Friday, 5 September 2014


Mamá (Juana Pérez) by Ignacio Estudillo Pérez, 2014
© Ignacio Estudillo Pérez  Oil on canvas,  I650 x 1420 mm
I wanted the portrait to show some of the good and some of the bad in life. But so much depends on the viewer's own interpretation. I see fatigue in this image but another person may see something else.'
Like all the selected artists aged between 18 - 30 who enter the competition for the annual BP Portrait Award, Perez, aged 28, was automatically considered for the Young Artist Prize, worth £7,000. He won with this portrait of his mother, a hospital worker in the family’s hometown of Jerez de la Frontera, a painting which took two and a half years to complete. It meant numerous sittings in the artist’s living room. In his first attempt he felt he had failed to capture his mother’s spirit and he switched to a ‘less forced pose, showing a direct relationship between us’.  

He experimented with differently coloured backgrounds before choosing a ‘disagreeable white,  rather than a white of purity’. The effect is stark. Vibrancy, wealth, fame, youth, wit and confidence are what we often find in a portrait. Here colour is bleached out, there are no intriguing props, no exquisite furniture - and the sitter is not famous. Instead we have stillness,  perseverance and courage. The artist says he wants to hint at something of the hardships afflicting his home town. Once famous for its sherry and flamenco festivals, Jerez de La Frontera has been blighted by widespread job losses, cuts in services and wages since the euro zone crisis. Unemployment is reaching 40% and with it, an accompanying rise in suicides and repossessions.The artist again: 'my mother works long hours in the local hospital and I wanted to  portray the monotony of that life...(which) saps your energy and makes you weary'.

El Abuelo (Agustin Estudillo) Oil on canvas, 2000 x 2000 mm (c) the artist.

Mama is not Perez's first prize-winning portrait. In 2012 he won the BP Portrait Award Second Prize for this portrait of his (paternal) grandfather. He says: ‘It’s not a purely analytical portrait of my grandfather, but a way of showing part of the human condition to which he belongs. I’m not only creating a portrait of my grandfather but also revealing a part of myself.’ 

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