W Gordon Smith Award

Dovecot Studios: Until January 30th

The W Gordon Smith Award is a Scottish painting award beginning its inaugural year. The competition was established to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the death of the influential art critic, playwright and filmmaker whose name it bears. W Gordon Smith was a champion of the arts in Scotland, helping to encourage young artistic talent, notably John Bellany at the beginning of his career, and increasing the level of arts coverage on BBC Scotland through his films.

It is fitting, therefore, that a prize should be established in his honour to reinvigorate the waning painterly tradition, to incentivise and promote working with paint. The total prize money adds up to fifteen thousand pounds, making the competition one of the most lucrative in Scotland and thus is sure to render the medium more attractive, particularly to the emerging or student artists looking to get their name out there. Furthermore, the competition has a strong ethos against discrimination, accepting applications from artists regardless of their age, gender or place of education and, in this way, furthers the efforts made by W Gordon Smith to open up access to the arts in Scotland.

Fifty paintings from the four hundred and thirty six submissions have been selected for an intimate exhibition at the Dovecot Studios, giving a snapshot of painting across the nation. While there is great variety in content and style, the exhibition is unified by a slight roughness, a certain edginess or absurdity, displayed by many of the pieces, leading one to conclude that this is a characteristic quality of Scottish painting today.

While there exist many exceptions, the general consensus is that old-fashioned painting has been left behind in the age of internet art. However, with the shift back to object-based work which has been taking place over the past few years, it seems likely that this media should experience something of a renaissance. Perhaps this is where the W Gordon Smith Award fits in.

Image: ‘If the Hills Could Talk’ by Robbie Bushe (Peacock Visual Arts – Flickr)

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