THE shortlist for a major new Scottish painting prize set up in memory of Scotland on Sunday’s much-loved art critic, W Gordon Smith, has been announced.
In total the work of 436 artists were submitted online, each one providing “a snapshot of the art form at an ambivalent moment in its history.”
The judges, artist Sandy Moffat, former gallery owner Tom Wilson, artist and sculptor Margaret Hunter and art critic Susan Mansfield, have whittled these down to a shortlist of around 50 paintings which will form an exhibition at Dovecot Studios, opening to the public on 12 January.
The winners, who will receive a top prize of £10,000, and two further awards of £2,500, will be announced at an evening reception at Dovecot on Monday and announced in The Scotsman the following day.
Mansfield said: “There are bold, large-scale works and meticulous miniaturism. There’s abstraction, landscape, still life and portraiture, allegory and mythology, and some paintings which do not readily fit any category. There is precise photo-realism and great swathes of sticky-looking paint. There is the quirky and the humorous, the contemplative and the disturbing.”
The W Gordon Smith Award has total prize money of £15,000, making it one of Scotland’s largest and most important art prizes, and was open to all artists living and working in Scotland, and to Scots-born artists working in the rest of the UK and abroad.
There were no restrictions on age or stage of artistic development, or on style or subject matter, only that the work entered must be a painting.
The organisers, who include Smith’s widow, Jay, believe that the open nature of the competition reflects the way Smith supported artists throughout his life. Smith, who died in 1996, was a pioneering maker of television documentaries about the arts in Scotland, as well as a leading critic and playwright.
“We wanted to give painting a little voice,” Wilson said. “We’re not looking to change the world, but there is a lot of good painting going on, much of it hidden away in studios and spare bedrooms. It’s nice to get it out there and give it a platform, it deserves a place.”
Paying tribute to Smith in Scotland on Sunday shortly after his death, John Bellany wrote: “His love of the visual arts and artists was boundless and his hallmark was encouragement.”
Jay Gordon Smith said: “It’s all about Gordon, and that’s how it should be. He did a great deal for a great many artists over many years, and did so right up until he died. He was so creative himself, he understood where artists are coming from. He understood how hard it was for the majority, and therefore, when he was writing about their work, he always tried to be positive and celebratory.”
Artist Sandy Moffat, former head of painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art and a good friend of Smith, has said he hoped the prize would encourage painters in an art environment increasingly focused on the conceptual.
He said: “If you’re at an art college now, you’re not encouraged to paint, it’s as simple and as sad as that. It’s not considered the contemporary vehicle of the avant-garde.”
THE SHORTLISTED ARTISTS