|We are approaching the final of the BP Portrait Award 2007. This prestigious award is sought by thousands of artists every year and many of our Commission a Portrait artists have taken part in the last 28 years. 2007 has seen the competition change, as the rules now state that any artists over the age of 18 can take part from around the world, therefore raising the number of entries to a whopping 1870. |
The prize is sponsored by BP and is the leading prize for portrait artists to showcase their work to critics, admirers and the art world. Upon winning the prize, the artist is no longer legible to enter in the following years. The first prize is £25,000 and the artist also receives a commission from an important client which can later be added to the artist's already diverse portfolio.
Commission a Portrait artist, Andrew Tift won the prize last year in 2006 with his black and white triptych of Lucien Freud's first wife, Kitty Garman (Image above). Tift advises that the portrait evokes a conversation between him and the sitter and her face reflects years of knowledge and experience at the age of 79. 'We all have different faces, different expressions. During the conversation, we expressed huge changes in our physiognamy and I wanted to capture this in a triptych. The style was influenced by John Freemans 'Face to Face' interview show from the 1960's with microscopic Black and White camera work, almost like an interrogation. You can see Kitty's mind ticking over, thinking about responses to questions and absorbing thoughts and ideas.'
Tift has been keen in winning the prize, after many entries being accepted in various years and being shortlisted several times. In the early nineties Tift decided that he wanted to win prize after spotting an article in a Sunday Magazine. 'Shortly afterwards I went down with my art college for a London trip to see some galleries, The Tate and The National Portrait Gallery. I saw the BP and immediately thought this was for me.' Tift decided during his study of an MA that painting people was what he wanted to concentrate on.
Tift also won the BP Travel Award and exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery for an exhibition at Tokyo, before he won the award. ' This was the 10th piece I showed in the BP and finally I had won which is what I had been aiming for all of my professional career. It was a fantastic catalyst for me.'
On the day of the winner announcement, Tift was unsure to whether he would win as he had been shortlisted many times before. 'I was extremely nervous because I knew how close I was to actually winning again, having already been shortlisted on 3 other occasions but I really did feel close this time and my legs were like jelly. My wife was by my side and when they read out second prize and it wasn't me we both collapsed. Brian Ferry was handing out the award, I hate public speaking but felt compelled to say something after 14 years of trying, so I expressed how much it meant to me and thanked those close to me who have been so supportive.'
Tift will be attending this year's BP Portrait award to hand over his title to the 2007 winner.
Previous winners of the award from Commission a Portrait are, Lucy Willis in 1992 with her portrait of 'Her Majesty's Pleasure' and Philip Harris in 1993 with his portrait of 'Two Figures Lying in a Shallow Stream'.
Other Commission a Portrait artists who have had their work exhibited previously at the awards are Dean Marsh, Christian Furr, Conor Walton with 'Monkey Painting' (image above), Tim Okamura, Jason Butler, Peter Monkman, Jane Allison and Stephen Earl Rogers.
60 of these new 2007 portraits have been selected for an exhibition which will take place at the National Portrait Gallery from 14th June until 16th September 2007 before starting a tour around the UK. Nicholas Merton from Commission a Portrait is exhibiting this year with his portrait of 'Alex' (Image above), along with Stephen Earl Rogers and Richard Brazier.
The winner of the prize will be announced in June.
For more information go to The National Portrait Gallery Website
By Claire Cleverly