Wednesday, 28 August 2013

SPI National Portrait Award

 With love, tenderly
100 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

I ended up not being one of the finalists, but I get to finally share the work with you! This is my portrait of my mother.

I have mixed emotions of the competition in the aftermath, to be honest. (but of course I do, I wanted to win!)
I know this painting is technically sound, probably the best work I've done (if that's the criteria) and for certain the best portrait I've ever done. But I am also aware that the composition is quite unoriginal, and I guess to the judges it would just be another 'expected' piece. Which is where it becomes tricky. Because what is the criteria, really? 

This is definitely my mother, so much so, that while it was waiting to be entered into the competition, standing in the corner of my studio, if I was having a bad day (which I was for about 4 months straight) it would lift me up, I would feel reassured just meeting her gaze - can you see how proud she is of me? That look, that is exactly how she looks at me, to me it captures our relationship. The tears in her eyes, the suppressed smile, which can turn into throw-your-head-back in laughter in seconds. It HAD TO be traditional, because it's my mother, but there's so much more to read into than just traditional, boring, been there.. The lipstick and pearls, she only wears them for special occasions, I can still smell that lipstick from her kissing us goodbye when my dad took her out on an evening, if she applied lipstick, you knew it was fancy. If she was pushing open her ear piercings to wear her pearls, it was very fancy. I accentuated the lines on her face, I couldn't hide it, there are too many stories there, all the grief my brother and I (and my dad) gave her through the years is written there, the lying awake, hoping the kids get home safe, the teenage fights, the rebellion of your children, my dad's illness, all the stress and worry she carries around from that. And of course the laugh lines, no one can laugh as heartily as my mom, her laugh carries across rooms, always heartfelt, she spreads joy where she goes.

There is so much to say about the relationship between a mom and daughter. To try and capture all the feelings, 29 years of closeness, fights, gossip, comfort and and and.. this is why it was hard for me to enter into the competition, I have so much affection for this painting BECAUSE it's my mom, and I knew there would be a bunch of tired judges (who might or might not have already seen 1000 portraits ranging from terrible to incredible) who knew nothing about us, and who wouldn't really bother seeing more than just a portrait of a middle-class woman, because there was still more paintings to see, because there's no angst, no nudity, no racial or political issues. I didn't want to subject this painting to THAT. But the thought that I could lead my mom into a room where this painting hung as a finalist pushed me to do it, that and the thought of what she could do with her share of the prize money!

I'm proud of this painting, it is everything it needed to be, without pretentions, I captured a personality as I see it (isn't that the essence of portraiture?) and my mom loves it (she claims it's my best work) as does my close family. So the work is a success. I won't let this competition lead me to feel any different about it.

HOWEVER I did expect to see more awesome work in the finalists. When I found out it wasn't a finalist I wasn't too surprised, as I understand they're looking for revolutionary, but many of the finalists aren't. In fact one of the paintings is very much like mine, only unhappy. I don't want to criticise other work (I tend to be a bad loser) but I saw some of the works that also didn't make the cut, and they were great, and so between that and my work, I expected something incredible. But all of those works that I saw that didn't make the cut would easily have fit in between the other selected works, there are better and worse paintings that most of them. And if I was pushed to select a winner from the finalists, there are at least 3 I liked better than the winner.. but that's my taste, and of course I'm overly critical, I'd probably be singing a different song, had I been chosen!

A young man -Heather Gourlay-Conyngham

This is the winning work - I think they were lead by the '13 BP awards winner, (who happened to be one of the judges) as this reminds me quite a bit of her winning portrait of a young man on a chair.
You can see the rest of the 40 finalists on the Art Times facebook page.

So that's that, mom's coming back to the studio to keep me company, and I'm looking forward to having her back.

1 comment:

  1. wow! you really did a good job writing about this! i really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share what most people feel about the results. (especially the ones who also entered)

    your painting is beautiful and even more so with the context painted in around it ;)