The inaugural winners of the Young Masters Art Prize have been announced – artists Hector de Gregorio and Ghost of a Dream, jointly. They are among 16 artists who were inspired by the Old Masters to create new work. For 35 year-old, Spanish, de Gregorio, this year was already going rather well, with a sell-out Royal Academy graduation show which saw Sir Terence Conran and Theo Fennell snap up his mixed-media work, which reinvents historical paintings by introducing his own new narratives. He digitally photographs his subjects and prints the images onto canvas before treating them heavily with varnishes, oils, and waxes to make them look like weathered, 500 year-old, works.
Fellow winners Ghost of a Dream, Brooklyn-based art duo Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was, based their work on lotteries. They noted that when people won, one of the first things they bought was a new house, so they recreated a period-style room out of discarded lottery tickets, complete with ticket versions of historical portraits including Raphael's The Madonna of the Pinks.
Other artists – who were all discovered by Cynthia Corbett, of the Cynthia Corbett Gallery, on her worldwide travels – have distorted and reinterpreted familiar pieces of work, forcing the viewer to do a double-take. Charlotte Bracegirdle finds old book illustrations of iconic works and paints over them to remove the main characters (look out for the odd floating hand or left limb – very surreal); Lluis Barba adds modern society-darlings such as Kate Moss, Jay Jopling and Brad Pitt into Old Master scenes, while Maisie Broadhead cheekily plays with the meaning of jewellery.
The art is said to confront underlying issues that are relevant today; from Antonia Tibble's Marie Antoinette wigs, which make us think about the role of women now compared with that in the past, to the pillar of playing cards by David Roche, which looks at the hidden chaos of our world, and Constance Slaughter's oil-painting version of the Bayeux Tapestry, which moves the fighting from the battlefield to the kitchen ("the Bayeux Tapestry is the first comic strip in Western art", says Slaughter).
Some have referenced the techniques of the masters – Gemma Anderson name-checks Joachim Patinir, Hans Holbein, and Albrecht Dürer, who all drew from real life, as does she; while others, like Ali Miller, use art history to portray their own history, through personal memories and experiences.
The Young Masters show will be touring in 2010 as part of Corbett Futures www.thecynthiacorbettgallery.com; www.young-masters.co.uk