Portraitists from around the world compete for this prestigious prize, with this year’s competition receiving nearly 2,000 submissions from 77 countries. The judges then narrowed this down to the 55 that are on display in this exhibition.
Last year the award left us disappointed, for being full of talented artists but lacking in contemporary and exciting works. Thankfully, this year’s exhibition has remedied our concerns with entertaining alternative takes on portraiture, such as Daniel Coves’ detailed study of the back of a head, and Geert Schless’ work where only the body is visible while the head cheekily hides within a bin bag.
There are plenty of varying styles on display from photorealism to the caricature-like portrayal of a chaotic Tokyo rush hour by Carl Randall. Susanne du Toit’s overall winner indicates that even in the midst of contrasting and often bold styles, a subtle piece can still stand out and grab our attention.
One other subtle work that made our list of favourites was a delicate portrayal of an innocent baby by Jennifer Renshaw. The black background draws our attention to the closed eyes and delicate features of her nephew. Also of note is Clara Drummond’s portrait of Kirsty in which she’s perfectly captures the naturally thoughtful expression of her sitter.
However, our favourite work has to be Lisa Stokes’s self-portrait. It’s more emotionally charged than all the other works combined, and the sadness of the work threatens to suck you in, with the rough application of paint giving a Francis Bacon feel to the portrait.
Though it might not be seen as right on the cutting edge, this exhibition is a step in the right direction from last year and is a solid representation of portraitists from around the world.
BP Portrait Award 2013 is on at National Portrait Gallery until 15 September. Admission is free.