The Scottish Portrait Awards 2020 for Fine Art and Photography – an inspiring focus on faces and places, life and love.

Now in its fourth year, the Scottish Portrait Awards received a significant increase in submissions with 1,050 works entered for the SPA in Fine Art and Photography, especially by young artists aged under 25 in both categories. 

This just illustrates the creativity, talent and commitment for artistic expression during life in lockdown. “Art is often a refuge when times are tough and this year proved no exception. Works selected for the 2020 SPAs convey a stunning mix of defiance, escape, resilience and humour.” Gordon Mitchell, Director, SPA  

Entrants to the SPAs must be over 16 years and born, living or studying in Scotland. The Scottish Portrait Award for Fine Art is for portraits in any 2D or 3D medium. The SPA Photography Award for black and white portraiture is named after the late Richard Coward who had a prestigious career as a portrait and fashion photographer.

The annual exhibition of the selected 60 works from the long list of entries, is open from Tuesday 3 to Friday 27 November at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh. I enjoyed a leisurely browse around the two galleries, upstairs and downstairs at the grand Georgian townhouse on Rutland Square.

These are a few of my highlights of the Fine Art exhibition:   

Emmeline Cosnett’s “The Mask Maker” is certainly topical, illustrating her work sewing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic on a vintage Singer machine. Her doleful companion is Bosco, a bull terrier, paws on the table as if to say, ‘When can we go for a walk?!’

The Mask Maker, Emmeline Cosnett

Saul Robertson has captured the peaceful pose of his two young children in “Summer Sleep.”  Such exquisite painterly detail here in this picture of pure innocence: soft, smooth skin, strands of blonde hair and the crumpled folds of white bed linen.

Summer Sleep, Saul Robertson

“Between this World and the World Beyond” is a poignant scene by Li Huang of himself sitting with his late father, recalled as a young man. Each hold a book on Modern Painting, their hand gestures reflect an imagined conversation between father and son, now divided between two worlds. Last year, Li Huang won third prize for a portrait of his mother, “Kinship”.

Between this World and the World Beyond, Li Huang

“Teresa” is a charming tribute to Theresa Gourlay’s aunt, when she was suffering from dementia. There is confusion and pain in her tearful eyes and downturned mouth, as she clutches her arm in comfort, her watch perhaps signifying the passing of time and a life well lived.

Teresa, Theresa Gourlay

“Starting the Day: Self-portrait in Lockdown” is described by the artist Brian Barclay as ‘an insomniac just out of bed and in desperate need of a haircut.’  His Mohican curly whiff and furrowed brow is like a mirror image with, it seems, light-hearted introspection.

Starting the Day, Brian Barclay

I am a great admirer of the brilliant, Oscar winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, (Capote, The Talented Mr Ripley et al). who tragically passed away aged 46, in his prime. The bronze sculpture by David A. Annand expresses his “vitality, intelligence and that twinkle in his eye.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman, David A. Annand

And a look around the Photography gallery:

Mark Shields specialises in finding salt of the earth characters for his narrative portraits.  With an industrial backdrop, “The River Man” is George Parsonage, a legend of the Clyde who has recovered many bodies but, a true Samaritan has rescued 1500 people from the river.

The River Man, Mark Shields

As seen through the eyes of a young girl, Eve, “The Magic and Mystery of Scotland” by Julie Wilkes shows the sweep of the Glenfinnan viaduct reflected through the window of the Jacobite train – aka Hogwart’s Express, the film location of the Harry Potter movie.  

The Magic and Mystery of Scotland, Julie Wilkes

Queen’s Park, Glasgow – Homo Hill –  is renowned as a playground and meeting place for gay men.  On a summer’s day, “Gareth and Andrew” by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan, depicts their private, intimate, close embrace.

Gareth and Andrew, Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Davide Pagnossin is a close friend of Umu whose serene, natural beauty was apparently snapped in a fleeting moment, as “she looked at me effortlessly” without poise or pose. “Umu and the Boys” shows her beside a lamplit painting, out of focus as the backdrop. 

Umu and the Boys, Davide Pagnossin

From the final sixty entries, the shortlist of five portraits in each of the Fine art and Photography categories has now been selected by the professional judging panels.

Fine Art nominees: Brian Barclay – Starting the Day: Self-portrait in lockdown and Li HuangBetween This World and the World Beyond. (as above);. Bethany Cunningham – Steamin’ aff a Sair Fecht, her boyfriend in lockdown mode;  Reuben Sian de GourlayThe Contemplation of Being Back in Nature, c.2059, a meditation of modern society and nature; Huw Williams – Overalls, Mouse ….and Me, a self-portrait with his dachshund, Mouse, who was meant to be a studio dog, but she hated the cold and loud music. (illustrated below).

Photography nominees: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan’ – Gareth and Andrew; Robert Andrew Mheadhoin Trefor shows a builder repairing a track on the summit of a windy mountain;  Peter Iain Campbell –  Milli Kuzem (River Kelvin encounters #002) taken after his daughters discovered a hidden path on the River Kelvin; Samuel TaylorDyron, a joyful, charismatic dancer has a rest;  Ben Douglas –We got everything? shows Sam, Matt and Liam as they set out for a gig.

We got Everything? Ben Douglas

The winners will be announced on 18th November, 2020, who will be presented with a total of £11,000 including the £5000 first prize SPA for Fine Art and £3,000 Richard Coward SPA in Photography.

Visit the SPA 2020 exhibition at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh, 3 – 27 November 2020, Glasgow Art Club, 15 January – 24 February, 2021, Duff House, Banff, 1 April – 30 June, 2021.

Book an appointment on the website.

View the Fine Art and Photography exhibitions on line:

A two minute You Tube video of the exhibition has been set to music by Andy Jeffcoat, commissioned by the Scottish Arts Trust. 

With such a high quality of entries this year, the 180 works on the Long List will be available to view on the website from 15 December 2020 to 15 January 2021.

Overalls, Mouse and Me, Huw Williams

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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