My visit to the BP Portrait Award exhibition

BP Portrait award Zack Zdrale
BP Portrait Award – Sister – Zack Zdrale

I made my annual visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see the BP Portrait Award exhibition 2018, sandwiched between watching England’s surprising progress at the World Cup!

One of the most prestigious portrait painting competitions, the BP Portrait Award has been running since 1980. There’s usually a mix of professional and student artists. So I just thought I’d put in a word for an inspiring exhibition and praise the art of the portrait.

The BP Award is where I go for inspiration and to marvel at the technical skills of the artists involved. I always find portraits that interest me every time I visit. Whether it’s photo realistic painting, paintings with some great inner psychology or simply colour, it’s all here.

So this time I saw great examples of photo realistic painting and some brilliant compositions. It’s not simply about a likeness, but also a mood or feel. Also I love the attention to surroundings and the depiction of props and clothing.

Looking round the exhibition I was drawn to this small portrait entitled ‘Sister’ by American artist Zack Zdrale http://zackzdrale.com/. Why was this? On first viewing it looked a little imposing and the model, Zack’s sister, a little stern with her intense gaze at the viewer. In his commentary Zack stressed that it was his sister’s expression of strength that dictated his painting. May be that’s why my first reaction was how imposing the pose seemed?

However, I think my reaction to the portrait chimed with what Zack set out to achieve. The slashes of light that hit the face and lower part of the neck immediately caught my eye. The strong triangular composition and use of chiaroscuro links in with the strength of the sitter’s gaze. Using a limited palette and with huge swathes of dark paint, my eye was directed to the boldly lit face.

This is just one of 48 paintings on show at the exhibition. You can look at the other paintings on the National Portrait Gallery’s website https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp-portrait-award-2018/exhibition/exhibitors/. However, I would seriously recommend a visit when you’re next in London. The exhibition runs until 23rd September.