Sarah Pickstone Wins Prestigious John Moores Painting Oscar

John Moores painting prize

The 2012 John Moores painting prize has been won by the Manchester born artist Sarah Pickstone for her large, loosely painted canvas titled, ‘Stevie Smith and the Willow’. Sarah was previously a runner-up for the award in 2004. The £25,000 prize was handed out by the Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake in a ceremony Friday afternoon at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. There were 61 paintings selected anonymously from over 3000 entrees. Other winneres in the competition were:Biggs & Collings, Ian Law, Stephen Nicholas,and Narbi Price.

First held in 1957, the John Moores Painting Prize is the UK’s best-known painting competition and is named after Sir John Moores (1896 – 1993), the founder of the prize. The competition culminates in an exhibition held at the Walker Art Gallery every two years, which forms a key strand of the Liverpool Biennial.

The John Moores exhibition is held in partnership with the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust, and although the appearance of each exhibition changes, the principles remain constant: to support artists and to bring to Liverpool the best contemporary painting from across the UK.

How do we define image? Is image a visual thought? Do all images have their source in other images, or associations with other images? ‘Stevie Smith and the Willow’ is a painting from a series of works which nod towards creative communality. It has at its heart the drawing that accompanies Stevie Smith’s 1957 poem, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’. Smith was definitely an original, whose poems (and pictures) make a confluence of the comic and the metaphysical. In the painting, the girl (artist, poet, reader, child) bathes in the water under an old weeping willow:
part tree, part self, part story, part rebirth.

The Artist stated; “I’ve been working for the past three years on the ways in which figures, places and ideas meet and open each other, specifically referencing writers who happened, in history, to pass through London’s Regent’s Park. The park has long been a source for my work, a place where the public and the private, the external and the psychological worlds, come together. It’s also a place of constant renewal. The painting is about this renewal, natural and aesthetic, across form, time and image”.

Born in Manchester in 1965, Sarah Pickstone attended the University of Newcastle upon Tyne 1983-7, Royal Academy Schools London 1988-91. Awarded Rome Scholarship 1991-2. Group shows include ‘Morpho Eugenia’ Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Republicca di San Marino Italy 2005, ‘Gibbous Moon’ Cubitt Studios London 2007, ‘Irony and Gesture’ Kukje Gallery Seoul Korea 2008, ‘Double Interview’ I-MYU Projects/Seoul Art Space Korea 2010, ‘Layers: John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize Show’ Seongnam Arts Centre South Korea 2010. Was a prizewinner in ‘John Moores 23 ‘ 2004. Based at Cubitt London, her current work includes an Artist Book project with writer Ali Smith.

Photo: Sir Peter Blake presents John Moores prize to Sarah Pickstone © ArtLyst 2012