It’s a prize that’s gone to David Hockney, Richard Hamilton and (this year’s patron) Sir Peter Blake – and is still regarded as the most important painting prize in the UK. The winner receives a nice £25,000 cheque, when the award ceremony takes place on 14 September, the opening night of this Biennial edition. As ever, the selected shortlist reveals a astounding breadth of technique, application and style.

1) Stephen Nicholas’s gauzy Gallery is our early favourite. But we reserve the right to change our minds as the days progress.

2) The Greater Light by Biggs & Collings, is an unusual collaboration between mosaic artist Emma Biggs, and broadcaster husband, Mathew Collings, who applies the patterns and colours.

3) M is many by Ian Law. A large black letter ‘M’ takes up the whole canvas, delineating the space and confusing perspectives.

4) Stevie Smith and the Willow by Sarah Pickstone. A haunting and delicate scene inspired by Smith’s drawing to accompany her 1957 poem, Not Waving But Drowning.

5) Untitled Kerbstone Painting (MJK) by Narbi Price. The worn yellow diamond patterns of the corner of a loading bay with the scuffed marks of activity on the walls and surfaces.

Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries said: “The judges have chosen five very different paintings, which combine to challenge, delight and stimulate. They also represent an exhibition which continues to reaffirm the power of paint to communicate with and move us.

“The judges of the John Moores Painting Prize assess each painting on its own merits. If requested they are given the title, medium or the artist’s statement, but apart from this the paintings are judged anonymously- they simply speak for themselves.

“It is this aspect of the John Moores Painting Prize which makes it so special. The work is selected without the distraction of celebrity or notoriety, but instead on an ability to convey an idea or emotion through paint.”

The 2012 judges are Alan Yentob (the man who commissions himself for the BBC. Nice job), previous John Moores exhibitors and Turner Prize nominees, George Shaw and Angela de la Cruz; Merseyside-born YBA and Turner Prize nominee Fiona Banner, and director of the Whitechapel, Iwona Blazwick.

Keep up to date on the prize at its Facebook page

  • http://www.tourguideliverpool.com Richard MacDonald

    Stevie Smith and the Willow is a beautiful piece. I was unaware of the poem (though I had heard the expression). I’m not sure if the poem enhances the piece for me but it certainly adds nuance. /artywankery

    Stevie Smith – Not Waving But Drowning

    Nobody heard him, the dead man,
    But still he lay moaning:
    I was much further out than you thought
    And not waving but drowning.

    Poor chap, he always loved larking
    And now he’s dead
    It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
    They said.

    Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
    (Still the dead one lay moaning)
    I was much too far out all my life
    And not waving but drowning.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David Lloyd

    Stevie Smith rocks. There is no question.

  • Rich

    None of them beat Shit Picnic from an earlier Biennial. That was a great picture. Interesting and made me laugh out loud too.