BP Portrait Award 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery
“Selected from 2,557 entries by artists from 80 countries around the world, the BP Portrait Award 2016 represents the very best in contemporary portrait painting,” the exhibition proclaims. Indeed, the works at the National Portrait Gallery do not disappoint; the exhibition displays an impressive range of contemporary portraiture art.
Now in its 37th year, the BP Portrait Award not only represents a range of countries, but also a variety of painting techniques: from strikingly realistic works that almost seem like photographs to expressive brush works, almost every genre of painting is represented. Equally diverse is the range of subjects – from family members and friends to prominent personalities, the range is overwhelming. John Borowicz’s Tad (Son of the Artist), for example, depicts the heartwarming moment when his young son pulled a large brown paper bag on his head, while Charles Moxon more soberly portrays MP Harriet Harman in a Renaissance-style full-head portrait.
Every painting is accompanied by a small text about the artist’s motivation and intention, interspersed with quotes, which makes the whole exhibition experience feel more personal. All these portraits are presented close together in a small gallery space, where they contrast nicely with one another. One wall’s centre is reserved for the top three contestants, with this year’s winner Girl in a Liberty Dress, a portrait of Kirsty Buchanan by Clara Drummond, prominently displayed at the centre.
The most heartbreaking portrait comes from Chinese artist Bo Wang, who won second prize. His work Silence communicates the last days in the life of his grandmother, battling the terminal stage of cancer and having lost the ability to speak. Wang’s painting is shockingly realistic and the eyes of his grandmother are so expressive that the viewer is inevitably moved — “there was too much emotion in her eyes to be expressed in words,” Wang says, which is why he was moved to this intimate portrayal.
Image: Girl in a Liberty Dress (2016) by Clara Drummond – Winner
BP Portrait Award 2016 is on at the National Portrait Gallery from 23rd June until 4th September 2016, for further information visit here.