions including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition in 2011 and 2012 and at Flowers East Gallery. His portrait is of Tony Lewis who has a newspaper stand at Baron’s Court Tube Station and works in ‘The Four Vintners’ wine shop. Routley says, ‘I didn’t set out to paint a triptych, 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 competition was judged from original paintings by this year’s panel:
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London
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

Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘The judges of this year’s BP Portrait Award had many outstanding portraits to choose from, and were greatly impressed by the increasingly international submission.’
Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, says: ‘We are proud to be able to continue our support of this vibrant competition. This year we were especially pleased to have received entries from 74 different countries, illustrating the increasing international appeal and reputation of the competition.’

The BP Travel Award is an annual award of £5,000, to allow artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. The 2011 award was won by Jo Fraser for her proposal to travel to the Cuzco region of Peru to observe the labour-intensive production of textiles in small indigenous communities. She has always been fascinated by the symbolism within the weavings, the methods of creating them, and the historical traditions of the process. Her final piece in oils, on show in the BP Portrait Award 2012 exhibition, has been developed from sketches and photographs taken during her visit.

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