The First Prize of £10,000, is this year awarded to Akash Bhatt, for Blue Room, one of a series of drawings and paintings of the artist’s mother. Bhatt studied at the University of Westminster and went on to do a postgraduate diploma at Central Saint Martins.
He comments: “My mum has always been a willing and patient sitter. Over time the practice has become about documenting her life and in turn has also become important as a record for myself. The nature of painting is fraught with uncertainties so in this aspect of my work I am very fortunate to have a model that I am familiar with. It allows me to focus on the possibilities of the painting with a sense of calm.”
Josh Spero, one of the judges, remarks on the First Prize choice: “I thought tremendous technical skill combined perfectly here with artistic inspiration to render a physically and psychologically convincing portrait. Add to this the vivid finery of the fabric which suggests a heightened reality, and I couldn’t stop looking at it.”
Michael Williams is awarded the Second Prize of £6,000 for Land, Sea, Island, which depicts the Welsh island of Skomer across a turbulent stretch of water called Jack Sound. Michael was born in India, but later moved to London, where he taught Art History at Central Saint Martins and then Fine Art at Goldsmiths University of London. In the 70s he moved to Powys which, he claims, “led to a shift from a ‘pop art’ tendency to a kind of Ruskinian landscape painting”.
Michael explains the intricate way he constructed Land, Sea, Island: “I am now using a language of ‘striation’ by which all representation is first taken through bands of underpainting. Between the bands there are lines or ‘threads of light’, which give movement and an embedded structure to what is also a precise take on the details of the world.”
The Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize of £1,500 goes to Leo Davey for Drip… Regents Canal. Davey studied Illustration at Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall and currently works as a full time artist from his studio/gallery in his hometown of Minehead, West Somerset. This work, states Leo, “is as much about what you can’t see as it is about what you can. Reflections in the water let us know what is out of view.”
Charles Winter, partner in investment management at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group, said of the winning watercolour in the Smith & Williamson Cityscape prize: “Against the frantic rush of mainstream city life ‘Drip’ brings a certain calm, which appealed. We have all stood and watched similar drips. The piece has good technical skill and invites the viewer in, using the frame of the bridge.”
The judging panel this year comprised Sara Dudman, artist; Desmond Shawe-Taylor LVO, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures; Josh Spero, Editor, Spear’s Magazine; Art Critic, Tatler, and Author, ‘Second Stories’ (Unbound, 2015); Lucy Willis, Watercolour artist; and Louis Wise, Critic and Writer, The Sunday Times.
A selection of all the shortlisted works – 90 works by 80 artists – will be on show at the Mall Galleries, London from 14 – 19th September 2015. The London show will be followed by The Smith & Williamson Tour to venues across the UK, including Castle Fine Art, Birmingham (10 – 18 October 2015) and Guildford House Gallery, Guildford (14 November 2015 – 2 January 2016).
All works selected for the 2015 exhibition can be viewed on our Exhibition page HERE