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BP Awards from a Painter's POV

Photo by Natalie Holland

Photo by Natalie Holland

The thing to notice about this years' BP Portrait Award is that it is perfectly curated. Good balance in displaying most of contemporary portraiture styles, all in good measure. There you have your large group compositions, your intimate small pieces, the rough ones side by side with fine detailed work, super hard edge and almost disappearing softness along with fun conceptual pieces and couple of ever present large heads.

Breech!  by Benjamin Sullivan, January 2017 Oil on canvas 820 x 400mm

by Benjamin Sullivan, January 2017
Oil on canvas
820 x 400mm

Going straight to the first prize winner Benjamin Sullivan, I found the painting Breech! much smaller than I expected it to be, but the impact was a strong one regardless . Although I can't say I fell in love with it, I did appreciate the rough honesty of approach and the skill implied. Most important that it does connect to the human experience most of us are able to recognize.

There are three pieces I did fell in love with. It is Norman Lamb MP by Paul P.Smith with it's saturated complimentary colors, a painterly delight with the strong presence that just connects.

It is also small in size, but big on mastery of light and playful impasto brushwork Self-Portrait by Julian Merrow-Smith; and last, but by no means least is the exquisite Sarah by Raoof Haghighi. It is a delicate and highly detailed work that is as much about a beauty of technique as it is about the inner beauty of the sitter.

Attention grabbers in a best sense of the word and for different reasons are Alan Coulson's Honest Thomas, Janne Kearney's 86, the large group portrait Levensons by Rupert Alexander that immediately invokes Sargent.

The works that grew on me greatly are visually interesting and skillfully done Antonio Lopez by Jorge Abbad-Jaime De Aragón Córdoba, bold expressionism of Portrait of Beyza by Mustafa Ozel, almost disappearing fragility of Profile by Angela Repping and interesting interplay of edges and use of space in Ken Laach by Richard Twose.

And as always, the conceptual pieces are highly entertaining, like the Painting Mirror Archipelago by Brian Shields, a portrait of one ear by Simon Ramirez Restrepo, and face without the face Dr. Tim Moreton by Lucy Stapford.

So if you want to see what the contemporary portraiture is about today - then that is the the best place to see it.


Natalie Holland is a contemporary realist artist, best known for her highly skillful ability to portraiture humanity in her work. 

She received her education in St.Petersburg Academy of Arts, started her career as artist in Norway and,  after attending the studio of Odd Nerdrum in Oslo, proceeded to exhibit internationally, with gallery shows in Norway, Italy, USA and UK.

In 2007 she moved to London, where she currently works. Here, she exhibited at BP Portrait Award 2009 and several times with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Royal Institute of Oil Painters and Federation of British Artists at Mall Galleries. 

Natalie Holland's work may be seen soon in Chicago at the Zhou B Art Center for Woman as Warrior group exhibition curated by Didi Menendez and Sergio Gomez.

Natalie Holland |  Light Warriors  | oil on dibond | 20x24 inches | 2017

Natalie Holland | Light Warriors | oil on dibond | 20x24 inches | 2017