Four artists have been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery, one of the largest art competitions for portrait painters in the world. The artworks were selected from 2,667 entries from 88 countries, submitted for judging anonymously by a panel which included journalist and broadcaster Rosie Millard and artist Glenn Brown.
In the running for first prize are Miriam Escofet’s portrait of her mother, An Angel At My Table; Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte which shows her partner Matthew DeJong asleep in bed; Ania Hobson’s A Portrait of Two Female Painters, depicting the artist and her sister-in-law, Stevie Dix, and Zhu Tongyao’s portrait of his Italian neighbour, Simone.
Miriam Escofet was born in Barcelona and moved to the UK in 1979. She graduated from Brighton School of Art in 1990, where she studied 3D Design and began painting soon after. This is the fifth time Escofet has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition. She has also been regularly selected for The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibitions and was awarded the Burke’s Peerage Foundation Prize for Classically Inspired Portraiture in 2015.
An Angel At My Table shows Escofet’s elderly mother sat at her kitchen table surrounded by tea crockery. 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."
Felicia Forte studied at the California Art Institute and The Art Students League of New York. Her work has been seen in numerous exhibitions in the USA. Forte was Artist-in-Residence at de Young Museum of Fine Art, San Francisco and her work Self-Portrait, Melting Point was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition.
Time Traveller, Matthew Napping finds Forte’s sweetheart Matthew DeJong asleep on a sweltering summer’s day in Detroit. Forte says she was struck by the beautiful contrasts in the scene – the "cool light from the window meeting intense red light from the bedside lamp and the loneliness of the sleeper amidst the festive colours." The portrait was the culmination of a body of new work made in residence summer 2017 at Redbull House of Art in Detroit.
Ania Hobson undertook a degree in fine art at the University of Suffolk followed by short courses at the Prince’s Drawing School and Florence Academy of Art. Her work has been seen in group exhibitions in the UK and the annual exhibitions of the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Her self-portrait, Ania, was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition.
A Portrait of Two Female Painters depicts the artist with her sister-in-law Stevie Dix and explores the relationship between the two of them as painters working in the studio together. Hobson used an upward perspective to allow the viewers eye to map the portrait and convey a feeling of confidence and creative energy which celebrates female painters today.
Zhu Tongyao was born in Jinan, Shandong and attended China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence. Tongyao has exhibited in Italy and China and in 2015 was awarded first prize in the Florence Biennale – International exhibition of contemporary art. This is the first time Tongyao has entered the BP Portrait Award.
Simone was painted while Tongyao was studying in Italy. The portrait depicts Simone, the child of the artist’s neighbours who took care of Tongyao during his stay. The painting shows Simone with a joyful expression on his face reflecting the peace that his family brought to him. The work captures a moment when the boy sat down and the sunlight fell on his face, which Tongyao says "recalled my cherished memory of happy time spent with his family."
The BP Portrait Award has a first prize of £35,000, making it one of the largest for any global art competition. The winner also receives, at the Gallery’s discretion, a commission worth £7,000. The second prize winner receives £12,000 and a third prize of £10,000 is also awarded. The BP Young Artist Award, with a prize of £9,000, goes to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30.
2018 will mark the Portrait Award’s 39th year at the National Portrait Gallery. The annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work. The prize winners will be announced on the evening of Monday 11 June 2018. The BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition will then run at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 14 June to Sunday 23 September 2018.