Thursday, September 04, 2008

Nina Murdoch wins the Threadneedle Figurative Prize 2008

Untitled (£18,500) by Nina Murdoch
Egg tempera, 152 x 122cm
Nina Murdoch, 38, is the winner of the inaugural year of the £25,000 Threadneedle Figurative Prize for Untitled, her amazingly luminous egg tempera study of a derelict corner of South London. It's been described as a work that transforms the mundane into something sublime.

I'm rather cockahoop as I was not only the first person to cast a vote in the gallery but was also the first person to vote for Nina's work!
I got to cast the first vote in the gallery on Tuesday afternoon and this is the work I voted for. I very much liked Nina Murdoch's work when I saw it online (see my online perspective). However it looks nothing like its photograph when you see it in the exhibition. Her 'Untitled' work - a painting which reflects simple rhythms of light and space and colour - is simply stunning and hugely impressive and again attracted a number of very many positive comments in my hearing on Tuesday night.
Threadneedle Figurative Prize (part 2) - Green, Mills, Murdoch and Schierenberg
The Prize was awarded by Lauren Laverne (host of BBC 2’s The Culture Show), at an Awards dinner last night following a public vote held both online and at the Mall Galleries.

Nina Murdoch graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 1993 and then studied for a post graduate diploma at the Royal Academy School (1993 – 96). She's been winning art awards since 1983 when she won 1st Prize in the National Gallery Children’s Competition. She also won first prize in Sir William Coldstream Competition in her final year at the Slade and then the Landscape Award at the RA. Her work is in a number of prestigious collections - and by the looks of the collections which include her work it appears to be much loved by bankers - who always have an eye for a good investment! Her work was first shown in the Summer Exhibition at the RA in 1994 and she's currently working towards a solo show at the Fine Art Society in Spring 2009.

Also announced at this evening’s special Awards event was the winner of the £10,000 Federation of British Artists Selectors’ Choice, awarded by the selectors to Tim Shaw for his sculpture Tank on Fire, which was inspired by an (uncredited) 2005 photo image showing a British soldier in Iraq leaping to the ground from a burning Warrior vehicle. Tim Shaw studied at Falmouth College of Art (1985 – 89) and is currently engaged on a series of work about conflict to be exhibited in the autumn.

Readers may recall (see Threadneedle Figurative Prize (part 3) - Brandford, Shaw, Williams and the DVD) that I suggested what Tim might like to do with his prize money if he won. I'm also concerned that at no time has the photographer who took the very powerful photograph that this work was derived from received any accreditation, let alone prize money, for his work.

The five selectors included award-winning art critics Richard Cork and Brian Sewell, leading contemporary art dealer Angela Flowers, installation artist and sculptor Hew Locke and the art writer William Packer.

Some facts about the Threadneedle Figurative Prize:
  • This is a national competition for figurative art which is exclusive to artists living or working in the UK
  • The potential for an artist to win up to £35,000 makes it the most valuable competition for a single work of art in the UK
  • More than 2,700 entries were received in a national open submission. This figure not only well exceeded expectations, it's also the third largest submission to any exhibition in the UK in 2008.
  • The selectors chose 71 works to hang in the Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (which closes at 5pm on Saturday 6 September). You can see all 71 selected works if you click the exhibition link above.
  • It's the largest art prize in the UK awarded by a public vote. Over the last two weeks, thousands of visitors to the Mall Galleries and viewers online have voted for their choice of one of seven artists shortlisted by the selectors.
  • It was picked up by BBC Radio4's Front Row as a show not to miss.
The consensus from my readers was that it opened their eyes as to the scope of figurative art and next year we'd all like more artists to choose from!

Tomorrow night there's a 'Wrap Party' at the Mall Galleries from 5pm to 9pm (free admission) and is an opportunity to enjoy a final viewing of the show and raise a glass of wine as a toast to Nina Murdoch.



  1. I thought Nina's painting was stunning too, when you first posted about it. You have a great eye for the winners, Katherine.

  2. Gosh, I just read on Nina Murdoch's website that she keeps coming back to a tunnel in Battersea, and the painting reminded me of a tunnel I used to go through on the way to school in Battersea! It really does evoke that strangeness, I wonder if it was the same one? The colours are amazing, I'd love to see it in the flesh.

  3. cockahoop?

    Its a stunning painting-wish I could see it in person.

  4. I can only add the same feeling about this painting! Stunning and absolutely unusual - in my humble opinion - and beautiful in its purest sense! I am also a bit confused about the definition of "figurative" though - as you already said...

  5. I actually visited the exhibbition for the first time today and I must say, when I saw her piece it was fully of nuaces of washes and colours that I can't explain! AMAZING is the word! Then the final varnishing to seal it, now made it "beyond my reach"!

  6. Wonderful work, but it needs to be seen in the flesh to really appreciate it. It has such depth and luminosity.


  7. Robyn - thank you - it does seem a bit like I'm on a roll at the moment!

    Deborah - I wish I'd used a word other than cockahoop now as I've discovered its meaning is a bit more brash about being boastful than I actually meant!

    "I've got a big smile on my face" would have been rather more descriptive of the way I was feeling!!!

  8. Deborah - The Internet has opened up the viewing of Art Prizes to an international audience. It would be so nice to see the art go travelling too - for all of us!

    I'm rather surprised that some of the big prizes in this country don't tour to other countries. A number of them do mini tours within the UK though.

    I wonder whether the national art societies could get involved in reciprocal arrangements? I guess the thing that might hold it back would be the expense and the insurance.

    Which is where I come back to the big sponsored prizes...........

  9. Petra - I wonder whether this prize will find us seeing people trying to come up with more definitive guidance on figurative?

  10. Adebanji and Jenni - I absolutely agree. I'm so pleased that this work won despite the fact that it's online image simply didn't do it justice - as I'm sure everybody who has seen it will agree.

    I'm not blaming the person who took the photograph. It's just incredibly difficult to photograph.

    What's a tad amusing about this is the similarity to any artist displaying their work online who has said "It actually looks much better in real life".

    I'm certainly going to be paying a visit to the exhibition preview each year to do a 'this is what it looks like to me in real life compared to online' review.

    Many thanks to all the people who said they found the comments useful.


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