Three finalists have been chosen from 1,981 entries from 69 countries for the National Portrait Gallery award this year. The award – sponsored by BP since 1989 – and known as the BP Portrait Award – has announced the 2020 shortlist. The award moves online this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
The shortlisted artists are: Jiab Prachakul for Night Talk, Sergey Svetlakov for Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model, and Michael Youds for Labour of Love. The winner of the First Prize will be awarded £35,000. The shortlisted portraits were selected from 1,981 entries from 69 countries.
Self taught artist Jiab Prachakul was born in in 1979 in a small town in northeast Thailand. In 2006, Prachakul relocated to London where she had the ‘instant realisation’ that she wanted to be an artist after viewing a David Hockney retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery. Entirely self-taught, she moved to Berlin in 2008 and began selling her pictures at a local flea market and set up an online fashion brand, designing merchandise based on her artworks, which she continues to run from her current home in Lyon.
Michael Youds gained a first-class degree in Fine Art from Lancaster University before moving to Edinburgh in 2006. Youds works as a gallery attendant at the National Galleries of Scotland, and is an award-winning artist in his own right. He devotes most of his free time to painting portraits and still life at his studio in the city.
Youds has painted Tommy Robertson, the owner of an independent music store in Edinburgh. Youds wanted to celebrate the eclectic individuality of the owner and the store. ‘It’s a very detailed painting,’ he says, ‘I wanted the viewer to feel like they are inside the shop and maybe a little overwhelmed, not knowing what to focus their attention on.
Night Talk portrays Prachakul’s close friends Jeonga Choi, a designer from Korea, and Makoto Sakamoto, a music composer from Japan, who are pictured in a Berlin bar on an autumn evening. The portrait explores notions of individual identity and how perceptions of selfhood can change over time. ‘Our identity is dictated to us from the moment we are born, but as we grow up, identity is what we actually choose to be,’ she says. ‘I do believe that our circle of friends is what makes us who we are. Jeonga and Makoto are like family to me. We are all outsiders, Asian artists living abroad, and their deep friendship has helped me to understand who I am.’
Sergey Svetlakov was born in 1961 in Kazan, the capital city of what is now the Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation. He has exhibited widely across Europe, the US and Japan since the becoming a full-time painter in the 1990’s.
Svetlakov found his subject Denis, on the internet when he saw an advert on a social network site. Svetlakov says ‘Because Denis is an actor, he is very emotional and his face constantly changes depending on his mood. When I painted him he was desperately searching for work and I found it interesting to convey his intense ambitions and doubts. His face is an explosive fusion of his Ukrainian, Russian, Greek and Tatar genes.’
It’s also great to see WIA favourite, Sarah Jane Moon has been selected for the exhibition for her portrait Lola Flash.
While some art institutions including Tate have bowed to pressure and interventions by groups such as BP or not BP and Art Not Oil and dropped BP as sponsor, BP is continues to support the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House.