The Walker Art Gallery has announced the winner of the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize 2016 is artist Michael Simpson with his painting Squint (19). Simpson (b.1940, Dorset) receives the £25,000 first prize for his work, which is one of a continuing series of paintings by the artist.
The winning painting depicts a ladder positioned underneath a ‘leper squint’. In medieval times, a ‘squint’ referred to a small opening in the wall of a medieval church, which allowed people with leprosy and other ‘undesirables’ a chance to look within, in order to access the sermon.
Simpson’s painting will be displayed at the Walker Art Gallery as part of the John Moores Painting Prize 2016 exhibition, which runs from 9 July to 27 November during Liverpool Biennial 2016. The exhibition will showcase 54 works in total, which have been selected from more than 2,500 entries.
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said: “Squint (19) is a deserving winner of this year’s prize. Its linear aesthetic and carefully refined colour palette draws the viewer in, inviting them to explore ideas around the representation of painted space, which Simpson explores in his characteristically subtle and intelligent style.
“This will be the fifth time that Simpson’s work has been selected for the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition over the last 27 years. That’s a phenomenal achievement, and is testament to the enduring appeal of his painting.”
Wiltshire-based Simpson attended Bournemouth College of Art from 1958-60 and the Royal College of Art from 1960-3. He has exhibited widely in both solo and group exhibitions across the UK and Europe. He exhibited in John Moores Painting Prize exhibitions at the Walker Art Gallery in 1989, 1991 (as a shortlisted prizewinner), 1993 and 2010.
The entries were judged anonymously by an esteemed panel of jury members, who represent an international cross-section of influential voices from the art world. The jury members are the artists Gillian Carnegie, Ansel Krut, Phoebe Unwin and Ding Yi, and the author and freelance curator Richard Davey.
Juror Gillian Carnegie said: “I felt slightly uncomfortable looking at the cold, austere painting of Michael Simpson. As a painter and as a viewer this is a feeling that greatly inspires me. The painting has an elegance that is timeless. For me it was the clear prize winner.”
Juror Ansel Krut said: “This is a wonderfully understated, conceptually elegant work. In its formal restraint, with measured spaces, diffused light and muted tones, it recalls Pieter Saenredam’s (1597-1665) church interiors.
“The painting uses an almost minimal vocabulary to open up a world of great sympathetic imagination. It touches on the nature of silence, on distance and on exclusion. But most importantly, it touches on the privileges of looking.”
Simpson’s winning painting was selected from a shortlist of five paintings, with the other four shortlisted artists each receiving £2,500. These prizewinning works are: Untitled by Talar Aghbashian (b.1981, Beirut), Birthyard by Gabriella Boyd (b.1988, Glasgow), Dissolver by Benjamin Jamie (b. 1978, Nottingham) and One, The Side-ness of In-Out by Selma Parlour (b.1976, Johannesburg).
Established in 1957, the internationally-renowned John Moores Painting Prize has championed contemporary British painting for almost 60 years – more than two decades longer than any other art prize of its scale. The prize will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2018.
Past winners of the prize include David Hockney (1967), Mary Martin (1969), Peter Doig (1993), Keith Coventry (2010) and Sarah Pickstone (2012). Sir Peter Blake, winner of the junior prize in 1961, is Patron of the prize. The winner of the prestigious first prize in 2014 was Rose Wylie with her striking work PV Windows and Floorboards.
Exhibition visitors will be invited to vote for their favourite painting to win the popular Visitors’ Choice Award, sponsored by Rathbones. Voting closes on 16 October 2016 and the winning artist, who will receive £2,016, will be announced on 3 November.
The John Moores Painting Prize 2016 exhibition will also showcase the five prizewinning works from the John Moores Painting Prize China 2016. Now in its fourth year, the prize aims to promote talent and bring greater global recognition to Chinese contemporary painting.
Organised in partnership with the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust, the John Moores Painting Prize is supported by its exhibition partner Weightmans. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full colour catalogue. Most works featured in the exhibition will be available to purchase.