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Monday, 12 October 2015

Review by Dips Patel of the BP Portrait Award 2015 at National Portrait Gallery


Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben-Cnaan, 2015: Oil on Board 1195 x 1395mm

While I was in the big smoke I strolled off to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the BP Portrait Award. This is the first year it's been open internationally and it shows in the breadth of the work. (Previously it was open to UK based artists, regardless of nationality.)

There's been a very strong return to photo/hyper-realist styles and pieces over the last few years and while the sheer technical execution of the work renders you more often than not utterly speechless (and at times light-headed, for example the picture below) after a while, when you see it over and over again, it loses its power somehow and that's really unfair on both the work and the artist, but what can you do? We are at the mercy of the judges and the curators! Anyway, this year it was staggering! The first prize winner was astonishing (it’s the picture above with the artist himself), capturing light at the best of times is damn difficult, but to be able capture a light that is so recognisable and inextricably linked to our idea of what light, colours and textures are in that part of the world is nothing short of miraculous (the picture on screen just doesn't do it justice) up close in the flesh, as it were, it is almost unbelievable. And I can say that about any number of the pieces in that exhibition, my favourite ones tend to be the more expressive “painterly” works rather than the photorealism ones.

Juanito by José Luis Corella, 2014: Oil on board
Don't get me wrong about this, I can only stand in awe and admiration for the skill and technique these folks have and detract nothing from them or their work, but my own artistic sensibilities have always leaned toward the more expressive, “abstracty” style of fine art. Put simply, given the choice of a Pollack or a Constable, I'd pick the paint dripper 9/10 times. As much as I like the 1st prize winner in this exhibition, I actually liked the third prize winner piece more (below), there is something I don't know, “other,” about it, the fact it's not “complete,” there's bare canvas showing around the portrait, you can see paint drips and washes and “underneath” work, coupled with just the way the portrait has been executed it's just got that “je ne sais quoi” about it…

My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening by Borja Buces Renard, 2014: Oil on Canvas 1600 x 2200mm
Again, seeing it onscreen isn't the same as in the flesh. Anyway, whenever it's the summer be sure to catch this show, it happens every year, it's free and you never know what you'll see, very exciting!
http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp-portrait-award/exhibition.php

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

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