The RBSA Portrait Prize is a biennial show featuring a wealth of contemporary portraiture by some of the UK’s most renowned artists.
It is fast becoming one of the most prestigious exhibitions of its kind outside London, with much excitement generated among artists and the public, who possess an enduring love of portraits.
RBSA exhibitions seek to support artists by offering them opportunities to exhibit their work and gain recognition for their talents.
Our shows wouldn’t be possible without the prize-donors, artists, volunteers, visitors, and customers: every bit of support we receive is invaluable!
The RBSA Portrait Prize 2017 winners are:
GMC Prize, £1,000 cash: Katia Kesic, whole submission
Ken Bromley Art Prize: Karin Hessenberg, ‘The Floral Sun Hat’
Jackson Art Prize: Steve Caldwell, ‘Pauline’
Highly Commended: Chris Salmon RBSA, ‘Portrait’
Highly Commended: Thomas Merrett, ‘Alessandro’
Highly Commended: Robert Neil PRBSA, ‘Janette Kerr PPRWA’
People’s Choice Prize: Chris Jones, ‘Lils’
You can see all the RBSA Portrait Prize 2017 works at our Flickr album.
This year, ART BLOG featured a series called ‘The Story Behind the Portrait’ where exhibitors gave us an insight into their work. To celebrate the end of this year’s exhibition, here’s a final selection…
I was diagnosed with mild obstructive sleep apnoea a few years ago. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.
‘Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions.’
The condition can be ameliorated by the CPAP device which pumps air through the nostrils at a regulated force via a mask.
The pumping begins at a low level and over a period of 30 minutes gradually ramps up to full continuous pressure. By that time the sufferer is blissfully asleep.
Many people enjoy great benefit from their CPAP device. I tried.
It is noisy and emits a blast of cold air around the edges of the mask. An additional device can be attached to warm and moisten the air flow. In my case it made loud glugging noises which woke me. With or without the moisturiser, my CPAP kept my wife awake, so I was eventually forced into a different bed. Not nice.
The Clinical Measurement Unit tried hard to make it work for me, offering various types of mask, and varying the pressure. But the overall result was to worsen my sleep. I tried CPAP for over a year, but its only effect was to exacerbate the problem it was supposed to cure. Result: insomnia and misery.
And it made me look like Hannibal Lecter.
Eventually the sleep technicians agreed that it was ruining my life, and I handed the thing back.
Many people claim to benefit from CPAP. I am not among them.
My self-portrait documents months of sleeplessness. My condition was mild. Others, whose sleep apnoea is more severe, may benefit greatly.
I hope they do.
John Shakespeare, ‘ Self-portrait with CPAP mask’
I first met Bea in 2009 and as a male to female transgender life model for a class I ran at the local college.
Over the years we have become friends and Bea has sat many times for various groups I am involved with, both as a life and portrait model.
I was interested in capturing Bea’s femininity without the gimmicks of make up, clothing or elaborate settings.
With a background of international athletics and male body building and modelling it can be difficult to see this without the added animation of conversation, and I wanted to do her justice as a friend.
When she sat for me she had also just had some surgical procedures for cancerous moles making her skin more textured and interesting to capture, which obviously affected her own self confidence.
Catherine MacDiarmid ‘Portrait of Bea’
This painting has its origins way back in the early 1990s when I had just embarked on a part-time degree in Fine Art at Wolverhampton University.
My career to that point had been based in the construction industry but I’d become disillusioned with the corporate world.
One of the modules covered portraiture and we had been given a brief to paint a self-portrait that made reference to some other work of art.
I owned a paperback copy of Cervantes’s “Don Quixote” that had, as its front cover, the Honoré Daumier painting of the same subject. It was perfect for my mood at the time.
The idea stayed with me and I returned to it more recently to produce this particular version.
The painting is biographical although I don’t use a kidney-shaped palette and I usually use any convenient piece of timber rather than the mahl stick depicted in the painting.
I’ve always been tickled by the way some of the Pre Raphaelites incorporated various symbols in their paintings.
The title derives from a well-known poem by Robert Frost. For various reasons I was not able to complete the degree and I returned to corporate life a year or so later. Had I not, and had I continued on that particular road – well who knows?
Malcolm Barton, ‘But I, I took the road less travelled’
My son Ed was coming home to England to live after spending four or so years away working as an artist himself, first in the heat of Los Angeles where his father and I married, and then a couple of years in the chill of Montreal.
This was a chance to further hone my nascent engraving skills. I saw engraving the block followed by inking and then printing as an opportunity to learn more about the whole magical process.
Every cut brings me just a little closer to properly unlocking the potential of each smooth block of wood; how cutting marks into the pale solidity of lemonwood will slowly, meticulously let in the light; how to preserve the darkness… after all once it’s gone, it’s irredeemably gone.
It’s easy enough to add cuts but quite impossible to replace them once they have been made. I worked by lamp light making tiny, precise marks, constantly turning the block on the polished surface of a leather sand bag, and gradually a semblance of Ed’s face and his piercing eyes appeared out of the inky dark stain on the wood.
Making a portrait of Ed was not only a gift for him and a print for others, it became a lesson that I hope will lead me from a lifetime as a mother and architect to the rest of my life as an artist.
As a sculptor exposes the sculpture waiting within the stone, so the wood engraver reaches to carve away the wood and bring an image into the light. It’s really very exciting.
Lynne Fornieles, ‘Ed’