I’ve just spent the afternoon staring in wonder at the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. To be honest some of the painted portraits could easily have passed as photographs.
As soon as you approach the exhibition you are met by the outstanding portrait of Simon Weston, turn right into the hall and there is a painting of Dame Kelly Holmes which, try as I might, I could not see a single brush stroke.
Amongst my favourites was the 2008 photo-realism portrait of Sir Paul Nurse (Geneticist and cell biologist) by artist Jason Brooks.
There is something mesmerizing about this portrait. I spent ages studying the contours of his face, his skin, eyes and hair. When I paint I use a grid to copy the subject onto canvas so I was happy to see the Artist’s grid still remained in the background of this painting.
After dragging myself away from this room I went into the 2014 exhibition hall where 55 new portraits hang from around the world. Many are outstanding. There are informal and personal studies of friends and family, portraits of famous faces, a skateboarder, tube travellers, the list goes on.
Thomas Ganter became the first German to win the BP Portrait Award with his work Man with a Plaid Blanket. The 40-year-old wanted to paint a homeless man in the style that nobles or saints were portrayed in traditional portraiture “to emphasise that everyone deserves respect, attention and care”.
If you get the time go along to the exhibition, it’s well worth a visit.