From this month, Hampshire art lovers will be able to see all eighty of the finalists’ paintings from the Sunday Times Watercolour competition at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.
Renowned for ‘rewarding excellence and originality in contemporary watercolour painting’ the competition is the largest and most prestigious prize for contemporary watercolour painting in Britain.
Over the past 31 years, it has attracted entries from artists working in abstract, figurative, contemporary and traditional mediums with an over-arching aim to celebrate and redefine the beauty and diversity of watercolour and water-based media.
In 2018, the competition drew a total of 1,304 submissions, which were whittled down to eighty works, selected by an expert panel, composed of the artists Ishbel Myerscough and Paul Newland; Jennifer Scott, the Sackler Director at Dulwich Picture Gallery; James Stewart, the Director of Zimmer Stewart Gallery, and Louis Wise, critic and writer for The Sunday Times.
London-based artist-designer Sophie Charalambous took the top prize with her watercolour, The Prodigal Son. Charalambous depicts a stylised male figure walking through an eerie farmyard setting – the warped perspective and abstracted forms make the work seem almost theatrical. The artist commented: “Working from observation and memory, I explore, through drawing, the theatricality of every day places, re-imagining them with a heightened sense of reality and detail.”
Runner-up Michael Chance created an ethereal mixed media piece, called Growth of the Soil. The artist combines a poetic engagement with landscape and an intellectual interest in perspective, architecture, ecology, systems theory and the study of planets outside the solar system. Chance uses printmaking processes to experiment with material interactions, creating images that are both observational and illusory.
Richard Anthony Elliott’s Diving Boards, Crystal Palace scooped the third prize. Elliott depicts an interior scene that juxtaposes sharp geometric forms with soft watercolour marks, the minimal palette of subtle blues and greys beautifully lifted by an orange and yellow hue in the foreground. Diving Boards, Crystal Palace is a true celebration of contrasts – in form, in colour, and in tone.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to see dynamic, new work by some of Britain’s leading watercolourists,” says Tara McKinney, Visual Arts Exhibitions Manager for Hampshire Cultural Trust. “To bring eighty paintings to Basingstoke makes this a major visiting exhibition for us. It is a remarkable showcase of how young, British artists are using traditional watercolours in a variety of ways and creative styles. It will also serve to inspire local artists by showing them the possibility of what water-based paints can be used for and encourage them to represent the county by entering next year’s Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.”
The Exhibition runs from Saturday 12 January until 20 March, admission is free, but donations are welcome.