In alphabetical order: Biggs & Collings, Ian Law, Stephen Nicholas, Sarah Pickstone and Narbi Price are in the running for the coveted title and the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous winners such as David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Mary Martin and Peter Doig.
The ultimate winner of the £25,000 first prize is announced by patron and winner of the junior prize in 1961, Sir Peter Blake, on Friday 14 September, for the opening of the Liverpool Biennial.
The four other prize winners will each receive £2,500.
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries said: “The judges have chosen five very different paintings, which combine to challenge, delight and stimulate. They also represent an exhibition which continues to reaffirm the power of paint to communicate with and move us.
“The judges of the John Moores Painting Prize assess each painting on its own merits. If requested they are given the title, medium or the artist’s statement, but apart from this the paintings are judged anonymously- they simply speak for themselves.
“It is this aspect of the John Moores Painting Prize which makes it so special. The work is selected without the distraction of celebrity or notoriety, but instead on an ability to convey an idea or emotion through paint.”
The 2012 judges are Alan Yentob, creative director of the BBC; previous John Moores exhibitors and Turner Prize nominees, George Shaw and Angela de la Cruz; Merseyside-born YBA and Turner Prize nominee Fiona Banner, and director of the Whitechapel, Iwona Blazwick.
Prize winners and their work in alphabetical order:
The Greater Light by Biggs & Collings. A vast and intricate pattern forms a joint entry by married couple; Emma Biggs, who conceives the painting’s colour and broadcaster, Mathew Collings, who applies it.
M is many by Ian Law. A large black letter ‘M’ takes up the whole canvas, delineating the space and confusing perspectives.
Gallery by Stephen Nicholas. Part of a series of works, this eerie painting explores a number of dualities, including gallery/institution and abstraction/figuration.
Stevie Smith and the Willow by Sarah Pickstone. A haunting and delicate scene inspired by Smith’s drawing to accompany her 1957 poem, Not Waving But Drowning.
Untitled Kerbstone Painting (MJK) by Narbi Price. The rear exterior of a closed-down cinema, showing no trace of the dramas that once unfolded on the big screen inside.