Kayt Hughes has been announced winner of the Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize 2015 for her sculptural work Study Scores, 2nd Movement at an exhibition and award ceremony hosted by Baltic 39, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Nottingham Trent University graduate  receives a £20,000 prize plus a 12-month fellowship at Baltic 39 within the studio facility that also hosts Northumbria University and Baltic’s BxNU post-graduate community. Hughes will work towards a solo exhibition and publication in September 2016.

This is the third year of the Woon Prize, which is presented by Mr Wee Teng Woon in association with Northumbria University and is open to students currently in their final year of undergraduate study in the UK. This year’s second prize of £9,000 was awarded to Jacob Watmore (Central St Martins College), while Queenie Clarke (Camberwell College of Arts) received the third prize of £6,000. A judges’ discretionary prize of £5,000 was split between Jadé Fadojutimi (Slade School of Fine Art) and Martin Darbyshire (Leeds College of Art).

Speaking about her achievement, Hughes said: “Being an artist is such an important thing for society, I feel very proud that my life is now dedicated to [being and artist] and that I’ve followed my heart. The prize is an amazing opportunity to be involved in such a prestigious exhibition.”

To commence her fellowship Hughes will move to the north east of England from Manchester, where she is currently based. “I’d never been to Newcastle before delivering my work for the show. I had a really good feeling about the city and thought, even if I don’t win this prize I really want to be here. It’s such an exciting place to be!”

Sustaining momentum

Being the first time Baltic 39 has hosted the prize, it is also the first time many of the artists in the exhibition will have presented work after their degree show – a fast turn around but also an opportunity to sustain momentum in their practice. Hughes’ work lends itself to this momentum. She makes sculptural and colour formations; assemblages generated through a study of musical scores improvised on her saxophone.

Made from wood, emulsion, filler and pencil Study Scores, 2nd Movement implies logic in its formal appearance, but its still a revelatory moment when you learn of its musical underpinning. Overall the work is playful, much like the rest of the work in the show. All artists present accomplished pieces that display experimentation in testing material and concept. From floor to ceiling the works cross-pollinate, but they hold their own space, achieving a clarity often impossible in a degree show.

They now know your work

Baltic’s director Godfrey Worsdale described the prize and exhibition opportunity as invaluable and transformative. “They now know your work”, he remarked, addressing the shortlisted artists, and referring to the selection panel which included Baltic professor Christine Borland, Baltic chief curator Laurence Sillars, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery Fiona Bradley, and Director at Camden Art Gallery Jenni Lomax.

“You really are all winners”, explained Borland, who was given the task of announcing the winners alongside Woon’s son Jeremy Woon. “You have been selected from an enormously large range of applications and the work looks wonderful. I’m sure this prize will be extremely meaningful on you CVs. We all understand the difficulty of figuring out how to fund yourselves as artists, for the winners this offers a moment of respite and freedom.”

On her plans for the fellowship, Hughes went on to say, “During study you have a lot of support and help and a lot of conversations. It’s a really important thing to have when you are a young artist, to be able to speak to other artists and understand how things work, how to make work, and how you feel about your own work. I hope to continue that here, I feel there will be a lot of critical discussions and I’m really excited!”

Other shortlisted artists were: Daniel Crooks (Goldsmiths), Harry Fletcher (Kingston University London), Joshua Fox (Batley School of Art and Design), Lewis Henderson (Camberwell), Mark Mindel and Emma Papworth (both The Ruskin School of Art), Neena Percy (Slade School of Fine Art). The inaugural winner was artist Holly Hendry, who completed her Fellowship in September 2014. The current Fellow is Ramona Zoladek, who holds the Fellowship until September 2015.

Work by all 12 shortlisted artists will remain on display at BALTIC 39 until 2 August 2015 www.baltic39.com