Winner of the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2017 by a yard

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Robert Priseman, Louise Giovanelli and Narbi Price.

Winner of the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2017 by a yard

By James Brewer 

A television series hugely popular half a century ago was remarkably the focus of the winning entry in the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2017.

Narbi Price, an artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne, had beaten a path to Latimer Road in London W10 to lay the groundwork for a canvas that he called Untitled Yard Painting (Albert).

Narbi Price.

It was revealed at the prize ceremony that the scene is how Stable Way in Shepherd’s Bush looked as the setting for several episodes of Steptoe & Son, a BBC comedy that began in the 1960s. It was purportedly home to a rag-and-bone yard run by junk dealer Albert and his son Harold in the second series of the scripts written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Albert and Harold would drive their horse and cart through the starkly functional entrance in the fictional Oil Drum Lane.

Guests at the prize private view – at the more romantic setting of the Stables Gallery, part of historic Orleans House, Twickenham, a popular venue for avant-garde exhibitions – applauded and toasted with Prosecco and Cava the achievement of the winning artist and everyone on the 12-strong shortlist.

Untitled Yard Painting (Albert), by Narbi Price.

Narbi’s representation of the Steptoe site conveys a comfortable bleakness. It comes as a surprise that an undistinguished urban exterior is freighted with a history of pathos and laughter that embraced millions of television viewers. His acrylics possess a photographic quality that is testimony to his meticulous research typical of all his endeavours.

Born in Hartlepool, Narbi is already a veteran of numerous group shows, and the Contemporary British Painting Prize is his seventh major award.

Cara Nahaul with Villa Gandia, Blind Spots and Inches of Dust.

His yard paintings were completed before the Latimer Road area was blighted by the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe, and he confessed to experiencing considerable emotion as the dreadful news broke in June 2017 of the tragedy just a kilometre from the spot where he had studied the terrain for his compositions.

Introducing the winner at the event on Saturday August 26, Robert Priseman, co-founder of Contemporary British Painting, described Narbi as “a painter’s painter.” The exhibition remains open until October 22 at the Stables Gallery, and entrance is free.

Narbi’s prize has three elements: a solo exhibition at the Herrick Gallery, Piccadilly; a critical essay on his practice by art critic and curator Nicholas Usherwood; and £2,000 for the purchase of the winning work which will become part of the Priseman Seabrook Collection of 21st Century British Painting. The Priseman Seabrook Collections were established by Robert Priseman and his wife Ally Seabrook in 2014 and are housed in northeast Essex.

Jadé Fadojutimi with Lotus Land and Fishing for Steps.

The artist-led group Contemporary British Painting has 70 members, and the 12 shortlisted artists for the exhibition were Michael Ajerman, Jake Clark, Jadé Fadojutimi, Louise Giovanelli, Juliette Losq, Cara Nahaul, Simon Parish, Narbi Price, Alli Sharma, Joan Sugrue, Molly Thomson, and Helen Turner.

Speaking at the ceremony, Robert Priseman announced that the judging panel had a special commendation to Louise Giovanelli who “shows great promise.” London-born Louise graduated in fine art at Manchester School of Art and has had much success in the capital, the North West, and elsewhere.

Molly Thomson with her acrylics.

Mr Priseman declared: “It is not only a lovely day [one of the warmest of the summer in London], but it is a really fantastic exhibition. It has been a real joy.”

Narbi agreed that his fellow entrants had all produced “incredibly good paintings, and I am delighted to be part of the show.”

Indeed, all those who exhibited have exciting plans. That is the case for instance, with Cara Nahaul who showed a large canvas (100 x 110cm) Villa Gandia, in oil and acrylic; and the smaller Blind Spots in oil and flashe (a kind of acrylic vinyl she began to work with while in New York); and Inches oDust in oil, oil pastel and flashe.

Wang Wen.

Her works are a compulsive, marvellous surreal interface of intensely coloured trees, windows and other structures. Their deceptive simplicity lures the viewer into intrigued contemplation.

Cara’s imagery owes much to her interpretation of her travels and to architectural and lifestyle magazines, in which the pictures inspire a fantasy or a destination. Holiday homes or luxury interiors depicted in such publications give rise to such dreams… visions resulting for instance from her encounter in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2016 with what was originally a private garden, bought by Yves Saint Laurent; and a villa in the south of Spain with its Moorish influence. Much is to do with the colonial idea of a place rather than the reality: “how we bring the idea of something tropical and exotic into our domestic situation.”

The Horror. By Jake Clark.

She is one of 13 people selected by UK Young Artists to inaugurate a partnership with South Korea’s Seojung Art Centre and Superior Gallery, Seoul, and Chung Ang University. They will travel to the Korean capital in October 2017 to present their work alongside 10 Korean artists. There will be collaborative workshops, talks and visits to cultural events, facilitating intercultural exchange and collaboration. The artists’ work will be presented at the National Assembly in Seoul and other venues.

White Cat. By Alli Sharma.

Born in London to parents from Malaysia and Mauritius, Cara has at times in her body of work envisaged tropical islands in the thousands of kilometres of Indian Ocean that separate the geographical points of her mixed ancestry.

