_76042526_rose-wylie

And so, it’s off. The Biennial kicks off tomorrow. We’re not going to rush things. We’re going to take our time. Because what, exactly, is the rush anyway?

In the meantime, the UK’s premier painting prize, the £25,000 John Moores prize, is open for business at the Walker. And the shortlist has been announced.

_76042524_mandy-payneMandy Payne’s view of Park Hill estate offers an uncompromising slab of Sheffield’s infamous Park Hill development that looms over the town like an approaching storm front. Payne spray painted the piece directly onto poured concrete.

Jessica by Alessandro Raho, is an intimate painting of the artist’s stepsister against a plain white background. Raho uses family and friends as models (although he’s also painted celebs including Judi Dench), drawing upon personal relationships to infuse the work with a striking immediacy. It’s an affecting and somewhat unsettling piece. _76042527_alessandro-raho

Vinculum by Juliette Losq, winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2005, is a super-realist stunner. A large-scale watercolour image, it’s built up through multiple layers, and creates a dizzying, vertiginous immersion into a scrubby yard in the process of being reclaimed by nature. It’s a virtuoso display of technique, but perhaps a little too painterly for the prize.

This year’s judges are Tim Marlow, Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy and artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Zeng Fanzhi, Chantal Joffe and Tom Benson.

“It’s for the visitors to make their own minds up about the state of contemporary painting in Britain,” says Marlow, “but based on my experience of judging the John Moores this year I’d say it was quietly confident, expansive, hard-won, self-critical, vital and engaging.” That’s enough adjectives to see us through to winter, then.

_76042528_juliette-losqAlso making the list is Sometimes I Forget That You’re Gone by Rae Hicks, a recent graduate of Goldsmiths (2012) and the youngest prizewinner (b.1988). The piece places real trees against soon-to-be-assembled cardboard cut outs. It wears its artistic devices a little too heavily on its sleeve for us. But we could see the judges lapping this up. We think there’s an algorithm that skews the prize towards trees every few years.

“What was wonderful was seeing the range of different approaches to painting. It was a shame to have to choose only five prize winners,” Judge Lynette Yiadom-Boakye said.

Our favourite, and we believe the winner, is PV Windows and Floorboards (main pic) by 80 year old artist Rose Wylie. Working from direct observation and memory, Wylie grabs images from film and current events, and manages to paint loosely and powerfully at the same time. Not an easy thing to pull off. Neither is humour. But she succeeds brilliantly – this piece is fresh, smart and fizzing with life. We want what she’s having.

_76042525_rae-hicks

The John Moores Painting Prize is the subject of a BBC 4 documentary, presented by writer and comedian Alexei Sayle. The programme, which examines the history of the Prize as well as its place within contemporary art, will be aired in September.

Don’t like these? Don’t fret, there are 40-odd more to see at this year’s show: one of the best in recent years, in our opinion.


John Moores Prize
Walker Art Gallery
5 July to 30 November
(as part of Liverpool Biennial)
Free.

  • Paul Cook

    The painting at the top of the article is, to put it politely, shit. Looks like it was done by a 12 year old who hates art class but has to turn out some piece of crap to avoiding totally pissing off their art teacher.