2 months ago

Artistic License: Winner of The Zurich Portrait Prize is Announced

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Enda Bowe’s photograph “Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu” revealing the emotional connection between a new parent and her baby was announced as the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland’s Zurich Portrait Prize last night. As well as a cash prize of €15,000, Bowe will receive a commission worth €5,000 to produce a new work for the National Portrait Collection.

Joe Dunne and Salvatore of Lucan received highly commended prizes and €1,500 for their respective portraits, “And Their World of Far and Near Things” and “Lucy with 3 Hands and Me Holding onto her Leg”.

Joe Dunne (b.1957)
And Their World of Far and Near Things, 2019

Enda Bowe (b.1975)
Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu, 2018

Salvatore of Lucan (b.1994)
Lucy with 3 hands and me Holding onto her Leg, 2019

The judges of the competition, now in its sixth year, were Mike Fitzpatrick, Fiona Kearney and Mick O’Dea. Commenting on Bowe’s portrait, Mike Fitzpatrick said, “The winning piece by Enda Bowe has a human and social context that we should be conscious of. As for the two highly commended works; one has a clear art historical reference, while the other underlines art’s ability to present a dream-like narrative of human engagement and relationships.” This has been a significant year for Bowe – he won the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, London as reviewed previously on THEGLOSS.IE.

Mick O’Dea talks us through the selection process, which saw over 300 entries whittled down to a shortlist of 25.

Dragana Juriši? (b.1975)
Paula Meehan, 2018

What do you look for when judging a portrait?

Authenticity, a quality found within the language that the artist employs in their attempt to translate the subject onto a surface or realise it three dimensionally.

Can you see any trends emerging in portraiture?

There are a wide variety of trends emerging over the past few decades; the primary trend is in the use of photographs as references for painters and sculptors. In photography the Helsinki school exerts an influence.

How difficult was it to reduce the initial entrants down to this final selection?

Each member of the panel individually makes a long list of the artists that stand out for them. When we meet for the first time we look at the artists that we have all selected, then we identify the artists that have appeared on all three panelists’ lists and determine that they will feature in the exhibition. The rest of the time is spent discussing the merits of the individual works that are now before us before we arrive at the final list of artists who will feature in the exhibition. We are all professionals, each with their own take on what they regard as a fine portrait. There has to be give and take, the final exhibition represents the selection of three judges. The judging panel this year includes the director of a gallery, the director of an art college and a professional artist.

Niamh Smith (b.1980)
Institutions of Home, 2019

Paul MacCormaic (b.1961)
Tania Persechini Sewing, 2018

What is the value of these portrait prizes as many galleries are now running similar competitions?

The Zurich Portrait Prize highlights the quality and range of contemporary portraiture. In addition, it creates opportunities and motivation for artists to excel, enabling them to showcase their work in the most prestigious galleries in Ireland. That exposure is invaluable to the artists because of the large audiences who come to see the exhibition. The prize rewards the artists and facilitates the direct engagement between the artists and the public. Portraiture is a wonderful gateway art form. Once an individual has sufficient interest to start engaging with a portrait, anything can happen!

How do you judge both categories of art and photography together?

As a young painter I used to value the painted image over the photographed one. As a consequence of teaching at third level for 25 years I was challenged in my preconceptions. Whatever residual doubts I may have had have since been expelled. My partner is a photographer and I have attended Paris Photo with her for the past 13 years. For me there is no conflict, it is the artist that makes the work, not the medium.

Need to Know: Zurich Portrait Prize 2019 featuring the 25 shortlisted works is at National Gallery of Ireland until January 12 and will then move to Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; www.nationalgallery.ie

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