Winners of Scotland’s biggest awards for portraiture announced

  • EDINBURGH, United Kingdom
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  • September 08, 2022

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‘Mhairi’ by Kit Martin, winner of the Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography 2022.

The winners of the Scottish Portrait Awards 2022 have been announced with the smallest works in the exhibition winning Scotland’s biggest prizes for portraiture.

Sam Dalby from Moffat has won the new Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art and £5,000 with his painting ‘Meeting Daniel’, a posthumous portrait of the artist’s mother, meeting her grandson Daniel for the first time.

Kit Martin, a former medical and police photographer who lives in Newport on Tay, is the winner of the Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography and £3,000 with her portrait of Mhairi, host and owner of Island Darkrooom, in Lewis.

The Scottish Portrait Awards has quickly established itself as a barometer of contemporary Scottish art practice, giving visibility to a mix of well-established artists as well as newcomers across a diversity of styles.

Drawing on personal and universal narratives – from identity and family, to loss and personal reflections – this year’s exhibition of 60 shortlisted works celebrates the wealth of creative talent in Scotland today.

Presenting the award in fine art, Gordon Mitchell, Director of the Scottish Portrait Awards and Chair of the fine art panel, said “Not only is Sam’s technical mastery evident in ‘Meeting Daniel’ but the sensitivity in conveying his emotional engagement with the subject and the tangible joy of a grandmother holding her grandchild for the first time, made this sincere painting stand out.”

‘Meeting Daniel’ by Sam Dalby, winner of the Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art 2022.

On learning of the award, not having won a prize in his career before, Sam Dalby said “I did not expect this small tribute to my late mother would ever win such an accolade. I was just trying to encapsulate my love for her in paint, as I certainly can't do that in words. The fact that others feel that this painting has done this successfully, makes me feel a glow of pride that I have seldom felt in my career.  My heartfelt thanks go to the Scottish Arts Trust for this award.”

Of Kit Martin’s work, Siobhán Coward, chair of the photography panel, said “’Mhairi’ may be the smallest photographic work in the exhibition yet its ability to draw the viewer in to discover the many layers of film which make up the composition – from Mhairi’s gaze to her attire and surrounding interior of the bothy – gives it a tangible sense of depth and mystery. You want to lift this work, hold it, explore it. It has an exquisite appeal.”

In response to being selected as winner of the Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography, Kit Martin said “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded first prize in the Scottish Portrait Photography Award. It has come as a wonderful surprise and is still sinking in. This award will give me increased confidence to work more with my Intrepid 4x5 field camera and take more portraits with it, while continuing to experiment with double exposures.”

Eleven of the shortlisted works are by fine artists and photographers under 25 years.

Esther Forse has won the Young Fine Artist Award with her painting of her sister ‘Imogen at 18’ with the subject’s facial expression provoking debate amongst the judging panel. Was Imogen sad, was her expression ambiguous, was it a smile beginning to appear?

"The more you look at the painting, the more you see the smile is about to break," said Gordon Mitchell. 

On hearing of her win, Esther Forse said, "I’m really excited to have won the Young Fine Artist Award. It’s a real confidence boost for the judges to have chosen my work, and an honour to have it exhibited in a show with such amazing artists. The generous prize money will help me to buy the materials for my next paintings going forward."

Rosie Biggar has collected the Young Photographer Award and £500 prize with her portrait of Rob Schofield, frontman for the band Priestgate. The judges not only praised the image for the passion and intensity it conveyed, with its echoes of rock and roll photography from a bygone era, but also the quality of the print which had the appeal of a handmade screen print.

On winning the award, Rosie Biggar said, “I am overjoyed and honoured to win the Young Photographer award, especially as I finished my HND this year – I couldn't have asked for a better start to my life outside education. I am incredibly grateful for the prize money, which will allow me to continue shooting on film.”

Ellis Bairstow has won the Young Photographer Commendation with his sensitive layered photograph ‘Mother’, an image taken shortly after his family’s move to Scotland and the loss of his maternal grandfather.

Managed entirely by volunteers on behalf of the Scottish Arts Trust, the awards are open to anyone over 16 years, born, living or studying in Scotland. This year, free entry to the Scottish Portrait Awards was offered to artists living in Scotland who receive any form of income support or Universal Credit. The Scottish Arts Trust Bursary Fund was also established to enhance opportunities for artists who are struggling.

The Scottish Portrait Awards 2022 exhibition launches at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh from 10 September to 1 October 2022 before travelling to Duff House, Banff from 14 October 2022 to 26 February 2023 and to the Charles Rennie Macintosh Gallery at the Glasgow Art Club from 4 to 31 March 2023.

2022 marks the last year for the Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography which has been supported by Siobhán Coward for six years however entries to take part in the Scottish Portrait Awards 2023 will open 1 January to 30 April 2023 with the exhibition expanding to include 50 photographic works in colour as well as black and white.

The 2023 Scottish Portrait Awards will also include the launch of the MPB sponsored awards including the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (colour) and the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (black and white) as well as the new SPA Albert Watson Portrait Prize in photography and the new online SPA Phone Portrait Photography Award.

Claire Rocha
Scottish Arts Trust

The Scottish Portrait Awards
24 Rutland Square
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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