My god, it has finally happened. A major art prize has shortlisted an artist NOT from the Big 6 (the 5 major London art schools of RCA, RA, Slade, Goldsmiths and St Martins, plus Glasgow – which figures only rarely anyway).
I almost didn’t click on the page for The John Moore Painting Prize since I have come to expect more of the same-same same in these prizes. And some of the best painters I know never bother even applying since they don’t come from the Big 6 and therefore expect there is no point except to throw entry-fee money down the toilet. (And to date they have been right)
But in this case my expectations were ill-founded. I opened the page and saw the list, then searched the artists. One really stood out, Mandy Payne. What awesome paintings! Yes, The John Moore Painting Prize has shortlisted Mandy Payne, a terrific artist based not in London but in Sheffield. Payne’s career is rather different – her bio notes that she has been a practicing dentist for some years and did her BA Hons in Fine art part time.
To me this is an interesting and refreshing way of being an artist. There must be something about dentistry – one of my favourite contemporary novelists, Alaa Al Aswany, is a dentist in Cairo and an internationally renowned bestselling author as well.
Looking at Payne’s pictures I was immediately struck by how different they are from the “saw it before” stuff that the big schools inevitably produce. It is is a personal vision, borne of long observation of both nature and culture. The urban landscapes are deep, thoughtful, observational yet they are really all about the texture and patterns of everyday life. Superb.
So, I’ll go up to Liverpool and see Payne’s work. (The other stuff is good too, but does not – for me – particularly stand out).
I wonder what it will take to break the dominance of London and of the Big 6 in the British art world?