This week London’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) announced the four artists shortlisted in the running for the 2019 BP Portrait Award. Emma Hopkins for her painting Sophie and Carla, Massimiliano Pironti for Quo Vadis?, Carl-Martin Sandvold for The Crown, and Charlie Schaffer for Imara in her Winter Coat were selected out of 2,538 portrait entries received from 84 countries around the world as this year’s finalists. In its 40th year, submissions for this year’s BP Portrait Award were judged anonymously by a panel including writer and presenter Gaylene Gould, artist Gary Hume, and curator Zoé Whitley, which chose the shortlisted entries.
Hopkins, born in Brighton, is a self-taught painter and now belongs to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Her painting Sophie and Carla features photographer Sophie Mayanne, known for her ‘Behind the Scars’ series and her dog, Carla. ‘I want to understand as much as I can about what it means to be human,’ said Hopkins in a press release. ‘We are not just the clothed person we present to the world. We are the mind and body that we inhabit.’
Quo vadis? Features Pironti’s grandmother, Vincenza, now 95 years old, who was a miller and factory worker. Pironti is a professional dancer born in Colleferro, just south of Rome, and currently living in Berlin while performing in the Disney musical production of Tarzan. For Pironti, his grandmother is ‘an example of strength, dignity and authority,’ he said. ‘Every wrinkle tells her story and I wanted to capture her image to freeze time. This portrait is truly important to me. It touches emotional chords.’
As the only self portrait of the finalists, The Crown reflects on ‘the challenges of life, the strangeness of being alive and other existential issues.’ Sandvold, who began as a street artist in Oslo before studying at the Florence Academy of Art and the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York, says: ‘The crown symbolises the peak of power, achievement and material abundance. In this portrait, it suggests that none of these things really solve anything.’
Born in London and now living in Brighton, Schaffer depicts Imara, a friend and English Literature student he met soon after moving to the city permanently. The portrait was painted over a number of months and originally, Schaffer only intended to paint her face, but ultimately added the coat drawing inspiration from Titian’s Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro. He painted Imara because he saw her as ‘someone who is uncompromisingly open and who wants to learn about anything and everything.’
The first-place winner of the award will receive £35,000 and a commission worth £7,000 that is agreed on between the artist and the NPG. Second and third prize winners will receive £12,000 and £10,000 respectively. Additionally, one artist between the age of 18 and 30 will be awarded the BP Young Artist Award of £9,000. The winner of the prize will be awarded on June 10th at the NPG.
The shortlisted paintings will be exhibited at the NPG in London from June 13th until October 20th before heading to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh between December 7th of this year and March 22nd, 2020. The following artists will also showcase their portraits in the exhibition: Didier Altmeyer, Jennifer Anderson, Jane Beharrell, Frances Bell, Fakhri Bohang, David Booth, Frances Borden, Simon Thomas Braiden, Iván Chacón, Sheng Chieh Chou, Bridget Cox, Denis Dalesio, Thomas Ehretsmann, David Eichenberg, Vanessa Garwood, Steven Higginson, Kyle Hooper, Brendan H Johnston, Karen Kaapcke, Marco Krauwinkel, Scott Lancashire, Tedi Lena, Jeff Midghall, Keith Milow, Sarah Jane Moon, Daniel Nelis, Bas Nijenhuis, Britta Noresten, Tina Oršolić Dalessio, Miguel Angel Oyarbide, Mustafa Özel, Helen Robinson, Luis Ruocco, Manu Saluja, Ola Sarri, Elaine Speirs, Gandee Vasan, Natalie Voelker, Fiona White, and Nigel Whittaker.