This is the 29th BP Portrait Award and, if anyone thought that painted portraits don’t have a place in a time of photography and the ubiquitous ‘selfie’, this is proof that the desire to make pictures of people using ‘old-school’ media is very much alive and kicking.
I guess the clue is in the name – BP is all about oil and the majority of the paintings on show have been made using oil paints. This sometimes frustrates me because I’m a great advocate of mixed media (and of course paper collage). But I was blown away by the talent on show at this year’s exhibition.
I would think that photos have been used as reference tools for many of the pictures. It’s just impossible to keep a subject still for any length of time and many of the paintings seemed to capture fleeting moments, glances, and glimpses of personality and emotion. I think that’s hard to do with a sitter who’s getting a bit itchy and uncomfortable.
The winning portrait, An Angel at My Table by Miriam Escofet is remarkably proficient. It’s quite photo-realistic but then there is a beguiling ornament which seems to be moving – the angel, perhaps? And the wistful look of the woman sitting amongst the cool, blue china cups and saucers is captivating.
I always look for evidence of brush stroke and the sheer joy of slapping oil paint on canvas. I was encouraged to see that Second Prize went to Felicia Forte for her painting entitled Time Traveller, Matthew Napping. It’s more a portrait of a moment than the actual person and I loved the big, bold colours and exuberance of the process which is clear to see.
The BP Portrait exhibition is free to visit – it’s in a different gallery this year which makes it feel rather smaller than usual ( I don’t know if that’s true) but it’s always worth a visit.
It’s on until 23rd September 2018