Record entry list for BP portrait prize

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A self- portrait of a painter standing next to a gorilla to highlight the role of the artist as "aping" nature features on the National Portrait Gallery's shortlist for the BP Portrait Award 2005.

A self- portrait of a painter standing next to a gorilla to highlight the role of the artist as "aping" nature features on the National Portrait Gallery's shortlist for the BP Portrait Award 2005.

Conor Walton's Monkey Painting was one of four paintings shortlisted from a record 1,081 entries. It features Koko, the gorilla who was taught American sign language. He said: "The painter was considered nature's ape and I have used the ape as an image to link us to nature."

Another of the shortlisted entries is Dean Marsh's painting of his girlfriend, Guilietta Coates, which he describes as a statement of his love (although he is anxious as Ms Coates has yet to see the work and "I don't set out to flatter").

Saul Robertson, 26, from Glasgow, was also shortlisted for his self-portrait, The Universe. "I called it The Universe because you spend so much time in your studio that it becomes your universe. It is a gentle meditation on the solitude of painting."

Gregory Cummings' shortlisted entry is a portrait of his former teacher from École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the sculptor Richard Deacon. Cummings said: I did the portrait first of all because he became my friend and because I thought it would be pretty funny to have someone I consider to be a major figure in the abstract British art world to be hanging in the portrait gallery."

In addition to a cash prize of £25,000, the winner will receive a commission, at the discretion of the National Portrait Gallery Trustees, worth £4,000.

The Portrait Award, now in its 25th year at the National Portrait Gallery, is aimed at encouraging young artists to develop the theme of portraiture within their work.

Judges include Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, the art critic Brian Sewell, the artist Maggi Hambling, Juliet Horsley, the curator at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, and Des Violaris, the director of UK Arts and Culture at BP.

Mr Nairne said: "This is an excellent shortlist chosen from a strong field - 2005 will be another fascinating array of contemporary painted portraiture."

Winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony on 13 June and the exhibition runs from 15 June to 25 September.

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