Signature Art Prize 2015

Amid the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street, the Signature Art Prize 2015 vibrantly came to life last week by announcing its winners at a VIP Evening on Thursday night. Boasting itself as an art prize primarily focused on the emerging talent of international students and graduate artists, the Signature Art Prize is one of a kind in the UK. Participating artists submit a signature work representative of their artistic style and practice, ranging between the different genres of painting, sculpture, drawing and printmaking, and photography and film. This year saw an exciting and diverse display of works at a high standard of skill and quality, ultimately publicising what to expect from ‘the next big thing’ in the art world.

With five finalist artists in each category, there was much to see at the exhibition before the winners were announced. Painting stood out with confidence in the exhibition; abstraction crossed lines with the figurative in Bartholomew Beal’s Block Alphabet, while minimalist structure pushed the boundaries of painting through thick folds of paint in Johnathan Richard’s Carapace. The winning piece, Work In Progress III by Luke M. Walker brought bold, structural colour to the exhibition representing the extended architecture of the Tate Modern, still under construction. Walker’s work displayed the quiet fragility in a transient situation by taking an unfinished building and presenting it as a raw sculptural work.

Sculpture was another very strong category in the Signature Art Prize this year, encompassing all shapes, sizes and materials. Glimmering from outside the exhibition space was Chris Woodley’s Structure & Light sculpture, a small glass form radiating spectrums of light through its geometric angles and facets. Cob by Calum Armstrong worked extremely well in the space. His zigzag installations formed of clay, sand and straw dominated the centre of the exhibition and referenced ideas of architectural aesthetic and the environmental need to use natural, sustainable materials. Winning the sculpture category was Anwar Talukdar and his fragmented abstract sculpture Process #1. Lit perfectly in the space, Talukdar’s work hung as a growing mass of tangled repetition, existing only through a bulk of interwoven cocktail sticks.

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The drawing and printmaking group exhibited huge depth of skill which pleasantly complemented its surrounding sculptural and painting works. Aleksandra Bury’s Semi II hung as a skilful representation of dark industrial materiality through abstract form, while Thomas Fowler’s Quantum Flux String Vibration delivered movement and momentary observation of an individual through a beautifully smooth graphite drawing. Taking the prize from this category was The Golden Circle by Gareth Bunting. On a sizeable canvas, Bunting’s ink on paper work displayed an intricately imagined landscape of Iceland, depicting fictional figures and forms to establish a fantasy narrative and a surreal setting.

Finally the photography and film section brought cultural and social foundations to the exhibition. Maria T. Ortoleva’s dreamlike work Housing Memories (Amphis I & II) saw digital projections of house interiors or objects lit upon site specific places. Each work introduced a nostalgic and uncanny layering of the present and the past, and delicately presented themes of memory and recollection. The Art of Sealing Ends by Nakeya Brown was another thought-provoking work, reflecting on the way in which society and culture dictates specific standards of beauty and appearance, focusing particularly on her own heritage as an African American woman. Her pop coloured works were well suited to the exhibition space, standing out against the muted white background. The winner of this category was Ieva Austinskaite for her photographs and film Passengers. This piece examined human behaviour with unknowing observation, capturing the emotions of several different urbanites in vivid black and white.

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Other prizes announced that evening included the People’s Choice Award which went to Rafael Perez for his fascinating dripping wax sculpture You & I, and the Academy Studio’s Abroad Prize to Bernie Clarkson for her transient oil painting Looking Back.

Overall the finalist exhibition of the Signature Art Prize 2015 was an excellent display of recent graduate and emerging artists, both national and international. The platform the Signature Art Prize provides these artists is a unique opportunity, focusing not solely on a monetary prize, but on the development of evolving artists perhaps previously having never exhibited. Now existing as the main driving force behind widely unrepresented new artists, the Signature Art Prize has established itself in its eighth year as a unique stage for the most talented upcoming artists of the moment. The Other Art Fair supports platforms like the Signature Art Prize and Degree Art which promote and celebrate emerging artists and new talent both locally and abroad.

I wrote this review for The Other Art Fair Blog where it has been originally published online through their website: The Other Art Fair Blog

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