I applied for the John Moores art prize this year, I believed my painting to have a chance of getting in as I had done some research and thought I had the elements covered. But it wasn’t until I went to the previous winners exhibition that I could see what they were really looking for.
All the paintings except maybe one or two have a number of things in common, firstly they are monumentally big, not just large as my entry was but as big as a room in many cases, not a box room only good for a table and a chair but your full size living room.
The Bruce Maclean that I had joked about on Twitter, because seeing it now even he had forgotten how big it was, is one of the largest in the show.
The second recurring feature is that they all use paint in a loose painterly fashion, all have an element of the paint showing off it’s qualities, it is allowed to run, splash, blob, controlling the paint seems to be the last thing on the artists mind. Having walked into this exhibition from the more formal Gallery full of Joshua Reynolds and Rubens, it’s an experience to see paint let loose.
Finally many of the scenes depicted were incredibly mundane, a boy stands on ice, a woman sits at a table, fish jump in a pond. This mundane depiction of life is a feature you do not expect. Monumental pictures usually have monumental subjects, to take an everyday action and make it so large, make it special in this gallery full of enormous biblical scenes. Another inexplicable contrast.
The show makes sense in it’s setting as a Modernist answer to the paintings that surround it.
I enjoyed the show much more than I expected too, maybe because the paint is explored in a way that I like to explore paint.
The surfaces of these paintings are exceptionally beautiful in many cases, each little section an abstract expressionist painting in itself.
It's almost as though the paintings painted themselves.
I can now apply again next time it comes around with a bit more of an idea on what they are really looking for. But with 2600 entries I think your chances are slim however much knowledge you have. It's a lottery, but one it's worth entering.
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