London Art Reviews

Magazine of art press and reviews from London

“BP Portrait Award 2012: the Visitor’s Choice” goes to Colin Davidson at the National Portrait Gallery.

“BP Portrait Award 2012: the Visitor’s Choice” at the National Portrait Gallery.

David Burlak – 2nd October 2012

“offers to the visitors of the exhibition the opportunity to vote for their favourite”

The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley) by Colin Davidson, 2012 © Colin Davidson

At “BP Portrait Award 2012” visitors could express their preference, by the “Visitor’s Choice Award”. The overall winner was Colin Davidson, second Antonios Titakis, third Ian Cumberland and fourth Aleah Chapin.

The 2012 edition of the competition has seen many other activities, including the “Next Generation” project, the “BP Travel Award 2012”, the “BP Young British Award 2012”. Besides, part of the first prize for winning the BP Portrait Award is a “Commission” to paint a portrait that subsequently enters the Gallery’s collection.

While the main prize is given by a panel of experts, “The BP Portrait Award: Visitors’ Choice” offers to the visitors of the exhibition the opportunity to vote for their favourite portrait in the show. This year 23,381 votes were cast between 21st June and 9th September 2012.

This is a form of involving people in the “The BP Portrait Award”. It is not only a sort of democracy form – which in these days of painful economic crisis it seems to be a leftover. People like to be part of the decision-making process of the competition and to express their ideas. For the official panel of experts this is a benchmark, also because they can taste the water of the public ideas and improve their choice skills.

Silent Eyes by Antonios Titakis, 2012 © Antonios Titakis

The “BP Portrait Award”  in 2011 received 341,050 visitors, the largest ever number of visitors for an exhibition at the Gallery. The Portrait Award, now in its 33rd year at the National Portrait Gallery and 23rd year of sponsorship by BP, is a highly successful annual event aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work.

The overall winner was “The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley)” by Colin Davidson which received 2, 814 votes. Colin Davidson undertook a BA (Hons) at the Art and Design Faculty of the University of Ulster, Belfast and has been appointed an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions in Dublin, Belfast and New York and numerous group exhibitions including the BP Portrait Award 2011. The portrait is of the Irish poet, Michael Longley and was made from life. Longley met the artist at the launch of the new Lyric Theatre, Belfast, where the foyers are hung with portraits by Davidson. Colin Davidson says he strives to: ‘Capture the moment when the sitter is lost in their own thoughts.’

In second place was “Silent Eyes” by Antonios Titakis (2,009 votes). Antonios Titakis is a graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts. His work has been seen on display in the Athens War Museum and in the 2009 Athens Biennale. This portrait is of the artist’s friend Dimitra and is part of a larger body of work. The artist felt a particular connection with the sitter as she had recently experienced the death of her father, as he had. Titakis says of the method used: ‘I used black and white acrylics, focusing on the delicate balance of tones. Broadening the spectrum without adding a third colour has been a challenge.’

Today You Were Far Away by Ian Cumberland, 2012 © Ian Cumberland

In third place was “Today You Were Far Away”, a self-portrait by Ian Cumberland (1,266 votes). Ian Cumberland studied fine art at the University of Ulster. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions in London and in numerous group exhibitions in New York, London, Dublin and Belfast. He was selected for the KPMG Emerging Artist Award in both 2009 and 2010, and won First Prize in the Davy Portrait Award, 2010. His work was included in the BP Portrait Award 2009 and won third prize in the BP Portrait Award 2011. This self-portrait was painted in the earlier part of this year.

Fourth place went to the BP Portrait Award First Prize winner “Auntie” by Aleah Chapin (974 votes), an unusually high placing for a portrait endorsed by both the public and the judges.

Supported by BP, the exhibition will tour to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, from 3 November 2012 until 27 January 2013 and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter from 9 February until 19 May 2013.

From 21st June until 23rd September 2012

At the National Portrait Gallery, 2 St. Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE, London.

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