Friday, June 27, 2014

Richard Twose and David Jon Kassan - video interviews with BP Portrait Award prizewinners 2014

Here are my next two video interviews with artists winning prizes at the the BP Portrait Award 2014 Ceremony,  held this week in the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Video interviews below are with:
  • 2nd prizewinner - Richard Twose (UK)
  • 3rd prizewinner - David Jon Kasssan (USA)
All three of the prizewinners have something to teach us about the process of being selected for the BP Portrait Award
  • An awareness that you really need to raise your game and paint your very best if you want to be selected. All had thought about entering the competition for a long time before they submitted this year's entry. 
  • The advantages of choosing a model with an interesting head and face and backstory. None of the models were young. All have faces which have lived a life albeit they have all led very different lives. I guess that gives character to the portrait as well as making painting skin a lot more interesting!
  • They all have a passion for painting which comes through strongly in each interview
  • All were humble about their own selection. All felt very strongly that just being selected for the exhibition was a massive achievement of itself - since the work of only 55 artists is chosen from submissions by over 2,377 artists
Both Richard and David agreed that Thomas's portrait of Man in a Plaid Blanket was a very worthy winner - and that you cannot beat inspecting a painting in person to see the paint on the surface of the support and what the artist has done with it.

In addition I would note that ALL THREE of the prizewinning portraits were of the head and upper torso and the hands as well as the face were very evident in all three. Hence you might get selected if you enter just a head but I doubt you'll be shortlisted.

So - on to the interviews.

An interview with Richard Twose

Jean Woods  by Richard Twose
Second Prize (£10,000): Richard Twose (age 51 - 01.04.1963) for Jean Woods (900 x 600mm, oil on board).

Judges’ comments - Jean Woods 

The judges immediately recognised the strong personality coming through in this portrait. The stylish Modernist quality of the painting was well judged and seemed to reflect the subject perfectly’
Richard Twose is a Bath-based art teacher (for two days a week - in a large sixth form college in Bath).  His portrait is of Jean Woods, age 76, a grandmothe of four, a former fashion model and the star of the documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Listen to the interview to find out how Richard came to meet Jean and paint her.
Sometimes as Jean was talking, especially about her much-missed late husband, she reminded me of Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer. Jean has a similar intensity and honesty in her gaze. I wanted to capture that sense of someone who has learnt to be almost fearless, looking forward to life still but with a great richness of experience behind her’.

An interview with David Jon Kassan

Letter to my Mum by David Jon Kassan
Third Prize (£8,000): David Jon Kassan (age 37 - 25.02.1977) for Letter to my Mom (1245 x 810mm, oil on aluminium panel)

Judges’ comments - Letter to my Mom

‘The judges were moved by the palpable relationship between the sitter and his mother in this portrait. They felt there was a serenity in the pose and were particularly struck by the artist’s attention to his mother’s hands’.
David's portrait of his mother includes a written tribute in Hebrew inscribed into the painting. His mother is not a willing sitter but consented to sit when she was offered a paint of her grandson Lucas.
‘My work is very personal and heartfelt. It’s my visual diary, so my family and loved ones make up a large part of what and why I paint. My parents have always been inspirational to paint. This portrait is a letter to my mom, who hates it when I paint her. But I tell her in the painting that by painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories’. 
The Hebrew text painted onto the portrait above the sitter reads: 
‘Dear Mom,/ This painting is my way to spend more time with you./ My way to meditate on our life together./ And all of the earliest memories I have / All of my earliest memories from you.’

Note: I should explain that both interviews were held in the noisiest BP Portrait Award Press View I've ever been in - lots of chatting going on. Consequently the view of faces was dictated by how close I needed to be to make sure the microphone picked up their voices!

BP Portrait Award - previous years

I've been covering the BP Portrait Award for some years and have an extensive archive of posts relating to previous competitions which I know are much studied by those contemplating an entry!

BP Portrait Award - Shortlisted artists on Making A Mark:

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008


  1. I am SO happy that David Kassan won an award...I've been following him for years, I think he is just a brilliant artist!!

  2. Fantastic for Richard Twose! Great interview - from another part-time art teacher/artist!


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