Gallery attendant up for £35,000 BP Portrait Award

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National Portrait Gallery London

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L to R: Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul; Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model by Sergey Svetlakov; and Labour of Love by Michael Youds

A gallery attendant who also works as an artist has been shortlisted for the 2020 BP Portrait Award.

Michael Youds is one of three artists in the running for the £35,000 prize.

Blackburn-born Youds lives in Edinburgh where he keeps an eye on artworks at the National Galleries of Scotland.

Yet his painting of a music shop owner may not be displayed in the city where he lives, following the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s decision to distance itself from the prize.

Last year the gallery said it would no longer host the annual exhibition of the entries due to the competition’s links with oil giant BP.

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With the National Portrait Gallery in London currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s exhibition will be presented online.

All of the 48 works selected will be shown in a virtual gallery space, replicating the National Portrait Gallery rooms that usually house the show.

The winning portrait will be announced on 5 May on the National Portrait Gallery’s social media channels.

The shortlisted portraits were selected from 1,981 entries hailing from 69 countries.

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National Portrait Gallery London

Michael Youds’ Labour of Love shares its title with the 1983 UB40 album of that name, which can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of his extremely detailed painting.

Its subject is Tommy Robertson, who has run independent music store Backtracks in Edinburgh’s Tollcross area for more than 30 years.

Youds said he wanted people “to feel like they are inside the shop… not knowing what to focus their attention on.”

The 38-year-old is no stranger to awards, having won first prize at last year’s Scottish Portrait Awards with a painting of himself and his twin brother David.

  • Art gallery worker wins Scottish portrait prize

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National Portrait Gallery London

Like many of his sitters, Russian artist Sergey Svetlakov found the subject of his shortlisted portrait online.

Denis, whom Svetlakov describes as an “actor, juggler and fashion model”, had recently arrived in St Petersburg and was offering his services as a model in order to earn extra money.

“My sitters are usually ordinary people with various types of social backgrounds,’ says Svetlakov, who was born in Kazan and now lives and works in St Petersburg.

“Because Denis is an actor, he is very emotional and his face constantly changes depending on his mood.”

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National Portrait Gallery London

Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul portrays the artist’s close friends, Korean designer Jeonga Choi and Japanese composer Makoto Sakamoto, in a Berlin bar on an autumn evening.

Originally from Thailand, Prachakul is a self-taught painter who decided to be an artist after seeing a David Hockney retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery.

“I do believe that our circle of friends is what makes us who we are,” said Prachakul, who now lives in Lyon. “Jeonga and Makoto are like family to me.

“Their deep friendship has offered me a ground on where I can stand and embrace my own identity.”

Brighton-based Charlie Schaffer won first prize last year with Imara In Her Winter Coat, a painting of a friend wearing a fake fur coat.

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