Tuesday, July 01, 2014

BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition - review and video

  • Read about my review of the BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition in which I highlight the portraits I particularly liked  and focus on key themes and points to note for those aspiring to enter.
  • View my latest walkabout film of the exhibition in the gallery. 

A walk around the BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition

Followers of my previous videos of the BP Portrait Award exhibitions (see a list of those from previous years at the end of this post) will note a much lighter brighter better picture in this year's video BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition.  That's because I now video using my iPad Mini and I'm getting a much better light balance - so long as I'm using HD! It's also an awful lot simpler. However you still get the "walking around effect" since that is literally what I'm doing....

This year I also managed to do my walk round just after the Wolfson Gallery - where the exhibition is held - had been cleared. I've got special permission to do this from the NPG but cannot hang about because the security people need to lock up so they can have their lunch - so apologies if I don't linger on your favourite portrait.

The wonderful thing about doing it in an empty gallery is I can walk backwards without having to watch where I'm going!

Here's the video - A walk around the BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition

Overall Impressions

BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition opened last week
This is my favourite corner! 
I love the juxtaposition of the monocromatic portraits
- different sizes, different approaches, different subjects
    I wrote down my impressions and then tried to sort them out.  I'm going to write a separate post later this week about the statistics relating to the entry and who all the selected artists are.

    Themes this year include:

    • all the "big heads" (there were three really big ones this year) had levels of interest in the nature of the way they had been painted - none of them were trying to be photorealistic in the way some portraits have done in the past.
    • a number of portraits of artists in their studio (I counted 3 artists in their studio and 1 portrait of a wife in the artist's studio). I also loved the portrait of the artist's dog in one such painting!
    • Vulkan Baga with his portrait of Markus
      oil on panel, 240mm x 300mm
    • there are fewer groups of people. Only one artist (Lantian D) submitted a group and he submitted three paintings as a triptych of people on a train. It worked very well and was hung on its own on a short wall - and looked very good.
    • Passers by Lantian D
      oil on canvas
    • There are in fact three triptychs this year

    • Plus three nudes

    • Hair is all the more interesting when it's a bit different - and there were some good 'hair' paintings this year.  Such as the painting of Engels Souffrant a.k.a. EngelsInBrooklyn by Patrik Graham. Of more interest was how a Haitian born artist living in Brooklyn came to be painted by a Swedish born artist who trained in Florence.  Plus it's a very striking portrait and was chosen for the banner outside the National Portrait Gallery (see photo at top of post).
    Engels is a remarkable artist and we met in 2006 when I started renting a studio in an old industrial area called Gowanus named after the local Gowanus canal. Our studios where a few doors apart and we quickly became close friends. Though coming from very different backgrounds in art, Engels from the 80's New York art scene and me a classical realist school in Florence, we found that we had a great affinity and understanding. We ended up frequently spending time in each other's studios discussing and critiquing each other's work. Over the years I ended up on Engels wall of fame which is one of his ongoing projects, he takes snap shots of all the people that come through his studio and then covers the entire walls of his studio with this ever growing photo collage of friends. I have always painted friends, their friends and who ever excites me that would drift in to my life, unusually though, it took me five years to realise my desire to paint Engels and that he would make an exceptional portrait.
    Engels by Patrik Smith - great hair!
    oil on canvas, 762 x 457mm
    • quite a few artists chose to have a plain background. It's apparent quite a few of them were careful to either create an understated texture or selected a colour which would enhance the overall impact of the portrait
    Portraits by (left to right) Isabella Watling, Benjamin Sullivan and Ignacio Estudillo Perez
    Portrait of Jean Yves, a man looking like Vincent Van Gogh by Gauthier Hubert
    oil on canvas, 700 x 610mm
    It was impossible to ignore this portrait by this contemporary Belgian artist with a strong style
    indeed it needed to be hung on its own as it had such a big impact
    Eddy in the Morning - a painting of his sone by Geoffrey Beasley
    oil on canvas, 500mm x 500mm
    (I overheard somebody saying this was their favourite!)
    • I also saw portraits which expanded the portrait into the context for the sitting. I do like detailed contexts when they're both interesting and painted well. My boy Adam is a great portrait of a teenager (note all the trainers!) by Melissa Scott Miller. Melissa can be commissioned and specialises in portraits with lots of interesting background detail.
    Melissa Scott Miller with her portrait of her son 'My Boy Adam'
    oil on canvas 1020mm x 770mm
    Turning up with your model to the preview is normally guaranteed to generate a photograph by somebody! This is John Williams with his model Edward Lucie Smith - a British writer, poet, art critic, curator, broadcaster and author of exhibition catalogues. It also demonstrates that choice of sitter can sometimes be astute.

    Edward Lucie Smith and John Williams
    oil on canvas, 655mm x 500mm
    We also have the very first husband and wife independently selected for the exhibition.  This is James Martin by Henrietta Graham. She's currently painting a series of portraits of Great British Chefs

    James Martin by Henrietta Graham

    and this is a portrait of Henrietta in her studio - with her pug Ollie - by her husband Tim Hall.  She's painting RenĂ© Redzepi, whose restaurant Noma has been named the world’s best for the fourth time.

    (centre) Henrietta and Ollie by Tim Hall, oil on canvas, 2032mm x 1422mm
    - I love the fact the portrait includes all the painting paraphernalia and the office dog
    (left) Astrid by Robin L Muller acrylic on board, 431 x 381mm
    (right) Northern Bather by Gareth Reid, oil on canvas, 645 x 520mm (former BP Travel Award winner)

    Still to come

    Still to come are:
    • a post about the two other winners of the Young Artist Award and the BP Travel Award 2014
    • a post about the BP Travel Award year and exhibition by Sophie Ploeg, winner of the BP Travel Award 2013
    • a post about the statistics and the selected artists - including links to their websites.  I've also worked out an analysis of what type of portrait got selected this year.
    I'm still pondering on my favourites - I'll comment further in the Statistics and Selected Artists post

    More videos

    You can see all the related videos on Making A Mark Video Channel - BP Portrait and Travel Awards

    More about the BP Portrait Award

    BP Portrait Award 2014

    BP Portrait Award 2012

    BP Portrait Award 2011

    BP Portrait Award 2010

    BP Portrait Award 2009

    BP Portrait Award 2008


    1. I very much appreciate the video tour of the BP Portrait exhibit, Katherine, your attention to each painting, and your intention to size each for the lens. As you did so, I felt some of the intimacy with each portrait that the artist must have felt while standing the same distance away from his/her painting; "what it means to be human," the essence of personality, individual purpose and character is underlined in such a powerful exhibit as this. Thank you for bringing it to those who could not be there to see it--due to your efforts, to some degree I have seen it--thank you!

    2. Loved seeing your videos on this...what exceptional work!!


    COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
    My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

    Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.