Art Gallery visit – Usher gallery Lincoln; BP Portrait prize/Euan Uglow/Sargy Mann

The BP portrait award has been running for nearly 40 years, and the paintings left London to come up north to Lincoln for a couple of months.

I was impressed by the technical excellence of some of the hyper realistic ones, but I found myself drawn to the more painterly styles, or quirky paintings.


Diversion. Charlie Masson. 2016

Here is a case in point- at first glance, I thought why has this still life been included here? But then I see the cleverly placed selfie in the iphone glass. Its only a small painting – 30 by 25 cm. It’s loosely painted, with a brown/grey dark underpainting, that serves as shadows in some places. A few spatters of paint for mess and mould on the table. I can’t tell what the objects are on the left, too little detail but it kind of points towards the focal point of the phone. When I sketched it, I realised what a lot of information I could get about the artist from his tiny reflection – trendy hair, young, bit of anxiety or attitude? Great idea in this painting. The artist comments about mobile being an extension of ourselves -so true!


Beatrice. Ben Fenske 2016

I loved the painterly style of this artist’s portrait of his girlfriend. Its a messy energetic style, where the brushstrokes are probably carefully calculated to give a ‘sculpted effect’. It reminded me a  bit of Euan Uglow. Some areas like the eyes and mouth are very detailed with thick, heaped up paint, and others are loose with the canvas showing through as white. Shadows look quite reddish – alizarin crimson? The teeth reflect the blue of the jumper! Realised that blue is on the neck and in paler shades on the face- gives it a harmony. Some of the face is painted up into the hair and some of the background painted over the hair!


John. Ellis Griffith Otway 2016

I thought this was an unusual view. I think its a black background and painted forward with thin layers. Reminds me of Luc Tuymens? Face looks mask-like and anguished. It reminds me a bit of Morrissey!


Stanley on a painters rag. Keith Robinson. 2016

I thought this was unusual because it was the son of the artist painted on his used painters rag! It doesn’t show in the photo, but the face had quite unusual colours in it – yellow, pink , green and light blue. I thought this was a great experiment and I loved the son’s expression – its like ‘when are you finished?’..a look I get from my family too!

I stood sketching in front of each – again great practice at looking at the paintings.

Euan Uglow and Sargy Mann 

I was fascinated by the paintings of Euan Uglow, carefully measured drawings [he didn’t like them being called sketches!] led to well proportioned figures. The interesting things is that he left a lot of construction marks very visible, and in ‘The Quarry Pignano’ it made the figure look like scaffolding.

It’s like geometric shapes in different colours that fit together. It reminded me a bit of cloth stretched tightly over chicken wire.


We couldn’t take photos in this exhibition, but here’s my humble sketch with a cut out from the leaflet. Apparently he chopped the head off so we could see a landscape in the body – I’ve heard that before when Jenny Saville mentioned it in the plastic surgery drawing on the body last week.

Sargy Mann was his student, and initially his paintings looked a bit like Uglows but then he went off in his own direction – a much looser style with vivid colours. Unfortunately he suffered with eyesight problems for decades, sometimes getting it back with operations before losing it altogether.


I drew this sketch that he painted of his wife. It’s very accurate but I did see a photo of him feeling her for proportions as he was totally blind when this was painted in 2008. I couldn’t find an image online to put here. I did listen to an audio recording where his son is helping him to see a complicated Spanish view, the son took many photos which the family used to help him paint the scene in the studio. I saw the photo and the painting are very similar in proportions. It’s incredible that this painter didn’t let his failing sight get in the way of continuing to paint. I’ve ordered his son’s book about the artist as I’m fascinated to know more.



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