Monday, September 14, 2009

Sheila Wallis wins £25,000 Threadneedle Prize

The public have voted in their thousands. The votes have been counted and tonight came the announcement that Sheila Wallis, age 36, has been awarded the 2009 Threadneedle Prize (£25,000) for her self-portrait.

Self portrait by Sheila Wallis
oil on canvas, 20cm x 20cm
Sheila Wallis comes from Derry, N.Ireland where she lived until she was 16. Born at the height of the Troubles, her work is partly inspired by themes of internal and external conflicts and the vulnerability and exposure of the existential human condition. She has chosen to express these themes by painting the body. In her early life, this was a form which she was prohibited from exploring by the moral strictures of a Catholic upbringing, yet her builder father's abilities with his hands and his talent for creation is her earliest inspiration.
Sheila wants her paintings to:
convey the vulnerability of exposure without being exploitative or cruel… [the subject] is aware of the scrutiny, but is not subjugated, objectified, nor dismissive of it. Essentially alone, all objects and paraphernalia other than the body and the surface it rests upon are removed, presenting a small, naked creature, not the classic ‘nude’.
Sheila does not seem to have a website but you can see more of Sheila's work in this You Tube film. During 2009/10, she's also the artist in residence at the Watts Gallery, in Compton near Suidford in Surrey and you can see more of Sheila's work on the gallery website.

Sheila's prize was announced by Lauren Laverne (host of BBC 2’s The Culture Show), following the public vote which was held both online and at the Mall Galleries.

Last year I voted for the winner (in the gallery) and this year I voted for the winner too (but this time online) after seeing the works at the preview. This is what I wrote about this piece.
This is my favourite painting in the shortlist because, in my view, it's the best painting.

The pose means that this is not a comfortable painting to look at - I'm not a fan of 'in your face' nudes (or self-portraits which can only have been painted from a photograph).

However there's something about the overall design and composition, the value pattern and the sensitivity of the colours used in this painting which makes you want to walk over to it and look...and linger, at which point you also admire the brushwork too!

Unfortunately, if it was in a competition to win prizes for presentation it would get marked down as its frame is really not doing it any favours at all and it would have been better presented simply as a board.

So lots of caveats - but still one of the pieces I liked the best and a candidate for my vote.
I waited a week before I voted - and then thought about which piece was still in my head. It was Sheila Wallis's painting and that's why it got my vote!

The awards were made at a dinner at the Mall Galleries this evening. You can still see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries until Saturday 19th September. Plus you can read more about the Threadneedle Prize in the posts listed below.

Links: Threadneedle Prize 2009
Links: Threadneedle Prize 2008 - Links to posts on this blog about last year's exhibition
Exhibition/Gallery details:

Making a Mark reviews......


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Well Katherine, evidently you have fabulous taste! :-)). Thank you for all your lovely comments about the painting.
    I spoke to Sheila earlier and she is absolutely thrilled to have won. It's a very exciting development for her but I know she'll be relieved to get back to painting when the phone stops ringing!

  3. yessss! I gave my vote for her as well;
    when I saw it live for the first time, I was pleasantly shocked about how small it was, I was expecting something bigger, so yey to the small size!

  4. Is it now 2 for 2 Katherine?
    It is a lovely painting and I am delighted that she won.

  5. Hi,

    When I look at an artwork where shortened perspective plays a major role, I always compare it to the "Christ" of Andrea Mantegna.
    And I can say that this one compares quite positively.
    It's an awesome work.

    Kind regards,



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