The BP Portrait Award 2018 has arrived at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and from Saturday 15 December to Sunday 10 March 2019, this free exhibition offers some of the best modern portraits in British art from some of the brightest artistic talents of their generation.
The 49 portraits on display in this exhibition represent the very best entries to the BP Portrait Award (the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world). With a first prize of £35,000, and a total prize fund of £74,000, the Award is aimed at encouraging artists to explore and develop the centuries old artistic tradition of portraiture in their work.
Included in this exhibition are the winners in many categories including the overall 1st prize winning portrait - “An Angel at my Table” by Miriam Escofet, This portrait shows Escofet’s elderly mother seated at her kitchen table surrounded by crockery, and the press release information for this portrait sums everything about it up so well.
“The painting suggests a sense of space, perspective and time which conveys the sitter’s inner stillness and calm. Escofet says she was also conscious whilst painting that she wanted to ‘transmit an idea of the Universal Mother, who is at the centre of our psyche and emotional world.’”
This winning portrait was selected from 2,667 entries from 88 countries, submitted for judging anonymously by a panel which included journalist Rosie Millard and artist Glenn Brown. There are however many other wonderful portraits in this exhibition and they represent a wide range of styles ranging from photo surrealism to more abstract, sizes from the small to very large, and painting techniques that often challenge the very foundations of what many people consider to be a portrait. In this exhibition, artists capture moment of joy and sadness, even the final hours of one artist’s dying father. For me though, one of the more interesting portraits is one painted on glass by Oliver Bedeman. As the paints used dry so rapidly on the glass, a “reverse painting” technique for this portrait where the highlights were created first instead of last had to be used.
Perhaps from a Scottish National Gallery perspective, a painting, “LTR Team A” by Laura Nardo from the National Galleries of Scotland is perhaps the most personal - the portrait she has made of her colleague Vittorio Milazzo, standing in front of an exhibition at the galleries. I know from talking to Vittorio that he is finding this whole experience a little bit surreal.
Review by Tom King