Just two weeks left to see New Light Art Prize Exhibition in Birkenhead

There’s just over two weeks left to attend the New Light Art Prize Exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead.

It features pieces by the five winners of the prestigious New Light Art Prize and the 121 shortlisted runners up and has so far received rave reviews since opening in September.

The biennial New Light Art Prize shines a light on Northern artists, celebrating the immense talent the region has to offer. The winners, who are from Northumberland, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire did incredibly well to be crowned victorious as the judges had to wade through thousands of entries.

The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead is the first stop on the exhibition tour and the exhibition will end on 22 December before it re-opens at Bankside Gallery, Southbank in London on 26 February.

Headlining the exhibition includes the winners:

  • ‘Lockdown’ by Frances Bell – Winner of The New Light Valeria Sykes Award – winning £10,000 – Frances has lived in Wooler in Northumberland, not far from Newcastle, for the past 20 years. Born in 1983, after developing an early interest in drawing and painting, she pursued art and art history, making her way to Florence to pursue classical training at Charles H. Cecil Studios in 2001 for three years, where she taught sporadically for the further seven summers. Since completing her training, Frances has been a full-time professional portrait and landscape painter, exhibiting internationally and across the UK.
  • ‘Bog Bumper Emerging from the Moss’ by Robert Cook – Winner of The £2,500 New Light Patron’s Choice Award – Robert lives in Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire. After graduating in scientific illustration at Blackpool & The Fylde College, Robert worked as an illustrator before going into teaching, sharing his knowledge of drawing, painting and passion for nature as a lecturer in scientific illustration. Since leaving education, he has worked as a wildlife artist honing his craft.
  • ‘During the Endless Night She Felt Herself Losing Her Mind’ by George Melling – Winner of The New Light Emerging Artists Award sponsored by Saul Hay Gallery. George is from Preston in Lancashire. After finishing his MA at Chelsea College of Art, George taught at Kingston University before moving back to Lancashire in 2000 where he set up his own painting practice. Working as a butcher two days a week to enable George to focus on his artwork for the rest of the week, his current body of work draws on images from photographs of family and friends from childhood, representing an interrogation of the past, what we inherit, what we cherish and what we discard.
  • ‘Bewick’s Place’ by Neil Bousfield – Winner of The New Light Printmakers’ Prize sponsored by Zillah Bell Gallery – multiple 16 block reduction relief engraving and woodcut (16cm x 32cm). Neil was born in Middlesborough and grew up in the coastal village of Marske-by-the-Sea and Redcar in North Yorkshire. He studied at Cleveland College of Art & Design in Middlesborough and Teesside University, Middlesborough. He now lives on the North Norfolk coast. He works within the discipline of relief printmaking and contemporary wood engraving. ‘Bewick’s Place’ comprises 16 small square blocks to represent a grid or a plotting and mapping method, which have been engraved, cut and printed using the reduction method. Each block has been engraved in sections and printed as one.
  • ‘The Art of Balance’ by Christine Stables – Winner of The New Light Purchase Prize. Christine lives in Stockport in Cheshire. After working as a textile artist for many years, Christine became an abstract painter in 2019 so that she could mix and use her own colours to suit her work. She uses acrylic paint, glazes and inks, and in her winning piece ‘The Art of Balance’ she uses organic shapes, created with loose white lines, showing off the colour orange by using contrasts in textures, translucency, opacity and complimentary colour.

The New Light Prize Exhibition, established in 2011, has become one of the UK’s largest and most talked about open touring exhibitions and offers some of the region’s best awards and opportunities for aspiring and established artists.

The judging process began in May and included some of the UK’s best art experts including Olivia Heron, Curator of The Whitworth Gallery, Matthew Hall, Director of Panter and Hall, London, Nan Perell, New York Collector specialising in contemporary British paintings, Mark Demsteader, renowned figurative artist and Rebekah Tadd, Development Director of New Light Art.

Frances Bell, ‘Lockdown’

Rebekah Tadd, Development Director at New Light says, “The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead is a wonderful launch venue for the New Light Prize Exhibition 2023/24. The standard and quality of artwork submitted was incredibly high. Once again the shortlist has proved the tremendous wealth of talent that exists in the North of England. The judges had a very difficult time making a decision and commented on the high standard of all the shortlisted artwork in the exhibition. Congratulations to such worthy winners. The exhibition is now open to the public at The Williamson before commencing the next leg of the tour in London at Bankside Gallery in February.

“We are excited to open for entries for our first ever Sculpture Prize in December 2023, sponsored by the Biscuit Foundation and hosted by the Biscuit Factory. For the first time, plinth, floor and suspended work will join the wall hung Prize Exhibition, adding a new experience for the visitor.” 

Frances Bell, winner of the New Light Valeria Sykes Prize says, “I feel so optimistic for the future of northern art in being part of this show. Such an ambitious exhibition, over so many wonderful venues, and months in which to tour the country, with such a rich crop of work to show alongside. There is great depth in the artistic community in the north and this show demonstrates so much of that. To have won the Valeria Sykes Award is beyond my wildest expectations, I’m really delighted. The painting was made at the tail end of the second lockdown, which so affected us all. My sitter is another Northumbrian and a great friend of mine. The atmosphere of that time comes through for me when I think about the painting, almost like a time capsule from the past. 

“It feels balancing that a painting which stems from being compelled by circumstances to remain in one locality through a hard moment in our recent history, should be shown in an exhibition celebrating that same area, and those who live and create art there.”

Past New Light shortlisted artists who have had huge success with exhibitions across the UK and further afield include Norman Ackroyd CBE RA, Anne Desmet RA, Maxwell Doig, Mark Demsteader, Christopher Cook, Mandy Payne, James Naughton and Jo Taylor.

George Melling, ‘During the Endless Night She Felt Herself Losing Her Mind’

Mark Demsteader, renowned Figurative Artist and another one of the Judges of the New Light Art Prize added: “It was a very difficult decision to choose one artwork from the whole show as they all stand alone as individual pieces. It was good to see such high quality work coming from Northern artists.”

Established in 2010, New Light is a charity that celebrates and promotes both well-known and emerging artists by offering some of the region’s best awards and opportunities. As well as the New Light Prize, it runs New Light Art for All, an education programme which includes talks, workshops and school projects. In 2021 it launched the New Light Collection which aims to make the best in Northern visual arts available to more people, by loaning pieces free of charge to public bodies and charities.

The common thread through everything New Light does is a deep belief that the visual arts matter and the north of England deserves to be celebrated. New Light is run by a dedicated group of people who are passionate about the visual arts in the north of England and relies entirely on donations and sponsorship.

For more information visit www.newlight-art.org.uk

Lead image: The New Light Valeria Sykes Award winner, Frances Bell

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