Keith Coventry Wins the John Moores Painting Prize 2010

Keith Coventry - photo c. Minako Jackson



Spectrum Jesus by Keith Coventry scoops UK’s biggest painting prize

A painting inspired by the work of one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century, is the £25,000 first prize winner of the 26th John Moores Painting Prize.

Spectrum Jesus by Keith Coventry has been awarded first place in the competition which this year attracted almost 3,000 entrants. The Burnley-born artist has earned first prize with a painting which judge, Sir Norman Rosenthal, described as “full of ambiguity and contradictions”.

Depicting the face of Jesus Christ, Spectrum Jesus is based on Han van Meegeren’s notorious forgeries of the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The painting is a blue monochromatic image, part of a series rendered in the palette and style of the German Expressionist Emil Nolde.

Sir Norman Rosenthal explains: “Spectrum Jesus explores both the moral and religious aspects of iconography. Full of ambiguity and contradictions, the painting of Jesus Christ follows some of the oldest traditions of icon painting, with the image being repeated throughout the series that the work is part of. The fact that the painting is difficult to see is intentional. The reflections on the glass slow the experience down and allow the work to be absorbed by the viewer.”

With help from the Art Fund – the UK’s national fundraising charity for works of art – and the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust, Spectrum Jesus has also been acquired for the Walker Art Gallery’s permanent collections. The painting will now join the gallery’s impressive collection of British painting.

Director of art galleries Reyahn King said: “We are delighted that Keith Coventry is joining the ranks of esteemed artists in our collection of previous John Moores prizewinners.

“Spectrum Jesus is a fascinating painting by an artist of intellectual depth. I am thrilled that we can add Coventry’s work to a collection which charts the progress and development of the last 53 years of British painting. We are extremely grateful to the Art Fund and the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust for enabling us to keep this collection vital and relevant with the inclusion of this year’s worthy winner.”                 

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “This is a captivating work, offering a subtle contemplation on the notion of the original and the copy, and its vivid blue colour really draws the viewer’s attention. We’re really pleased to help the Walker acquire Spectrum Jesus, so that it can be shown in context of previous winners, as well as the wider story of British modern and contemporary art.”

Spectrum Jesus is part of the artist’s Repressionism series. The painting was originally displayed at the London gallery, Haunch of Venison in 2009, alongside a number of others, creating a wide colour spectrum.

This is the second occasion that Vermeer has been linked to the winner of John Moores Painting Prize. Martin Greenland won first prize in 2006 with Before Vermeer’s Clouds, an invented landscape which echoes the sense of stability and peace in Vemeer’s work.


Spectrum Jesus 2009 (oil on canvas, wood and glass 68.6 x 58 cm)

Artist biography

Keith Coventry was born in Burnley in 1958 and lives and works in London. He attended Brighton Polytechnic 1978-81 and Chelsea School of Art London 1981-82. He featured in Sensation Royal Academy of Arts London 1997. Solo exhibitions include Ivory Towers 1992, Suprematist Paintings I – X 1993, White Abstracts 1994, all at Karsten Schubert London, Paintings Tramway Glasgow 2006, Key Groups Julius Werner Gallery Berlin 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include Painting & Sculpture, Part I: Early Groups Haunch of Venison London and Seomi & Tuus Seoul Korea 2008 and Paintings and Sculptures Part II: Works 2002-2009 Haunch of Venison 2009. Exhibited in John Moores 21 1999.

This year’s four runner up winners will each receive £2,500.

Philip Diggle – For Your Pleasure 2009 (oil on canvas 92 x 75 cm)

Manchester-born Philip Diggle studied Art History at London’s Chelsea School of Art. Exhibitions and performances include There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly The Original Gallery London 2008, I IS SOMEONE ELSE: Soho Review The Assembly Rooms London 2009, Polyphiloprogenitive The Pad Bedford 2010. The Camden Chronicles 2010 documents his artistic journey and early ‘80s life in Royal College Street, Camden, reflecting his Sartrean, existential thoughts. Poets Verlaine and Rimbaud lived in the same street. Exile 498 (film by Eddie Otchere) previews live Paris, Berlin Sept/Oct 2010.

Nick Fox – Metatopia 2009 (acrylic and ink on panel 120 x 120 cm)

Born in South Africa in 1972, Nick Fox attended John Moores University Liverpool 1992-95 and the Royal Academy Schools London 1998-2001. He lectures at Newcastle University. Exhibitions include Vanitas (curator Max Presneill) Raid Projects Los Angeles 2003, and in London This Longing The Drawing Gallery 2006, Jerwood Contemporary Painters Jerwood Space 2007, Salon 2007: New British Painting & Works on Paper (curator Flora Fairbairn) 319 Portobello Road. Solo projects include Unveiled (with Francis Picabia) MOCA London 2006, Phantasieblume C4RD London 2009 and Vane Gallery Newcastle 2010.

His 2009/10 residency at Sunderland’s National Glass Centre developed The Longing Archive, exploring longing, loss and unrequited desire.

Nicholas Middleton – Protest, 1st April 2009 2010 (oil on canvas, 117 x 203.5 cm)

Nicholas Middleton was born in London in 1975. He studied at London Guildhall University 1993-94 and Winchester School of Art 1994-97. His exhibitions include Defining the Times Milton Keynes Gallery 2000, BP Portrait Award 2004 and 2005 National Portrait Gallery London and the solo show Black & White Paintings Arch Gallery London 2010. He was shortlisted for the BOC Emerging Artist Award in 2002 and has shown seven times in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts London. He was included in John Moores 23 2004, and won the Visitors’ Choice Prize in John Moores 24 2006.

Daniel Sturgis- Still Squallings 2009 (acrylic on canvas 138 x 213.6 cm)

Daniel Sturgis was born in London in 1966. He studied at Camberwell College of Arts London 1986-89 and Goldsmiths College London 1992-94. His solo exhibitions include Everybody Loves Somebody The Locker Plant Chinati Foundation Marfa Texas 2007, Possibilities in Geometric Abstraction Galerie Hollenbach Stuttgart 2008 and Conversation Pieces The Apartment Athens 2010. Recent group exhibitions include Plastic Culture: Legacies of Pop 1987- 2008 Harris Museum and Art Gallery Preston 2009, Invisible Cities Jerwood Space London 2009 and Superabundant: A Celebration of Pattern Turner Contemporary Project Space Margate 2009. He exhibited in John Moores 23 2004.


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