The shortlist for the Threadneedle Prize has been announced and images of the selected works have now been published.
The show will open to the public on Thursday and I am going to attend the preview tomorrow.
My submission to the show was a very large painting I completed this spring.
"The Committee" (134x168cm) is a painting born from a reflection upon precisely submitting works for open shows.
I deliver the work on the right date, together with many other hopeful artists. Everyone unpacks their works, often keeping them face down; I leave clinging to the form slip, trying to memorize the number stuck to the back of the frame so that I can check results more easily as soon as they come out.
After a week of silence a stern list is published. In or out, that's all. You are not told why, often you don't even know who has been judging.
If I am in, a sense of elation grips me. If I am out I shrug my shoulders and try to minimize the disappointment, but a nagging voice keeps telling me I am not good enough, could have done better, should have submitted different works.
Why taking part at all, risking the heartbreak then? A bit of visibility for my paintings, a feeling of being part of a group: at the preview of last year's BP Portrait Award I was given a pin with the word "artist" to wear on my shirt, it felt to me like some sort of official graduation, if the NPG says so...
For the Threadneedle Prize, uniquely, artists have the chance to submit up to three pieces and write a short introduction about the works. I did so and then I decided to support the submission with two small studies I had painted for it, in case the judges would care to know about the sort of preparatory work that went into the large picture.
The chairs of the big painting are set in the studio where I teach, and I was not allowed to work there nor to borrow the chairs. I had visualised those chairs in that space, and although I tried painting white chairs instead (hence the studies) I stuck to the original image in my head and ended up working mostly from imagination. I like the theme and I will paint it again in the future.
Rather than the large work, my little 27x22 panel was one of the 52 works chosen among more than 4300 entries.
Now that I saw the images I can only guess that the show will not at all look like a showcase for a variety of styles of representational painting.
It seems to me that the judges wanted to assemble a homogeneous ensamble, something that looks more like a curated show that an open competition : this is, for them, what figurative painting is or probably should be today.
I don't think my work as a whole fits in this group at all, but this particular painting of mine somehow does.