LONDON.- Thomas Newbolt, 62, is the winner of the Ruth Borchard Self-Portraiture Competition 2013. An artist who eschews painting from life, Newbolt has been awarded the prize for his vividly coloured self-portrait which is both revealing and mysterious.
The £10,000 award was presented to the Cambridge-based artist at Kings Place, London, by Joanna Brenden, granddaughter of the founder of the collection, Ruth Borchard. The winning portrait went on show at Kings Place alongside 120 other shortlisted works from 21st June until 22nd September 2013.
Newbolts unique artistic process attempts to create a state of unconscious creativity, in which it becomes impossible for him to imitate faces and forms from life. He achieves this by working in almost complete darkness, memorising the layout of his vast palette before beginning to apply thick paint to the canvas. Using his medium with great virtuosity, the paint is applied to the canvas with confident, bold brushstrokes despite the artist rarely being able to discern the resulting effect. Newbolt thrives on this element of the unknown, and rather than finding his conditions prohibitive as many visual artists might, it helps him to achieve an original end result. The artist himself is often surprised by the finished work in which he is able to instinctively place flashes of saturated colour with dexterous and expressive strokes. Working without light is something unimaginable to many painters, but for Newbolt it lends his medium new possibilities in achieving a sculptural texture and intense colour that is at once crude and refined.
Discussing Newbolts practice, the art critic Martin Gayford states: What Newbolt is doing sounds comparable to the state of desperation which Frank Auerbach, a very different painter who invariably does work form a model has described as the condition he has to reach if he is to find the courage to make an image that is fresh and unhackneyed. Newbolt seems to be functioning in a similar way, but with a view to making a different kind of image.
On receiving his award, Newbolt commented, Making a self-portrait is one of the hardest things a painter can do: you find that despite expectation you are working from memory but a memory that is looking back at you.
Alongside the £10,000 prize awarded to Thomas Newbolt, a further 15 works were acquired by the Ruth Borchard family thus extending their already established collection with additional contemporary works. Artists whose portraits were taken into the collection include competition runner up Adam Birtwistle, Japanese artist Jiro Osuga, and sixteen year old aspiring artist Atalanta Arden-Miller.
The judging panel for this years competition comprised of leading industry experts including art critics Mark Hudson and Laura Gascoigne, Gallerist Robert Travers, Granddaughter of Ruth Borchard Joanna Brenden, artist Celia Paul, and art market columnist for The Times Huon Mallalieu. Following an intense day of deliberation, the panel agreed that Thomas Newbolt should be awarded the £10,000 prize. Celia Paul commented Out of all the entries it was the image that was most concerned with the possibilities of paint . . . it's a very distinguished painting.
The Ruth Borchard Collection is one of the UKs most important as it is the countrys only collection dedicated entirely to the genre of self-portraiture. The original collection was started in the 1950s by writer Ruth Borchard, a Jewish emigrant who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Borchards personal interest in diaries and literary autobiographies led her to realise that there were, in fact, very few autobiographical equivalents of visual artists working in the UK. Approaching the most promising artists of the day, Borchard successfully acquired over 100 works by the likes of Euan Uglow, Keith Vaughan, Anthony Eyton, Patrick Proctor, Francis Newton Souza and Roger Hilton whose work is now also represented in the collections of the worlds greatest art institutions. The Ruth Borchard Collection has become a historical record of some of the countrys most important Modern British artists offering an insight into their lives, surroundings and even state of mind.
Fifty five years later, the Borchard family initiated an art prize and exhibition that both encourages the development of self-portraiture in 21st Century Britain and ensures the legacy of the original collection by moving the collection into the 21st Century. The winning self-portrait by Thomas Newbolt alongside a further 120 self-portraits from artists of all ages and experience have been chosen to adorn the walls of Kings Place between 21st June and 22nd September 2013.