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Clara Drummond wins the BP Portrait Award 2016

Artist Clara Drummond standing with her painting 'Girl in a Liberty Dress'. Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2016

LONDON, United Kingdom - After what must have been a nail biting few weeks for the three shortlisted artists, last night Clara Drummond was announced winner of the BP Portrait Award 2016. According to the National Portrait Gallery, 'The judges, including artist Jenny Saville and writer Alan Hollinghurst, were impressed by the portrait's skilful execution and it's subtle enigmatic qualities.' In addition the NPG added that 'This year's overall winner was noted by all of the judges for its subtle, enigmatic nature, and for the indelible impression the artist's skill makes on the viewer.'

Bo Wang came in second place with 'Silence' and in third place Benjamin Sullivan with 'Hugo'. Jamie Coreth won the BP Young Artist Award for his painting 'Dad sculpting me', and the travel award went to Laura Guoke for 'Petros.'

Clara Drummond, 38, is no stranger to the BP Portrait Award having now been selected five times for the exhibition. Her work was selected in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2014. Born in Edinburgh, Clara studied modern languages at Cambridge University before going on to study at the Prince’s Drawing School.

Her portrait of Girl in a Liberty Dress is of her friend, the artist Kirsty Buchanan whom she also painted for her exhibited works in BP Portrait Award in 2013 and 2014. When Kirsty came to sit for Clara she would wear a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working with the William Morris Society archive on an exhibition at the time and were looking at the hand drawn patterns for fabrics, wallpapers and tapestries by Jane Morris and May Morris, William Morris's wife and daughter. Drummond says of Kirsty that 'she is inspiring because she is always immersed in the ideas around whatever she is making at the time, history, nature, mythology and art all feed into her work, so when I am drawing or painting her it feels more like a collaboration than a portrait sitting.' Her previous portraits include artist and model Iris Palmer for BP Portrait Award 2009, and her friend, actor Ben Whishaw, from 2005. (Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery).

Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond (c) Clara Drummond. (260 x 370 mm, oil on board)

I went along to the Press Preview this morning at the National Portrait Gallery and saw a truly wonderful collection of paintings making up this year's BP Portrait Award exhibition. I think it's a refreshing and diverse selection of well executed work. I also got to meet and talk to most of the artists about their paintings which was a privilege.

Here's my brief exchange with a very exhilarated Clara Drummond, who I had to fight my way through a queue of journalists and TV crew to talk to.

Q: Did you have any idea or expectation that you might win?

Lots of my family and friends said to me: "Maybe you'll win!" And I was like "Noooo, noooo"

Q: Why was that?

Because it's a small painting, it's quite understated. For me it's exciting this painting because it was a step in an interesting direction. It was an experiment. I was allowing myself to kind of go in a direction where I didn't know where it was going. So I felt excited, but I didn't expect other people to see anything in it. And you know the BP normally celebrates really big paintings, highly worked, that have taken maybe a year of work. My painting isn't like that. It's small, it's spontaneous, it was just like a moment.

Q: Maybe that's what people see and appreciate. That moment you captured, and the fact that it's not overworked. And it's fresh and a departure away from overly worked - overly realistic paintings that we've seen a lot of in the past in this competition. Thank you

Q: How long did it take you to paint?

It was two stages. So I did a drawing of Kirsty which took about a month - a very detailed drawing. And then that sort of simmered away for a while and I was really pleased with this drawing. And so a couple of months later I decided to do a painting, and the painting only took about a month.

Q: Is this tempera?

It's actually oil paint, but it's painted very thinly.

Q: And did you do an under-drawing first or did you go straight into the painting?

I did an under-drawing first. I kept drawing until I felt happy with the under-drawing. I did another version which I abandoned because I wasn't happy with it. Once I got to a point where I felt there was something in the under-drawing, then I started to paint.

Q: So what are you going to do with the money? (Clara won £30 000 approx. $44 000)

(A surprised laugh) Oh! I think I'll put it in the bank so I don't need to worry about money for a while. So I can just paint and not have that anxiety at the back of my mind.

Q: That's wonderful. Because a lot of artists can't afford to paint full time. So it's nice to have that cushion so you can concentrate on the work.

Yeah, it gives you the freedom to take risks and it gives you the freedom to maybe sort of try new things and try and grow as an artist. It is like being given a year of freedom as an artist.

Q: And what's it going to be like not being able to enter the BP anymore? (The rules state that winners may not re-enter the competition again).

(Laughs) Oh, I'm going to get so confused around the deadline time next year because I'm so used to thinking 'time to start painting now.' But no, it's going to be a chance to maybe start working in a new way and having the confidence to make bigger work.

Q: I think it's going to open a lot of doors for you too. I interviewed Matan (Matan Ben Cnaan - winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015) and he's had a great year. Lots of interest from galleries, he's been interviewed on TV, and he's met lots of people from all over the world.

Yes, that's why it's such an extraordinary exhibition to be part of. It's not just artists in London or artists in Britain. It really is international. I get so excited seeing the work coming from so many different countries. Seeing what people in Germany, and Israel and America and Lithuania - what they are painting.

Q: That seems particularly relevant right now as we are about to go into a referendum. Given the international nature of this competition and it's ability to bring people together and connect people.

Yes, yes absolutely.

The BP Portrait Exhibition 2016, which is free to the public, runs from 23rd June to 4th September at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

With thanks to Clara Drummond. Website:

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