The creation of an art prize is an honourable aim, born of a desire to give back to a community fuelled by the need to create. Through the act of creation, artists are leaving a tangible footprint on ground that looks, feels and even tastes and smells all the better for it.
For what are we without art? It's our refuge, and our power. Power in the face of adversity and our ongoing vine of hope to cling to when faced with an onward surge towards the abyss.
In turning towards a career in fine art and establishing her eponymous gallery in 2004, Cynthia Corbett committed herself to the discovery of that spark of genius in all things visual. International finance's loss was the art world's gain. This reputation for supporting emerging artist was further solidified in 2009 when Corbett established the Young Masters Art Prize.
Now in its fourth edition, the Prize sets a gold standard in the world of art prizes. On the 21st June, a stellar cast of judges - featuring luminaries such as art historian Godfrey Barker, Chief Executive and Secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts, Charles Saumarez Smith and Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery - will award prizes totalling over £6000 to those they consider contemporary leaders in their field.
There are two main strands to the Prize - the Young Masters Art Prize, and the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize - and both shortlists are highly competitive, diverse and beyond inspirational. The common thread between them, and the founding ethos of the Prize, is the necessity of the presence of a talent to pay homage to the skills of the past.
This skill is definitely present in the work of fine art photographer Isabelle van Zeijl whose evocative images carry the legacy of past Masters forward into striking modern day tableaus. It's also evident in the work of Lucy Beecher Nelson, who reimagines 15th Century marriage portraits for the modern day.
This is not imitation, or an obviously clichéd attempt at past glories. The work of all listed artists is contemporary, and carries the freshness of the future with it. This can be seen in the Ceramics Prize shortlist in the work of Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, who counts 15th century potter Bernard Palissy as an influence, and Tessa Eastman, whose work can best be described as having a complex simplicity.
2017 also marks the inauguration of the Young Masters Emerging Woman Art Prize, profiling the work of an emerging female artist. Cynthia Corbett told me
'Now is the time for us to hear a different voice - a female voice - more strongly in the arts. It's a way of celebrating in today's world how far women have come while still recognising that there's a long way to go, especially internationally.'
An honourable aim, and one that makes me even more proud that After Nyne are involved in this highly significant art prize.
Young Masters Art Prize Shortlist Exhibition at Gallery 8
8 Duke Street, St James's, London, SW1Y 6BN
Exhibition runs 19 - 24 June 2017
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