The winners of this year’s Scottish Portrait Awards, Scotland’s biggest awards for portraiture which include the Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art and the MPB Scottish Portrait Awards in Photography have been announced. The exhibition is the biggest and most ambitious yet bringing together 80 portraits including for the first time, colour photography.
Donna McGlynn is the winner of the Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art and £5,000 with her watercolour ‘Self Portrait – Painting’. Described by the judges as ‘a masterclass in watercolour portraiture’, it depicts the artist in her workplace surrounded by the tools and supplies needed to create the work.
David Gillanders is the winner of the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (black & white)and £2,000 with his portrait ‘The Makers – Alastair. E. Blain, artist & poet’. The work is part of an ongoing portraiture project depicting Scottish people with an infectious passion for what they do, whose lives are devoted to the pursuit and perfection of their craft.
Ruaridh Fraser Glasgow has won the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (colour) and £2,000 with the portrait ‘Vanilla in the Kitchen’. The image captures an intimate moment between brothers during the juvenile budding stages of drag, set against a timeless domestic backdrop.
This year the awards have been thrilled to welcome guest judge, the internationally renowned photographer Albert Watson OBE, who personally reviewed every photographic work entered before choosing ‘Summer’ by Nina Davidson as the winner of the SPA Albert Watson Portrait Prize.
Open to anyone over 16 years, born, living or studying in Scotland, regardless of experience, 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.
Acting as an insight into portraiture today in all its diversity, the exhibition spotlights artists and photographers telling the stories of our time. Each of the works chosen for this year’s show share an authentic quality. The captured portraits are spontaneous or deliberate; the moment depicted being quiet, exuberant, care-free or contemplative – each sincere, allowing the viewer to connect to the visual storytelling.
“You can’t beat walking into the exhibition and seeing the scale, the sensitivity, the heart and soul of these works.” Gordon Mitchell, Director of the Scottish Portrait Awards and chairs the fine art panel.
On winning the Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art, Donna McGlynn said “This is a first for me, I’ve never won a major art prize. I’ve always loved the works in the exhibition, so the fact that I’ve won this year makes me feel that I might be doing something right. I started using watercolour during lockdown. I don’t usually paint portraits in watercolour but I thought I would try it for the show. The winning work was specifically painted for the awards as it’s the first watercolour portrait I’ve done since I was at school and the first self-portrait since I was really young.”
Harriet Quigley, originally from Brighton and studying at Edinburgh College of Art is the recipient of the Young Fine Artist Award. Her work ‘Squeeze 0.1’ was chosen by the judges for its ‘impressive skill from a young exciting artist’.
On winning the award, Harriet Quigley said “This was my first time applying, thinking I would never win but that I should just dip my toe in. This is giving me so much confidence to carry on. Art has always been my life since I was a little girl, I just wish I could show myself as that little girl ‘me now’ because I’m so proud of myself.”
Presenting the awards in photography, Simon Murphy, chair of the photography panel, said “One of the most exciting things for me about this competition is the opportunity it gives those new to the medium to have their work displayed alongside some of Scotland’s best and most experienced practitioners.
What matters is the power of the portrait, and everyone has the capability to produce a memorable and meaningful image whether it’s a meticulously crafted portrait or a simple captured moment that exudes joy and energy. Expanding the exhibition to include categories for colour and phone photography makes the competition even more relevant and accessible.”
On learning of winning the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Black & White Photography, David Gillanders said “To win and for your work to be recognised is incredible. One of the great privileges about being a photographer is that you get to meet so many incredible people and walk in their shoes a little bit to try and understand them. Alastair, my sitter is a remarkable character, incredibly distinctive and fascinating to speak to – he makes his own paints, he tans his own leather, he is one of those characters who after meeting him, you just keep thinking about him. I always like to try to make portraits of people that show more of their character rather than my style as a photographer. What you see is a portrait of Alastair – who he is, surrounded by his work, a very proud man, very distinguished, very hard-working, and incredibly passionate about what he does.”
In response to being selected as winner of the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Colour Photography, Ruaridh Fraser said “It means so much to be recognised by the Scottish Portrait Awards in this way. My brother had just started getting into drag. We decided that my parents’ retro kitchen would be a great setting for a photoshoot as it would become a timeless backdrop, just as my brother, in his drag, was timeless and not pinpointed to a particular moment in time. The film came out very dark because it was set to the wrong settings but this added to the image, bringing in all these other colours. It was a lot luck and chance but it worked out really well.
Receiving the new Albert Watson Portrait Prize, award-winner Nina Davidson said “It’s beyond words. I am very touched to be the first winner of the Albert Watson Portrait Prize. I entered the award on a whim so for this very striking photographer to recognise my work is humbling. Photography has always been a part of my life from being very young. It is a way of focusing on the good things, the little snippets in life, the beautiful moments I share with my family.”
Jaime Prada has collected the MPB Young Photographer Award and £500 prize plus an MPB voucher worth £250 with their poignant work ‘Chosen Family’, an intimate moment that celebrates queer sensibility and tenderness, and loving found families.
Of the work Simon Murphy (chair) said “This is an intimate moment bathed in orange light captured by young photographer Jaime Prada. Although the photographer is present, an affectionate, undisturbed moment reminiscent of a film still has been skilfully captured".
On winning the award, Jaime Prada, originally from Madrid and now living in Edinburgh said, “I saw the exhibition last year and it spoke to me. I have always focussed my work on the human experience and very raw representations of human emotions, so this year, I threw my hat in to the ring.
I focus on making sure queer people see themselves represented in my work. I try to make sure that people know there is someone like them. Every picture I take represents queer joy and tenderness. This picture is a self-portrait of my fiancée and myself. The picture was taken with a makeshift tripod out of books and a camera bought through MPB. It was the first picture demonstrating how I wanted to work in the future – projects that take on the beauty, intimacy and warmth of our chosen families. It is important my presence in the awards is represented by this picture because it is of my chosen family, the beginning of a new chapter in my life.”
Tom Jeffers has won the Scottish Arts Club Members Prize for Fine Art with his work ‘Portrait of Louisa’.
Chris Close has won the Scottish Arts Club Members Prize for Photography with his portrait ‘Professor Higgs’.
Chosen from over 280 entries, the new SPA Phone Portrait Photography Award has been won by Alliyah Enyo with her entry ‘so very very far far far away’.
Managed by the Scottish Arts Trust, the Scottish Portrait Awards are open to anyone over 16 years, born, living or studying in Scotland. This year, free entry to the awards was once again offered to photographers and artists living in Scotland who receive any form of income support or Universal Credit. The Scottish Arts Trust Bursary Fund, established in response to the cost-of-living crisis, continues to enhance opportunities for artists who require assistance to enter the awards.
The Scottish Portrait Awards 2023 exhibition is free and launches at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh from 9 September to 30 September 2023 before travelling to Kirkcudbright Galleries, Dumfries and Galloway from 14 October 2023 to 14 January 2024 and to the Charles Rennie Macintosh Gallery at the Glasgow Art Club from 19 January to 29 February 2024.
Entries to take part in the MPB Scottish Portrait Awards 2024 will open 1 January to 30 April 2024 and will again include the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (colour); the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (black & white) as well as the SPA Albert Watson Portrait Prize in photography and the online SPA Phone Portrait Photography Award.
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