BP Portrait Award 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery
The BP Portrait Award aims to represent the very best in contemporary portrait painting and this year it’s bigger than ever with an astonishing 2,748 entries by artists from 92 countries. This great international response was undoubtedly due to the fact that, for the first time, artists were asked to submit their work digitally. As a result, the 2015 edition of the awards boasts not only immense talent, but unmatched diversity that showcases pieces from the best portrait painters from around the world today.
While the majority of the portraits on show are oil paintings, it’s fascinating how much they differ from one another – some of them look just like traditional works of art, while others could easily be mistaken for photographs. In a way, this exhibition offers a master study on how, even when using the same materials, an artist can achieve very different results. What all the pieces have in common is the exquisite attention to detail. Mixing the modernity of their subjects with a traditional portrait setting, the artists reimagine the old art of portraiture within the context of the 21st century, giving it a timeless feeling. Still, there are plenty of traditional entries that have been strongly influenced by the Italian, Spanish and Flemish schools.
It is interesting to examine how each artist has chosen the person they portray – there are self-portraits aplenty (Felicia Forte, Sara Berman) that allow the artists self-examination and re-evaluation, as well as many portraits of loved ones and friends (Dragos Badita, Lee Myles Simmonds, Jordan Sokol). Then, there is a portrait of a survivor of the holocaust (David Jon Kassan), a large-scale painting of albino model Shaun Ross (Jerome Lagarrigue) and a portrait of Bob Geldof (Nathalie Beauvillain Scott). The issues that the painters touch upon are even more diverse, though most of them seem to be addressing ageing – the hardships of old age, the problems of being young and misrepresented, as well as the nature of the transitional time from childhood to adulthood.
Finally, diverse and thought-provoking, Matan Ben-Cnaan’s Annabelle and Guy is the First Prize winner that fascinates with its biblical narrative in a neo-realist setting, perfectly summarising the whole show.
BP Portrait Award 2015 is at the National Portrait Gallery from 18th June until 20th September 2015, for further information visit here.