BP Portrait Award

National Portrait Gallery

16 June – 18 September 2011

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This year's BP Portrait Award exhibition features 55 pictures, drawn from 2,372 competition entries.

Distracted by Wim Heldens [1st prize]

This year's BP Portrait Award exhibition features 55 pictures, drawn from 2,372 competition entries. The winning portrait, Distracted, is by Dutch artist Wim Heldens. It depicts a 25-year-old man, Jeroen, to whom the artist has been a father figure for two decades. Jeroen is depicted at an easel and he holds the canvas with his right hand, paintbrush poised. His left hand can just be seen clutching the canvas face, while his face is turned away and looks outwards. The colour palette of this painting is calm and subdued. Sandy Nairne, the NPG's director and chair of the judges, describes it as 'an outstanding work in the midst of a truly diverse field of new portraits'.Other short listed works include Ian Cumberland's Just to Feel Normal, a strikingly detailed, head-and-shoulders portrait of a man whose face bears the marks of harsh experiences. As the artist explains: 'This is a painting of a friend whose story is like many others from my generation that have fallen victim to themselves and their preferred habits.' Cumberland lives and works in County Down, Northern Ireland. He exhibited at the BP Portrait award in 2009.Turkish artist Sertan Saltan's Mrs Cerna offers a troubling portrayal of a young woman dressed in a sports shirt, her hair clad in curlers and her rubber-gloved hands sharpening a large knife. She looks at the viewer with a menacing expression. Her face is in semi-shadow as light streams through the window behind, bleaching out background details. The clean, sharp, photorealist style of this painting provides a disquieting contrast with the troubling subject matter. The sitter is the younger sister of the artist's friend in New York City.Holly, by Louis Smith with help from Carmel Said, is a large-scale work offering an allegory of the Prometheus story re-imagined in the female form. At the focus of the composition a young semi-nude woman leans against a tree, her arms tied together and pulled upwards. The artist sets up an uneasy contrast between the hyper-real style with which the human body is painted and the wooded background, which resembles an artificial stage set, a cliché of a fairytale landscape. The theatrical feel to this painting could be attributed to the artist's training: originally from Manchester, Said studied painting in Sheffield before moving on to scene painting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic art.

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