The Uncertain Time by John Devane © John Devane Oil on canvas 1720 x 2490 mm
The immensely enjoyable annual BP Portrait Award Exhibition is open at the National Portrait Gallery until September 15th. This year there were nearly 2,000 entries from 77 countries. John Devane, a painter who also teaches at Coventry University, was awarded the Second Prize of £10,000 for The Uncertain Time.
As I walked around the 55 exhibited works, I noticed that while my attention usually went straight to the figure or faces portrayed, in this work the first thing I 'saw' was the central space. The title backs me up: this painting is about invisible time, space and atmosphere every bit as much as a depiction of Devane's three children: Lucy, Laura and Louis.
It is a large canvas painted over three years, giving us a glimpse of how children emerge from childhood and begin to assert their independence, gradually revealing something of their adult selves. Louis looks out of the picture at us, wary, perhaps confronting our intrusion. His sisters are uninterested in our presence, distracted perhaps by their own thoughts, physically close and supportive. The artist says: ‘The composition suggests an almost stage-like shallow space constructed in two zones with the three figures presented as if they are awaiting some kind of event’.
In the BBC link below there's a slide show of a dozen of Devane's paintings including another group portrait, this time a military scene. It's from the Military Compound, Episkopi, Cyprus series which is held at the Imperial War Museum, another place to see free art. The IWM plans to re-open after refurbishment on July 29.
The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be at Aberdeen Art Gallery from 2 November 2013 to 1 February 2014 and at Wolverhampton Art Gallery from 3 March 2014 to 14 June 2014.