Bilbao-based realist painter Ana Schmidt has won the £20,000 2018 Columbia Threadneedle Prize for her painting, Dead End, which depicts a peripheral urban space. Five finalists – Emily Allchurch, Caroline Burraway, Serena Curmi, Cathy Lewis and Lois Wallace – each receive a prize of £1,000.

Schmidt, who is also a practising architect, painted Dead End as part of a larger series that considers the changes that occur from urban sprawl and the Baudrillardian interruption that graffiti has on an area’s existing codes and signs. In her paintings, illegal art on derelict and abandoned buildings is reflected in the wet ground and puddles that block or partially inconvenience access to them.

Alongside the £20,000 award, Schmidt will also receive a solo exhibition in the Mall Galleries’ Threadneedle Space in London.

Mall Galleries director Lewis McNaught said: “It is always a difficult task to select just one winning work from all those entered for the prize – but with Ana’s painting, the selectors were all struck by the macabre and melancholic beauty that she has conjured up with her extremely skilled brushwork. With this large canvas, Ana is calling on us to wake up to the increasing levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty rife in modern cities. It’s a powerful work.”

Now into its 10th year, the annual open call prize received submissions of 4,118 artworks by 2,097 artists for this year’s edition. The judges were portrait artist Jennifer McRae, Yorkshire Sculpture Park senior curator Helen Pheby, and The Fine Art Society managing director Pippa Stockdale. The judging was chaired by McNaught and the paintings divided into four subject categories.

The work of the six prize-winners featured in three of the categories. Within the Portrait & Figure section, Curmi’s Bedlam’ Case Studies is a painting of six wistful and personable portraits that humanise archive photographs from the 1800s of patients from the Bethlem Royal Hospital, while Caroline Burraway’s pencil and charcoal drawing, Samuel, The Jungle Calais, stems from her time spent at the migrant camps in France in 2016.

Representing the Landscape & Nature section, Wallace’s Perfect Day depicts a caravan nestled within a glowing woodland clearing.

Joining Schmidt in the Urban & City Life category, Allchurch’s Babel Britain (After Verhaecht) is a transparency of a digital collage on an LED lightbox that recreates the old master painting with a contemporary narrative. Lewis’s Nowhere near Gotham combines sculpture and digital print and features cast marble figures of two boys dressed as superheros posed in front of a bleak suburban cityscape.

In addition, the Still Life & Domestic category features a range of colourful contemporary scenes and bleak interiors.

The winner of the Visitors Choice Award, worth £10,000, will be announced at the end of the exhibition.

The Columbia Threadneedle Prize runs until 17 February 2018 at Mall Galleries, London

1. Ana Schmidt, Dead End. Winner of the 2018 Columbia Threadneedle Prize. Courtesy: Mall Galleries
2. Lois Wallace, Perfect Day. A finalist in the 2018 Columbia Threadneedle Prize. Courtesy: Mall Galleries
3. Cathy Lewis, Nowhere near Gotham. A finalist in the 2018 Columbia Threadneedle Prize. Courtesy: Mall Galleries

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