Friday, June 21, 2013

BP Portrait Exhibition 2013 - Video & Review

Every year when reviewing the BP Portrait Exhibition I try to:
  • identify the portraits I like the best;
  • focus on things to think about for those who want to enter next year - and get selected!
  • AND upload a video of a walkround the exhibition at the end of the Press View
This year it's no different for the BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2013.

View of the start of the BP Portrait Exhibition 2013Photo © Katherine Tyrrell
First the video.

I should explain that I have to wait until the very end of the Press View and then I get only a few minutes to walk round without having one eye on the paintings, one eye on what the camera's viewing and one eye open wide to navigate round all the other people.  Even with two brand new eyes I still only have two - so it's best to wait to the very end when there's very few people and then do it fast.  What it does mean is if I've skipped rather too quickly over any aspect, there's no time to view and redo.



Every time I do a video I make a resolution to write down what I'm supposed to do in i-video and in YouTube. On the other hand each time I learn something new - this time it was colour and audio adjustments in i-video and how to annotate in YouTube.  Which means you'll see three notes pop up as you get to the paintings which won the First Prize, Second Prize and the Young Artist Awards.

Overall Impressions


It's a good show but oddly no one piece made me go "Wow".  On the other hand things I liked about it included:
  • the diversity - the sheer range in people, styles, approaches to painting and size of portraits is absolutely amazing.  For me it illustrates why ultimately painting is so much more interesting than photography when it comes to portraying people.
  • the hang - I particularly liked the way the smaller works were typically broken up by larger works.  In the past when too many small works have been hung together the gallery has had log jams!
  • work by international artists from all over the place.  (see BP Portrait Award 2013 - Selected Artists and Statistics )  This year they had entries from 70 different countries.  I like to think that this blog has played a small part in spreading the word about the competition and how to enter - and things to think about!
  • the BP Travel Award exhibition - which is the best I've ever seen.  (More about this on Sunday)
I also got the distinct impression that somebody on the judging panels likes acid yellow/ yellow green shades - there seems to be a lot of this colour this year!

BP Portrait Exhibition 2013 - View of part of the other side of the Gallery
Photo © Katherine Tyrrell
In terms of the actual paintings:
  • big heads are VERY big - I counted 4
  • lots of small heads only portraits
  • fewer children than in the past - or maybe it's just that the children are older
  • I liked the theme of looking at portrait painters painting portraits - take a look at the works by Jamie Routley On the inner dialogue of an artist; Greg Kapka Heterochrome  and HK Park  Portrait Sketch of Charles 
  • My Diary No.5 my Miseon Lee
    750 x 1370 Oil Linen 
    © Miseon Lee
    Photo © Katherine Tyrrell
      still lots of hyper-realism as well as realism
      .  I prefer realism small, otherwise I get distracted by examining the technique.  However don't run away with the notion that realism gets you in as there were lots of other styles of painting although the vast majority were straightforwardly representational
    • Some - such as Miseon Lee - use the realism to demonstrate that they're fabulous at painting fabrics! (see right)
    • Oddly enough, given the liking for realism, there are very few which are actually lifesize.  Think about it - that's very odd.
    • I'm still still not seeing many full figure or head and torso paintings.  As I said last year, you only have to look at the portraits in the galleries above to know that you probably get extra points for tackling a full length portrait.  Note that the winner was a 3/4 length figure sitting down.
    • Very few group portraits or portraits involving more than one person.  I like the fact that at least four of these opted for a 'normal' setting which provided context for the people.  
      • I liked The Roadhouse Crew.  Each figure is painted very simply and yet there's a lot of personality for a bunch of blokes in black leather and helmets standing next to their customised motorbikes.
    The Roadhouse Crew by Tony Noble
    1400 x 1660 Oil canvas © Tony Noble
    Photo © Katherine Tyrrell
      • What I like about Carl Randall's paintings of Japanese people is that each and every head is a mini portrait painted from life - so what we have here are multiple portraits.  His painting of Shinjuku - the world's busiest railway station - which handles more than 3.5 million passengers every day - reflects contemporary life for the masses. It shows a stream of people all moving slowly along the platform, many with phone in hand with the railway lines, other platforms and the offices of corporate Japan forming a backdrop.  It's a portrait of the people of Tokyo.
    Carl Randall painting one of the portraits of a man in the crowd in Shinjuku, Tokyo 
    Excerpted from "Carl Randall - Japan Portraits" on YouTube

    Shinjuku, Tokyo by Carl Randall
    1060 x 2330 Oil canvas
    © Carl Randall
    Photo © Katherine Tyrrell

    So what I'd personally like to see next year are more life size full figures in 'normal' contexts.  It would also be nice to see a group win a prize.

    Viewer's Choice


    I'm not very good at predicting the Viewer's Choice.  I've not yet voted as I always like to see which portrait I want to look at again.

    This year I think it's going to be  Pamela Newell Sellers 430 x 430 Egg Tempera Claybord Panel  by Leslie Watts, who's a a contemporary realist working in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

    It's painted in Egg Tempera and I'm a big Egg Tempera fan.  It's also one medium where I excuse small portraits which are limited to the head due to the nature of the painting using egg tempera.  If you're coming to exhibition you might like to have a magnifying glass (I had my magnifying glasses on which are great up close!).

    It's also a very fine portrait - there's not many who paint the skin, eyes and hair of older ladies this well.  Plus I love the pose - looking straight at me in a way which engaged me immediately.

    Pamela Newell Sellers by Leslie Watts
    430 x 430 Egg Tempera Claybord Panel

    25 years on......


    It was great when the competition switched from being about portrait painters under the age of 40 to allowing anybody aged 18 and over to enter

    My feeling is that as the sponsorship reaches 25 years in 2014, there needs to be another momentous step forward.

    I'm going to cover my idea in a separate post soon - I happen to think it would be great for both portraiture at large and the Gallery in particular and would present a whole new challenge for portrait artists.

    1 comment:

    Anne Blankson-Hemans said...

    Thanks so much for this Katherine, I will be in London this week for the SWA show and will definitely be going to see this show. Your little preview has got me excited. Thanks also for the tips, maybe I might apply next year....



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