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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Aspect Prize Finalists' Countdown (Herald Arts section 8/1/11)

From top:
Rabbit Girl by Steven Lindsay
Passage by Frances Law
Clyde Beginnings by Adam Kennedy
Leeward by Rowena Comrie

I've been involved with the Aspect Prize for the last few years, initially as a judge and then in a PR role. This year, with budgets being slashed right, left and centre, I'm no longer doing press for this, the last ever Prize.
I am, however, keeping a close watching eye on the proceedings. On Monday, I will be on tenterhooks waiting for a call from my artist pal Charlie Jamieson, who has been the driving force behind the Prize since its inception in 2003, alongside Mike Adam, whose idea it was in the first place.Charlie has promised to let me know ahead of the announcement at 7pm on Monday night, who has won.
Charlie and I are currently exploring ways of keeping the prize going in some form as both of us feel passionately that Scotland's painters need a voice and a platform to be seen.
There is more to Scottish painting than Jolomo, Jack Vettriano and Peter Howson - though I am not knocking what they do in any way. I just want more people to know about the wealth of talent that is out there working away without much recognition.
For a small country, Scotland punches above its weight in terms of artistic talent. Artists can make us all connect with bigger truths and see the world with fresh eyes. They just need some help along the way and that is why prizes such as this one are so important.
So, watch this space for developments. If you are a would-be sponsor, let me know pronto!!


The Fleming Collection
13 Berkeley Street
London W1
020 7409 5730
www.theaspectprize.com and www.flemingcollection.co.uk
January 11-20, 2011

AS the last dregs of the festive wine are drained and forlorn strings of half bald tinsel litter our streets, a nation prepares to tighten belts and braces for a decade or austerity. Money does not grow on discarded Christmas trees.

In the world of the visual arts in Scotland, it’s business as usual. The majority of artists are used to austerity. It comes with the territory as it takes dedication, inner steel and a lot of help from your friends and family to devote your life to creating art.

As I write this, having dispatched their work on its journey to London, four Scottish painters are pacing around in their fingerless gloves, nervously anticipating the week to come.

The artists, Rowena Comrie, Adam Kennedy, Frances Law and Steven Lindsay, are all finalists in what is, unfortunately, the last ever year of the privately-funded Aspect Prize. Since its inception in 2003, the prize, one of the UK’s biggest ever cash prizes for artists, has dished out over £200,000 to 32 struggling Scottish artists.

One of the most inclusive art awards in the country, the only stipulations for entry is that the artist is Scots-born or lives in Scotland and has not had a London exhibition in the last six years. Artists of any age can enter.

Current sponsors, London-based hedge fund manager Aspect Capital Limited, had a pre-arranged agreement to support the prize until 2011, but this deal runs out when the 2010/2011 winner is announced at a reception to mark the start of this year’s Finalists’ Exhibition in the prestigious Fleming Collection in London on Monday night (Jan 10).

The winner will be awarded £10,000 in addition to the £5,000 all four finalists received back in June last year at an annual open exhibition in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. A painting will also be selected for the permanent holdings of The Fleming Collection, which has become an embassy for Scottish art in London and actively supports the development of contemporary art north of the border.

Being chosen as a finalist for such an award boosts the artists on several levels. The initial £5,000 cash prize offers a cushion which allows them to concentrate on their work. It also gives a gives a much-needed injection of confidence and the opportunity to be mentored by the painter Charles Jamieson, who established the prize with entrepreneur Mike Adam back in 2003.

Crucially, the exposure opens doors which previously might have been slammed in their faces, as last year’s winner, Patricia Cain, can testify. Cain was a struggling painter who had given up a lucrative legal career to pursue her dream of being a professional artist when she was named last year’s winner for her large scale, intricate and complex studies of Glasgow’s new transport museum in the making.

Since then, she has gone on to win the UK-wide Threadneedle Prize and established herself as an artist to be taken seriously. Cain is now looking forward to a solo exhibition in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove this spring.

This year’s finalists are all strong contenders for the ultimate prize and each, according to Charles Jamieson, ‘would be a deserving winner in their own right.’

“One thing the Prize has always done is support good painting no matter the subject, style or application of paint,” he adds. “If it's good it will stand up to scrutiny.”

Of this year’s finalists, Rowena Comrie’s sweeping colourful statements have a boldness often sought but rarely achieved. There is energy and drama in each piece. Initially they stun you, then they draw you in.

Adan Kennedy’s mixed media paintings of ships in dock are caught between painting and etching, and echo the power of the great war artists. Each is worked and worked to a point that in lesser hands would kill the work but Kennedy, just 18 months out of art school, pulls it off with confidence.

Frances Law’s sensual paintings explore the inner workings of shells found on the shore. Expertly lit in her studio, these small moments are blown up and recreated on large canvases which have a dramatic quality all of their own. These paintings are calm yet intense.

Steven Lindsay’s formal but often quirky portraits mark him out as someone to watch. There is drawing skill, a real feel for paint and a taste for the unusual, all of which make for bold compositions. Steven could be a great portrait painter.

You can keep up with developments as they happen on Monday night by checking out the Aspect Prize on Facebook (Aspect Prize Art Hub) and Twitter (@TheAspectPrize).

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