AIR member Sarah Ball has been awarded the title of Welsh Artist of the Year 2013 and the £2,000 prize. Her winning archival portrait of a 1920s girl gang member forms part of an ongoing body of work that takes found photographs from police archives.
“The girl has a fascinating face and is blind in one eye. I thought she looked defiant in the photograph,” says Ball about the subject of the 18 cm-high oil painting titled Gangmember. “There was something about her that made me want to paint her.”
The mug shot of the young girl arrested on the streets of New York inspired Ball, who is interested in the unsentimental documentary purpose of such images which “capture a brief moment of crisis in the sitters life. You get a hint of the times they lived in.”
The 48-year-old, Yorkshire-born painter worked as an illustrator in London before studying for a Master of Fine Art at Bath Spa University in 2005.
The Welsh Artist of the Year competition began in 2000 and over the course of its 13 years has received over 6000 entries. It is open to artists living or born in Wales. This is the second time that Ball has entered the competition. In 2010 she received a commendation for her submission, Manmade Series.
The prize, which was founded to promote Welsh artists – both amateur and professional – could be said to be peer-judged; the panel of mainly artists comprises Neale Howells, Christine Jones, Kathryn Campbell-Dodd and Richard Huw Morgan, alongside curator Ruth Cayford.
26-year-old John Abell was awarded the runner-up and Printmaking title for his dramatic prints made on discarded pieces of wood. As a teenager, Abell was homeless for a couple of years prior to studying painting at Camberwell College of Art.
Other category winners include Iwan Bala for Drawing, AIR member David Barnes for Photography and Morgen Hall for Applied Art. Unusually, the Sculpture prize was split between AIR member Sean Olsen and Jonathan Anderson. Works by Jo Berry, Jonathan Williams and AIR members Jin Eui Kim and Angharad Pearce Jones were also highly commended.
The winning and commended works, alongside 84 other pieces, are on display at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, until Monday 6 August.