Janne Kearney semi-finalist in BP Portrait Award

Congratulations to Geelong portrait and figurative artist, Janne Kearney who has been named a semi-finalist in the prestigious BP Portrait Award (UK) for her work Miasma. The large oil painting shows a contemplative youth sitting in a grungy and graffitied urban setting. The work is one of a series of nine oil paintings expressing youths’ affiliation with homosexuality, subjugation and creativity.    

Janne painted the series, including Miasma, over the past 18 months working from photos that she took of family and friends at the Geelong Powerhouse (prior to its current reinvention).  The graffiti is a true representation of what was there at the time and Janne has used the street art in her work to represent the noxious or oppressive atmosphere (miasma) created by elements of society who condemn and judge. Throughout the series, Janne has included the rainbow in each painting. The use of rainbow flags has a long tradition; they are displayed in many cultures around the world as a sign of diversity and inclusiveness, of hope and of yearning, as well as homosexual pride.

The BP Portrait Award is an annual portraiture competition held at the renowned National Portrait Gallery in London, England and attracts thousands of entries. It is one of the most prestigious portrait painting competitions in the world, dubbed the Oscars of portraiture. With a first prize of £30,000, and a total prize fund of £61,000, the Award encourages artists to focus upon and develop portraiture in their work.

As a semi-finalist, Janne has been invited to submit her work to London for final judging from which 55 paintings will be selected for exhibition. In a truly egalitarian approach, paintings are judged anonymously and therefore are not signed on the front. The judges for this year’s award are:
– Pim Baxter, Deputy Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
– Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery
– Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art, National Museums Northern Ireland
– Peter Monkman, Artist and winner of BP Portrait Award 2009
– Simon Schama, Historian
– Des Violaris, Director of UK Arts & Culture, BP

The finalists will be announced on 1 April and the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition will run at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 18 June to 20 September 2015.

While not many of us here in Geelong may see the exhibition in the UK, you will be able to see more of Janne’s work when she holds an exhibition at Boom Gallery from 16 July – 8 August 2015. Janne is well known for her colourful portraits of those who are often marginalised in our society such as disaffected youth, the elderly and homosexuals. She has been painting seriously for ten years, and has been shortlisted for several art prizes including the Mortimore Art Prize, the Black Swan Portrait Prize and the Lethbridge 10000. Check out Janne’s website, www.jannekearney.com.au to find out more and you can like her facebook page to receive updates about her work.

Kearney_Janne_Miasma 2014
Janne Kearney, Miasma, 2014. Oil on canvas. Image courtesy the artist.

Janne Kearney Artist Statement:

This painting is one of a series of works expressing youths affiliation with homosexuality, subjugation and creativity. Thus producing an underlying allegory for the unfavourable viewpoint society has in regards to youth and how it creates psychological and emotional anguish.

The practice of graffiti is a release and often an expression of emotional anguish, political expression and sometimes hope.

The menacing graffiti of a mischievous face reflecting a judgmental gaze upon the girl is symbolic of the disembodied perspective society has when viewing young despondent individuals who do not fit into the conventions placed upon them. The urban decaying setting, coupled with an expression of youthful angst serves to create a relevance for a modern audience. The symbolic value of the rainbow head attire is an implicit allusion to homosexuality, placed within the constraints of a modern day society. The implication of the large, haunting eyes luring over a young, socially maligned and existentially contemplative individual who must go underground to express her thoughts feelings and creativeness. Rich in symbolic imagery, and the effective utilization of chiaroscuro, composition and color, conjure a dark miasma.

I intend this piece to act as a rhetorical statement in which the audience is invited to draw their own conclusions or weigh in on the discussion.

•  Geelong artists create a riot of colour at affordable Art Fair Melbourne
•  Janne Kearney shortlisted for Mortimer Prize for realism


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