Painting Winner Luke M Walker and his piece 'Work in Progress III'
After applications opened in September 2014, we were overjoyed to receive a stream of entries, consistent both in quality and volume.
Students from London-based universities led with the highest number of entries, with Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon continuing their legacy from previous competitions. Elsewhere in the country, we saw particularly fantastic contributions from students in Manchester, Lincoln and Glasgow, and further afield brilliant submissions were received from Poland, Croatia and the USA, confirming that, in its 8th year, the Signature Art Prize remains firmly international.
Needless to say, our esteemed panel of judges had some incredibly tough decisions to make when it came to the judging. The discrepancy between what constitutes fine art as opposed to decorative, whether commerciality was a plus or minus, and what exactly constitutes an artist’s ‘signature’ piece were among the topics up for debate.
The shortlisted artworks were on show at the Signature Art Prize 2015 Gala, which took place on the 19th March. During the evening, our panel of judges had the chance to see the work on display for the first time, and subsequently chose an overall winner from each category. The winners' work remained on display and open to the public over the following month.
ANWAR TALUKDAR | SCULPTURE WINNER
It's no mean feat to create an huge sculpture from something as fragile as cocktail sticks, so it may come as no surprise that self proclaimed builder. The way in which I build results in something that I would describe as having a certain visual delicacy that is just there, but also very present within the space, something that expresses strength as well as fragility, something that is both there and yet not; I guess it is the border at which these two conditions that exist within the work, this momentary or ephemeral state, that I would best describe as being my signature style.
IEVA AUSTINSKAITE | PHOTOGRAPHY & FILM WINNER
My work always starts from observing subjects in detail and being a part of it. Public space is my biggest inspiration and main source of research. That's where I find topics to work on - reactions and behaviour of people caused by everyday routine.
LUKE M WALKER | PAINTING WINNER
I am intrigued by the transitional nature of the city. I am attempting to articulate the fluid and continual states of change, buildings seem immensely solid and permanent entities but the economic nature of the city means very little actually remains static. Our collective memories soon forget how quickly things change; the riverbank at Nine Elms is undergoing a complete transformation and will be hardly recognisable as the same place it was just three or four years ago.
With this in mind I am particularly concerned at what we might be losing in these periods of flux, for example the Brutalist Architecture of the Sixties and Seventies is under threat at the moment. Viewed as monstrosities by many, some were extraordinarily designed and detailed; far more so than many of the curtain wall steel and glass structures that are replacing them with all the additional resources and upheaval this brings. I am questioning whether we are in danger of losing integral buildings for short term gain, without considering how they could be reused.
GARETH BUNTING | DRAWING AND PRINTMAKING WINNER
I find that I have lots of different styles and ways of working which all feed into one another, and compliment one another and build up into one unique style. I am always in pursuit of some kind of discovery, I like the idea of an old-fashioned artist using drawing to learn about anatomy, or the solar system, or as a tool to communicate important ideas to the masses. I work like an abstract painter, and mix paint, inks and occasionally different chemicals together, to investigate the world of fractal patterns, their relationships with everything, and their way of connecting everything together at all scales. I draw into them, and find that I am almost learning a visual language. I combine this chaos with a lot of order, and carefully draw narrative landscapes from memory which investigate spaces and places, political and environmental issues, as well as pondering my own existence and its place in the world, I see my works as landscape portraits which document their time. I also find that working digitally, writing, travelling, making music and whatever else I do all somehow combines and builds up my practice as a whole.
MOLLY PARKIN | SPECIALIST: PAINTING CATEGORY
Described by BBC Radio 4's Kirsty Young as "a doyenne of bohemian living", Molly Parkin gained scholarships to study Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, then Brighton College of Art in the 1950s. She moved into the fashion industry for a number of years, working with Barbara Hulanicki at Biba, before becoming Fashion Editor of Nova and Harpers & Queen, and later the Sunday Times in the 1960s. As well known for her lifestyle as her work, Molly's paintings are held in numerous public and private collections and in 2012 she was awarded a Civil List Pension by the Queen for her services to the arts.
SUSAN BACON | SPECIALIST: DRAWING CATEGORY
Susan Bacon is an Academic Board Member and Senior Faculty member of the Royal Drawing School. After studying drawing and sculpture at City and Guilds, she went on to study at the Royal Academy where she was awarded the British Institution Prize for Sculpture. She currently teaches Drawing from the Imagination at the Royal Drawing School and says on the subject of the Signature Art Prize; "I feel it is a great boost for young art students to have the opportunity of prizes such as this and there is much talent out there for us all to help and nurture."
KEVIN DOWD | SPECIALIST: PHOTOGRAPHY CATEGORY
Kevin Dowd is a PhD student at Kingston University and the first prize winner of the last year’s photography category. At the time of submitting his entry Kevin had not sold a piece of work before, but since the gala in early 2014, the entire edition of his winning piece sold out, and he has become one of DegreeArt’s best-selling photographic artists, as well as having his work selected for display in a corporate collection in Central London. We have selected Kevin to sit on our panel as he embodies the values and potential of the prize, as well as being an expert in his field.
CHRIS NASH | SPECIALIST: SCULPTURE CATEGORY
Chris Nash established The Arch Bronze Foundry in 1986 alongside Gabrielle Brisbane. Offering a huge range of casting and restorative processes, the business has since built an impressive client base, working with a plethora of established artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Eduardo Paolozzi and Gavin Turk and alongside galleries including The White Cube, Gagosian and Haunch of Venison. Examples of the foundry's work can be found in the National Portrait Gallery and the British Library, among other internationally renowned institutions.
ANDREW DICKSON | JOURNALIST
Andrew Dickson is an arts and culture journalist, writer and critic. As well as working freelance, Andrew contributes to the New Statesman and the Guardian, writing arts interviews and features for Review and G2, and presenting culture videos. He has also spent time working as the Online Arts Editor, covering art, photography and architecture. He appears regularly as a critic for the BBC and is also an honorary fellow in the English department of Birkbeck College, University of London.
ROMY WESTWOOD | ART FAIR DIRECTOR
Romy Westwood is director of the Affordable Art Fair, heading up the launch of the Hampstead branch in 2011, which saw 17,000 people through the doors and £2.6m of art sold. Romy has a background in art, having studied Ceramic Design at Central St. Martins. Subsequently, her work has been exhibited in galleries in London and New York. The ethos of the Affordable Art Fair chimes well with that of the Signature Art Prize as both seek to support creativity and bring art to as wide an audience as possible.
MARIANNE ANTOINE | CURATOR
Marianne Antoine is the curator of the Nesta Gallery, which provides emerging artists the opportunity to showcase their work among a large and diverse audience. Nesta is an organisation that supports arts-based organisations and provides them with the vital funding and support needed to carry out research in the hope of enhancing arts audience reach.