Saturday, June 20, 2009

Exhibition Review: BP Travel Award 2008 - Emmanouil Bitsakis

Portraits of people of the Uigur tribe in the Xinjiang-Uigur Autonomous Region (north west China)
by Emmanouil Bitsakis
all art copyright Emmanouil Bitsakis / all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One of the delights of the BP Portrait Award exhibition is the opportunity to see the work done by whoever won the BP Travel Award in the previous year.

The BP Travel Award 2008

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 aim of the award is to give an artist an experience of working in a different enviroment in Britain or abroad on a project related to portraiture. The artist's work is then shown in the following year as part of the exhibition for the BP portrait Award.

Last year, the NPG asked for submissions for the 2008 award to only be based in China - to celebrate China's hosting of the 2008 Olympic and Paralymic Games in Beijing.

In 2008 the BP Travel Award was won by Emmanouil Bitsakis. His project involved visiting Xinjiang-Uigur Autonomous Region (north west China)..........
"Xinjiang" or "Ice Jecen" in Manchu, literally means "New Frontier", "New Land", "New dominion" a name given during the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China.[1] It is home to a number of different ethnic groups, many of them Turkic (Turkish: Sincan), the largest of which is the Uyghur people.
Wikipedia - Xinjiang document the life and culture of the Uigur.
The Uigur are a national minority in China who predominate in this region. Originating from Turkic peoples the Uigur remain culturally distinct from the Han Chinese and their exceptional music and dance idiom, Muqam, is a core pillar of their identity and culture.
He based himself in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang and a city of 2 million people and then travelled from there to Kashgar (see images from Google) and east to Turpan - a key town on the old silk road.

Kashgar is an original medieval town which is very close to the border with the former Soviet Union

Emmanouil Bitsakis Sketchbook
Turpan, Kashgar
22nd October - 4th November 2008
Music and dance performances are commonplace in Kashgar, and form an indispensable part of social gatherings. Turpan, another town with a dense Uigur population is famous for its vineywards and its local 'Turpan Muqam' music, song and danci idiom.
Emmanoiul Bitsakis

The Travel Award exhibition comprises portraits he painted of the heads of men and women and children, plus a 'slideshow' of scanned images from his sketchbooks - such as the group of men playing their instruments (Above right).

Also on display are the tiny drawings he did of the various musical instruments. These are done on a sketchbook which is smaller than most business cards. The drawings are tiny and meticulous.

Drawings of the musical instruments of the Uigur
Emmanouil Bitsakis

For me this exhibition really demonstrates what can be accomplished when somebody draws and paints with a project in mind. Particularly one which connects to their own interests or some part of their own experience or cultural identity.

Bitsakis's drawings and paintings are small for practical reasons - he needed to transport materials out there and completed drawings and paintings back again - but are no less fine for that. His meticulous approach to creating faithful records of both the people their cultural artifacts faithfully is very apparent in both drawings and paintings.

BP Travel Award 2009

The BP Travel Award for 2009 has been won by Isobel Peachey who painted Ruth. She receives a bursary of £5,000 to travel and paint portraits for display in next year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition.

Her travel proposal involves travelling to Belgium and Switzerland to sketch and paint portraits of those taking part in historical re-enactments.
  • She will visit The Company of Saynt George, a Swiss group re-enacting the history of a small artillery company from the 15th Century at the Castle of Lenzburg, near Zurich, and
  • The Napoleonic Association who portray the life of a military encampment near Antwerp in Belgium.
Her aim is to capture the unique mix of history, culture, authentic settings and the participants’ passionate involvement in recreating the past.


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