Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Craig Wylie wins BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2008:
Tony Hayward (Group CEO, BP) and Craig Wylie 
- in front of the winning portrait 'K'
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Craig Wylie has won the first prize in the BP Portrait Award - as I predicted on this blog last week. In fact, I did rather well as I also predicted that Peiyuan Jiang would win the Young Artist Award (for an artist aged 18-30) - and he won too.

Awards Ceremony and Prizes

Photographs in this post are from last night's Awards Ceremony and reception at the National Portrait Gallery attended by exhibitors and their partners and/or sitters, past winners, BP and NPG staff and board members - and me!

Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye presented the prizes with Tony Hayward, the Group CEO of BP who sponsor the exhibition.
"I don't know much about art, but I love faces and commission a lot of portraits - as cartoons!"
Ian Hislop
The first prize is an engraved transparent trophy, plus a cheque for £25,000 and a commission worth £4,000 to produce a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. Simon Davis won second prize and a cheque for £8,000 and Robert O'Brien won the third prize of £6,000.

Emmanual Bitsakis, who has now had portraits in the exhibition twice, was awarded the BP Travel Award 2008.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the NPG, commented that the BP Portrait Award is always the NPG's noisiest exhibition each year - as some 175,000 visitors decide whether or not they agree with the judges choices!

BP Portrait Award - First Prize

Craig Wylie, age 35, was born in Zimbabwe but now lives and works in London and has a studio just down the road from me in Hackney Wick. He graduated with distinction in Fine Art from Rhodes University in South Africa in 1996. He is an established figurative artist with a track record of previous prizes and awards in the UK and overseas and has exhibited widely. He also paints still life and his figurative work is represented by Jonathan Cooper's Park Walk Gallery in Chelsea.


Entrance to the exhibition featuring 'K'
and Piang
Jiang's Untitled
(on left hand wall)

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I was able to speak with Katie Raw just after the announcement and learned that 'K', which is a portrait of Katie, was painted by Craig in just six weeks. This was his third attempt at this particular painting.

She confirmed that his painting of her represents a point in her life when she was feeling vulnerable and that Craig was the only painter she trusted to paint her in terms of how she was feeling. Craig has previously commented that
"On one level the viewer's intrusion into the sitters emotional state is tacitly accepted, on another it is positively rebuffed."
Craig Wylie
Portraits by Craig Wylie were accepted for the BP Portrait Award exhibitions in both 2005 and 2006 but this is the first year he has made the shortlist - and now the first prize.

You can see more of Craig's work on his website and read more about his record in terms of competitions and galleries in his About Craig Wylie page

Looking back over the exhibitors in past BP Portrait Awards, it's noticeable that the names of those accepted change quite radically from your year to year - apart from a small number of people - like Craig Wylie. People like Craig who win the top prizes have often had their work shown in previous BP Portrait exhibitions before winning a prize. On which basis, I expect to see people like Benjamin O'Sullivan and/or Angela Reilly in the shortlist for 2009!

Peiyuan Jiang and Craig Wylie talking to guests
at the BP Portrait Awards Prizes reception
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The Young Artist AwardThe BP commitment to and sponsorship of the portrait exhibition extends for the second year to the new Young Artist award of £5,000 for entrants aged between 18 and 30. All entrants from this age group are automatically considered for both the BP Young Artist Award and the BP Portrait Award but an individual cannot win both.

Piang Jiang was born in China, is 24 and is currently completing an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art. Piang has done tremendously well as he first heard about the Award in 2006, entered last year for the first time but failed to get into the exhibition - and this year won the Young Artist Award! I like to think that maybe I made a very small contribution to his success - see the anecdote at the end!

The BP Travel Award

The BP Travel Award 2008 has been won by Emmanouil Bitsakis (see Portrait of a Serbian Student of theology with the Serbian Patriarch in background) - who also had a portrait in the 2007 exhibition (see Portrait by Emmanouil Bitsakis).

He studied painting at Athens School of Fine Arts and won First Prize in Painting at the Inter-Balkan Forum of Contemporary Miniature Art in 2002.

His travel proposal is to go to China and record the Uighar people - a Turkish community living in the former East Turkestan, now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (see Travelblog for a description of Turkish China). It sounds an absolutely fascinating place and I can well understand why Emmanouil's proposal was chosen for the Travel award.

Later this week I'll be posting about Gareth Reid's work produced as a result of his half share of the Travel Awatd 2007 - which is also in the exhibition.

Exhibition - venues and datesYou can see the BP Portrait Award exhibition of 55 paintings in the Wolfson Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery until 14th September. If you're in London it's well worth a visit.

BP Portrait Award Exhibition
- a sense of scale

copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The BP Portrait Award and Travel Award exhibition will then go on tour to Wolverhampton Art Gallery (27 September -14 November 2008) and Aberdeen Art Gallery (29 November 2008 -24 January 2009.)

One final anecdote.

I was introducing myself to Peiyuan Jiang and his partner and told him the name of this blog. At which point, he beamed at me and told me that he knew all about my blog and had read my previous blog posts about the BP Portrait Award after he failed to get his entry into the exhibition last year! At which point I beamed back at Peiyuan Jiang. :D

So there you go - read my blog posts on the BP Portrait Award (see below) and you too may end up learning something useful to your advantage!

The Last WordHowever I'll leave the absolute last word to Sandy Nairne, the Director - who chairs the judging panel each year - in an extract from his foreword to this year's exhibition catalogue.
Whereas the general process of curating exhibitions involves building up a choice of work, the BP Portrait Award is a process of letting go. The judges must agree the final list. In one sense portraits make this straightforward - they are all depictions of individual human subjects. However the works vary from scrupulously rendered photo-realism to loose expressionist forms with every manner of brushwork, format and colour range in between. Given that the subjects are not generally know to the judges the vitality of the rendering of the sitter becomes important as do all items depicted from their lives alongside allegorical or other symbolic elements. The sense of feeling that the subject was present is essential, but there is of course no stipulation of how this engagement between artist and sitter should be translated into the final completed portrait
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery - Director's Foreward to BP Portrait Award 2008 Catalogue
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