Back to painting

Return to palette and brush in prize shortlist
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The Independent Online
Painting is back in fashion - celebrated once more by a new generation of artists turning away from the conceptualism and installation works that have dominated contemporary art.

Britain's richest art prize, the pounds 26,000 NatWest Art Prize, which concentrates on painting and drawing by under-35s, has received a record 700 entries.

The 11-strong shortlist which will be announced next week will show that those emerging from art college today see that painting is an area for innovation and exploration. Last year's Turner Prize was won by an artist who showed a slow-motion video. But the volume of entries for the NatWest prize demonstrates the new thirst for painting.

Rosemary Harris, who chairs the judging panel and is a former curator of the modern collection at the Tate Gallery, said last night: "Video and sculpture have been very important recently, but it is marvellous to see that good painters are emerging in Britain.

"At the moment there are a lot of young artists looking at painting in a very interesting way. Innovation in the use of paint was one of the criteria for the prize ... and these young artists are very interested in the processes involved in painting."

One artist, Jason Martin, paints his abstract works on aluminium, a process Ms Harris found particularly "exciting". Another, Rosie Snell, painted a 9ft by 6ft canvas of a view of the lighthouse at Orford Ness in Suffolk entitled Lux Aeterna.

Ms Harris said of this entry: "Rather than coming from figuration to abstraction she seemed to be doing the other way round, looking at abstraction but being figurative, partly due to the scale and partly due to the way she used the paint. She was doing something rather interesting ... figuration from an abstract point of view."

Rosie Snell, who studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design, said yesterday: "At college I was one of the very few doing painting. Most were doing conceptual works, making things out of wax. I think painting is coming back, but slowly, particularly representational painting which has been out of favour for a long time."

She added: "Damien Hirst is very clever in the way he hypes himself so well. I'd like to think the new generation is not so interested in hyping itself."

The NatWest Art Prize aims to encourage innovation and technical skills in composition, drawing and use of colour. The winner will be announced in May, and the works of all the shortlisted artists will be displayed at the NatWest Group's new Lothbury Gallery, a converted banking hall in the City of London, this summer.

The full shortlist comprises: Judy Buxton, 35; Stephen Chambers, 35; Melanie Comber, 26; Jane Dixon, 33; Mark Francis, 34; Jeff Gibbons, 34; Mark Hammond, 29; Simon Lewis, 31; Jason Martin, 26; Max Mosscrop, 34, and Rosie Snell, 25.