She received her MFA in Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village, New York, on a Fulbright Scholarship. In 2010, she was selected for the John Moores Painting Prize for the Liverpool Biennial. She had a year-long residency at the Florence Trust in 2015, followed by a solo exhibition at Christine Park Gallery, London. She was nominated for the Dentons Art Prize in 2016 and had a solo booth of works at Start Art Fair, Saatchi Gallery.

Another London-resident painter, Jadé Fadojutimi, presented for the new show the acrylic and oil Lotus Land; and the oils Fishing for Steps and Twigs. The three canvases impress with superbly dynamic brushwork.

Jadé’s starting point relates to questioning of the self and identity. Posing questions about the mundane, she explores the “known unknown” of locations, fears, recollections, desire. She seeks ways to establish a relationship with the real.  “I feel as though I really envy the medium, really envy the paint” with which she enters into a kind of conversation to embark on self-discovery.

At the private view

A graduate of the Royal College of Art, in 2016 Jadé took part in an exchange and residency in Kyoto, Japan.

Molly Thomson spurns the traditional right angles and dimensions of the frame to produce pieces that at first glance have the appearance of fragments. “I start with the limitations of a panel. I have a bit of a thing about the edges of paintings, I like to cut in and cut them about the insides and outsides.” This disrupting “turns them into objects so they interact with one another.”

This technique she has used for her imaginatively-titled The Realising of a CapriceQuality of Balance, and Such Tomfoolery. “The cutting and displacement of shapes is something I have been interested in for quite a while,” says Norfolk-based Molly. She is a leader of Paint Club East, a forum encouraging critical debate about contemporary issues in painting.

Further contrast was added to the Twickenham mixture by such entries as Jake Clark’s oil and lino on canvas The Horror and three oil paintings of feline theme by Alli Sharma including White Cat.

The exhibition poster.

Robert Priseman said that at one stage, interest in new painting had been “put to one side” but over the last few years “there has been such a resurgence it has been really exciting.” This involved “abstract painting, representational painting and everything that goes in between.” Thus, he was thrilled by “the diversity of the show.”

The previous year’s event had been what might be termed a small experimental exhibition. “For the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2017 we received 680 entries, with each demonstrating the sheer strength, vitality and creative energy in the field of painting today.”

Other works by members of the contemporary group are on a tour of four museums in China, as part of the Priseman Seabrook Collection, and some of the artists will travel to that country to engage with up-and-coming artists there. Links are meanwhile being explored with the contemporary art scene in areas including Portugal, Poland and Alaska.

Guests at the Twickenham show included Wang Wen, curator assistant and chief of the public education division at Yantai Art Museum, Shandong, one of the hosts of the visiting works in China. While in the UK, he is meeting counterparts and practitioners in London and Essex.

The selection panel judges for the 2017 prize show were Elena Dranichnikova, founder of the Moscow Art Collectors Group (MACS); Alice Herrick of the Herrick Gallery; Jessica Litherland, visual arts and media producer at the arts complex mac Birmingham; Stephen Snoddy, director, New Art Gallery, Walsall; and Nicholas Usherwood, curator, art critic and writer on contemporary art.

The winner of the 2016 Contemporary British Painting Prize was Cathy Lomax.  Her winning painting is currently on the tour of museums in China. As part of her prize, Cathy has a solo show at Swindon Museum from 6 to 30 September 6 to 30, 2017, and an essay written by Paul O’Kane on her practice.

Her solo exhibition goes under the title The Blind Spot, featuring paintings that examine looking and being looked at. The Blind Spot refers to our inability to conceive of ourselves as we really are: “that mysterious ‘blind spot’ we call the self” notes Paul O’Kane in his essay Cathy Lomax: Painting the Scene of the Self. The message is that this is no surprise, when we consider that the women who stare back at us from screens and magazines set an impossible standard of perfection, their human-ness controlled and presented as a less troublesome fixed beauty. This is also true of the historic women who populate art and visual culture, who have been frozen in stone, bronze or paint or lingered over by photographers and cinematographers to become luscious close-ups that have a different, softly unreal look to the rest of the film.

Many of London-based Cathy’s paintings are derived from film imagery, and the director Douglas Sirk is quoted in Days with Sirk (Pascal Thomas, Dominique Rabourdin, 2008) as saying “You can do remarkable things with mirrors; it is a medium of getting to know about oneself.”

The show includes a painting of Swindon-born Diana Dors atop a plinth and 19 Merry Maidens, a series that references a Cornish stone circle where women were petrified as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath.

Contemporary British Painting was founded in 2013 by Robert Priseman and fellow painter Simon Carter. The Contemporary British Painting Prize was launched in 2016 and is open to artists of any age and nationality living and working in the UK. The 2017 Group Show selectors were Julian Brown, Matthew Krishanu, Nicholas Middleton and Cathy Lomax.

More information about the prize can be found at www.contemporarybritishpainting.com. The Priseman Seabrook Collection website is www.priseman-seabrook.org. The collection is an Art UK partner: artuk.org/visit/collection/the-priseman-seabrookcollections-2771.

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