BP Portrait Award 2016 (4 stars)

BP Portrait Award 2016

Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond, 2016

Edinburgh artist Clara Drummond takes top prize

On its annual excursion to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from the prize's first group showing at the National Portrait Gallery in London, it's a pleasing fillip to be able to say that this year's winner of the BP Portrait Award is from Edinburgh; the Cambridge-educated and based Clara Drummond, whose work is making its fifth appearance in the Prize's final exhibition over the last decade. Her 'Girl in a Liberty Dress' is a pale-skinned impression of her friend, artist Kirsty Buchanan, and her skill and the 'subtle, enigmatic nature' of the piece impressed the judges.

Yet, while choosing a longlist from the more than two and a half thousand pieces of work submitted to the Prize may have only become truly tricky in its latter stages, doing so from the more than fifty pieces displayed here can't have been an easy task. There are few bold experiments (Charlie Masson's 'Diversion', showing the artist blurrily reflected in the screen of his phone, is one), rather a bunch of pieces which capture their subjects in natural, expressive and quite possibly definitive poses; there's character in each which seems to speak of a personality and situation beyond the pose.

There's a realistic, detailed quality which approaches the photographic to Fiona Graham-Mackay's portrait of Sir Andrew Motion (a piece whose creation was 'eavesdropped' on for a Radio 4 programme) and to Stephen Earl Rogers' 'Hayden as Henry', his black nephew in a stylised pose evoking Italian-American gangster films like Goodfellas; a contemporary take on the classic female portrait in Daisy Sims-Hilditch's 'Alessandra' and Joshua LaBrock's 'Laura in Black' (of each artist's friend and wife, respectively); and rougher bursts of colour to Martin Yeoman's study of D-Day glider pilot Laurie Weeden. Teri Anne Scoble's 'The 271 to Arsenal' is youthful and contemporary, and Bo Wang's powerful 'Silence' shows her grandmother at the end of her life, opposite ends of the wealth of life and experience so vividly on display here.

BP Portrait Award 2016 is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, until 26 Mar.

BP Portrait Award 2016

The best in contemporary portrait painting, selected from 2,557 entries from artists in 80 countries.

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