Self-taught artist wins BP Portrait Award 2020

Self-taught artist

‘Night Talk’ by Jiab Prachakul, 2019 © Jiab Prachakul, (1000 × 1000mm, acrylic on canvas). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London

LONDON – Jiab Prachakul has won the prestigious first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2020 it was announced today on the National Portrait Gallery’s social media channels. Prachakul’s winning portrait, Night Talk, which depicts her close friends in a bar in Berlin, is displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2020 exhibition, which has opened online on the National Portrait Gallery’s website, while the Gallery in London is temporarily closed due to the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The winning portrait was selected from 1,981 entries from 69 countries. The judges thought the work was “an evocative portrait of a fleeting moment in time, giving us a glimpse into someone else’s life that is beautiful, mysterious and alive. It is loosely painted and the bold composition makes clever use of contrasting shapes.”

Prachakul wins £35,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery’s Trustees’ discretion, worth £7,000 (agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist). Born in Nakhon Phanom, in northeast Thailand, in 2006 Prachakul relocated to London where she realized that she wanted to be an artist after attending the David Hockney exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Entirely self-taught, her work has been seen in solo exhibitions in the UK, Germany and France. This is the first time she has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition.

The second prize of £12,000 went to Russian artist, Sergey Svetlakov for Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model. The judges said the work “was a timeless study showing devotion to detail and a connection between painter and subject. Tenderly observed, and unfussy, the thickly applied, reworked paint skillfully describes the passage of time throughout the painting’s gestation.”

The third prize of £10,000 went to Michael Youds, a gallery attendant at the National Galleries of Scotland, for his portrait Labor of Love depicting Tommy Robertson, the owner of an independent music store in Edinburgh. The judges thought that his portrait was “both poignant and funny. It definitely struck a chord as an allegory for a time and place that already feels nostalgic.”

The BP Young Artist Award of £9,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by Dutch artist Egbert Modderman for Restless which depicts the Old Testament figure of Eli. The judges said the portrait was ‘highly accomplished. It combines the strong and striking composition with a surprising sense of immediacy. The thinly applied paint, with the interesting brushed effect, gives a sense of depth, while the use of a simple palette and monumental structure creates a compelling and mature work.’

All 48 works selected for the BP Portrait Award 2020 exhibition are on display in a virtual gallery space that replicates the rooms of the National Portrait Gallery, enabling online visitors to view the portraits collectively, read the labels and get insights from the artists, as well as exploring each individual work in more detail. The popular Visitor’s Choice feature, which offers the public the opportunity to vote for their favorite portrait will also run online.

Jiab Prachakul was born in in 1979 in Nakhon Phanom, a small town on the Mekong River in northeast Thailand. She studied filmography at Thammasat University before working as a casting director at a Bangkok production company, finding talent for advertising campaigns. In 2006, Prachakul relocated to London where she had the “instant realization” that she wanted to be an artist after viewing a David Hockney retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery. She moved to Berlin in 2008 and began selling her pictures at a local flea market and set up an online fashion brand, designing merchandise based on her artworks, which she continues to run from her current home in Lyon.

Night Talk portrays Prachakul’s close friends Jeonga Choi, a designer from Korea, and Makoto Sakamoto, a music composer from Japan, who are pictured in a Berlin bar on an autumn evening. The portrait explores notions of individual identity and how perceptions of selfhood can change over time. “Our identity is dictated to us from the moment we are born, but as we grow up, identity is what we actually choose to be,” she says. “I do believe that our circle of friends is what makes us who we are. Jeonga and Makoto are like family to me. We are all outsiders, Asian artists living abroad, and their deep friendship has offered me a ground on where I can stand and embrace my own identity.”

Visit the online exhibition here: