With this year’s BP Portrait Awards very much underway, it makes sense to take a look at the talented artists who have had their work shortlisted for the honour of finding their place in the National Portrait Gallery.
This year, Benjamin Sullivan is one of those artists. Born in 1977, Sullivan cultivated his interest in art through his gaining of a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art. Many artists do develop their skills early in life. Clearly, with his forthcoming success, it has worked for Sullivan.
Best known for his portraiture, Sullivan’s work tends to be very realistic and detailed. His work includes John McWilliam (2006), Right Honourable Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Visitor of the College (date unknown) and the rather spectacular All Souls Triptych (2012), split into three divisions to make it all the more inspiring.
The figures in Sullivan’s portraits tend to sit at an angle to the viewer. Exactly what the thinking is behind this is anyone’s guess. Maybe the figures’ minds are focussing on something beyond the viewer, something otherworldly, something not quite seen. Or maybe they’ve just found something really interesting to look at.
The BP Portrait Awards this year have decided to honour his piece, Hugo (2016). The titular figure is Hugo Williams, the poet of whom Sullivan has been a fan. Whoever said that poetry and visual art cannot mix? Perhaps future collaborations should be encouraged.
In the portrait, Williams is sat in his Islington. His age is clearly defined through the lines in his hands and face. His brown jacket and jumper blend in with the background’s wall. Plain though this may sound, the realism in this portrait is to be praised.
When considering the skill and consistency that Sullivan has applied to his work, it is really no wonder that he’s been nominated for an award. It’s clear that this year’s nominees for the BP Portrait Awards have upheld the excellence displayed in previous years, which is clarified by how “the exhibition has presented outstanding and innovative new work in a variety of styles and approaches”.
– Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)