The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2020: a judge's view

At Basingstoke’s Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery before the temporary closure, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is the largest and most prestigious prize for contemporary watercolour painting in the UK. Every year the competition attracts hundreds of entries from around the world and the exhibition features approximately 80 selected works, handpicked by a specialist judging panel.

This year the panel included Hampshire Cultural Trust Visual Arts Exhibitions Manager, Tara McKinney Marinus. Read on to hear about Tara’s experience as a judge and find out more about the competition.

Bristol Floating Harbour, 2020 by Mark Buck

Tara said; “This turbulent year has shown us that creativity provides us with joy and hope. Whether it’s from colourful painted rainbows in windows, or the wealth of artistic content online, we look to art and creativity to express ourselves and to find meaning in the world around us. I was delighted to be on the selection panel of such a distinguished annual competition this year and to know the exhibition would go ahead. It’s a vital opportunity for both the artists to exhibit and for us to enjoy seeing the diversity of the works they have created.

Judging alongside four esteemed peers was a privilege as well as an intense experience. It was a demanding undertaking due to the sheer volume and quality of work. Each submission was considered and debated, with opportunities for judges to fiercely champion those works they felt were important to include.

This year a number of topical themes emerged, with the impact of the lockdown apparent in many submissions. The artists’ creativity and resourcefulness in finding inspiration in their everyday and recording the current challenges in original ways is to be commended. The colour palette or the delicacy in paint handling, or the light and subject matter, brought a poignancy to the works. Empty village streets, studies of loved ones, still lifes and studio views felt profoundly current and we felt privileged to view the world as captured by the artists during this exceptional time.

The resulting shortlist and winners truly celebrates the vibrancy of the contemporary artistic community today. We are delighted to host the exhibition at Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery and have a virtual tour of the gallery. We hope the exhibition creates much lively debate and engagement for you at home, as much as it does for our gallery audiences when we are able to open our doors again.”

Martha Resting, 2020 by Katherine Jackson, winner of the Young Artists Prize 2020

This year's panel also included Louis Wise, critic and writer for The Sunday Times, Gill Saunders, Senior Curator at the V&A Museum and artists Ishbel Myerscough and Paul Newland NEAC RWS.

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