Sunday, September 17, 2023

Graham Crowley wins John Moores Painting Prize 2023

Last week it was announced that Graham Crowley, age 73, has won the John Moores Painting Prize 2023 with his painting of 'Light Industry' (see below). 

The John Moores Painting Prize 2023 (£25,000)

The award brings a prize pot of £25,000 and a  a solo display at the Walker Art Gallery in 2025.

Light Industry by Graham Crowley

I'm surprised.

I can only reiterate what I thought when I reviewed all the paintings when they were shortlisted
I've got the big versions of the images of these paintings and this one has been produced by wiping paint in different directions to create a background - and then drawing into it while it's still wet. It's a neat and effective painting technique and worth highlighting - but I'm not sure it does enough to merit winning the first prize.
I haven't changed my mind.

I know the judging is anonymous - but one does wonder.....  However I am now inclined to believe the prize might be in part be not so much to do with an individual painting so much as maybe recognition of an artist who has been repeatedly selected for the John Moores Painting Prize - having had a painting selected 10 times over FIVE DECADES - in each of these years: 1976, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1993, 2004, 2006, 2016 - and 2023!

"Light Industry" was apparently inspired by a visit to a motorcycle dealer in Framlingham, Suffolk – which the artist describes as part workshop, part counter-cultural ‘museum’.

Graham Crowley commented as follows
“The John Moores Painting Prize is without doubt the UK’s pre-eminent painting competition and exhibition. One of my ambitions, apart from painting the best paintings I possibly can, has always been to win. Exhibiting as part of the prize in the past has played a significant part in establishing my reputation as a painter. This is important as I, like most practicing painters, am not represented by a gallery or commercial interest.”

“The prize has an authoritative history of post-war painting in the UK, and its credibility and longevity are testament to the anonymous judging process. I am thrilled to be the first prize winner this year.”

About Graham Crowley

Graham Crowley in his Studio
  • Born in Romford, Essex in 1950
    • Art Education:1968 – 69 Foundation Studies, St Martin's School of Art, London
    • 1969 – 72 Diploma in Art & Design, St Martin's School of Art, London
    • 1972 – 75 MA (RCA), Royal College of Art, London
    • 1978-85 – Visiting lecturer in painting, RCA.
  • Crowley worked originally as an abstract painter but began to paint figuratively in the 1970s.
  • His work has been shown extensively in England and Europe, including exhibitions at the Venice and Paris biennales and at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
  • He is included in a number of public collections and has also completed several large-scale public commissions.
  • He has been living and working in Suffolk since 2014.
  • This is his CV

Other Prizewinners

Shortlisted Artists (£2,500 each)

By way of introduction (from me)
  • there are four "technique paintings" (for want of a better term) - only one of which interests me
  • and a genuine original which has both substance and impact.
  • my favourites are by the two youngest painters.
The four other shortlisted artists who will each receive £2,500 are: 
  • Social Murder: Grenfell In Three Parts by Nicholas Baldion, 
  • Stochastic 14 by Emily Kraus, 
  • Other Light by Damian Taylor and 
  • Champagne Cascade I by Francisco Valdes.
You can see details of  these artists - and their paintings - in my post Five artists shortlisted for John Moores Painting Prize 2023

Lady Grantchester Prize 

This award (supported by Winsor & Newton) has been developed to support artists in the early stages of their career. 

This is the first time this prize has been awarded. It comprises £5,000, a residency and £2,500 worth of art materials for her work.

Emma Roche in her studio knitting her acrylic!

Emma Roche won the Lady Grantchester Prize.  Her work is made of knitted acrylic painting on wooden panels. She commented as follows
“I really value this recognition and support from the John Moores Painting Prize. I am interested in pushing painting to its limit through the different processes that I use, so the work is not always immediately recognised as painting or as paint. I was thrilled to find out that I made it through to the exhibition stage and to be a prize winner is surreal. I feel very grateful.”
Emma has B.A. in Fine Art Painting, N.C.A.D., Dublin, 2006; an M.A. in Visual Arts Practices, I.A.D.T. Dublin, 2010; and attended the Turps Banana Art School, London 2016-2019 


So one painter in his 70s wins the big prize and one much younger artist wins the "support the career prize". 

In my view, I'd have preferred to have seen a Lifetime Achievement Award for an older painter and the big prize going to somebody much younger.

There are those of us who think somebody winning a very major prize in the early part of their career is actually the best possible support to the future career of an artist. There's a fair few painters who have won this one early on who can support that view.

Visitors' Choice Award (£2,023)

Visitors to the exhibition are now invited to vote for their favourite painting to win the popular Visitors’ Choice Award, sponsored by Rathbones. The winning artist will receive £2,023

The Exhibition

The John Moores Painting Prize is the UK's most well-known painting competition, bringing together the best contemporary painting from across the UK to Liverpool.
The 70 paintings - selected from a record 3,357 entries - included in the John Moores Painting Prize Exhibition are now open to view at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool 16 Sep 2023—25 Feb 2024.

I'm guessing the record entries are in part generated by the demise of several other art competitions with serious prize money.

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