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Crawford Art Gallery is delighted to welcome the Zurich Portrait Prize for a second consecutive year in partnership with the National Gallery of Ireland. Sponsored by Zurich, this competition is open to artists working in Ireland, and Irish citizens based abroad. Submissions are not restricted by media; however, all entries must have been completed within the last three years. A record number of over 500 submissions were received for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2020 across a diverse range of media, themes, and techniques.

The shortlist for 2020 comprises twenty-six works by artists living both within and outside of Ireland, from Cork to London. The judges for this year’s competition were Dr Philip Cottrell (Assistant Professor, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin), Aoife Ruane (Director, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda), and Rita Duffy (artist).

The aim of the Zurich Portrait Prize is to showcase and encourage interest in contemporary portraiture, and to raise the profile of the long-standing and constantly evolving National Portrait Collection at the National Gallery of Ireland. The winner of the competition receives a prize of €15,000 and a commission worth €5,000 to produce a portrait, of the National Gallery of Ireland’s choosing, for inclusion in the National Portrait Collection. There are also two secondary prizes (€1,500) for highly commended works.
Previously shown at the National Gallery of Ireland, the exhibition of shortlisted portraits runs at Crawford Art Gallery from 17 April until 11 July 2021.

A catalogue of the exhibition will be available for purchase at our online shop and features high-quality images of the shortlisted portraits and statements by the artists.

Details of the 2021 competition will be posted on the National Gallery of Ireland’s website in the Spring.

Click on the image above to view a virtual tour of the exhibition at Crawford Art Gallery


Aidan Crotty | Winner of the Zurich Portrait Prize 2020

Portrait of a Boy, Morning, 2020
Oil on linen, 120 x 100cm

This portrait depicts the artist's eldest son Rían at eight years of age. The painting began when schools were closed and movement was restricted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Absorbed in the notable quiet and immersed in the absence of routine, Rían turns to feel the warmth of the morning light on his face. The artist notes, “as Spring turned into Summer, this painting gave a basic structure to the day and is a record of our time in confinement.”

Highly Commended

Sarah Bracken Soper | Highly Commended

Trailblazer 2020
70 x 50 cm

This work is the second in a series of embroidered portraits of powerful Irish women, using a medium once associated with keeping women busy in the home. Trailblazer depicts the Irish academic, feminist and LGBTQI+ activist Ailbhe Smyth. She was founding Head of Women’s Studies at UCD, and played a leadership role in the Marriage Equality referendum campaign in 2015. In 2018, she was co-director of Together for Yes - the National Civil Society Campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution. Sarah Bracken Soper met Ailbhe Smyth at her home in January 2020 and took some photos of her to work from. Little did she know that the portrait would be created during a global pandemic, while she worked remotely with her one-year-old son. The artist didn't think she would get it finished in time, but Ailbhe Smyth had inspired her to do just that.
Sathishaa Mohan | Highly Commended

Dylan Logan, 2020
Photograph, 50 x 34 cm

This portrait depicts the dedication of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, Dylan Logan, to his practice. The photograph was taken in February 2020 after Dylan lost a fight to his opponent with a submission by rear-naked choke. Closer examination shows details of bruises on Dylan’s face and red marks around his eyes from the fight. The darkness around the subject represents the fighter’s darkest hour while the light on the subject’s face shows the determination for redemption.

The Shortlist

Amanda Doran (b.1987)

Comfortable Shoes, 2019
Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30cm

Comfortable Shoes is a self-portrait of the artist from an alternative viewpoint, one that is more commonly seen of oneself.

For the artist. looking down can be a pleasing angle. She wanted to capture and highlight how expressive this view can be of the person above. According to Doran, she enjoyed “observing the contours of [her] shoes, the pretty painted toenails and the almost psychedelic carpet that this particular scenario was set upon.” This painting is one of several views 
of the artist’s feet.
Caroline Canning (b.1963)

Mary Lennon Slicing Apples, 2020
Oil on canvas, 60 x 40cm

Mary Lennon Slicing Apples is the result of a number of pencil drawings that were inspired by a photo of Mary, on her daughter Kate’s phone. It was the atmosphere of comforting domestic warmth and the kindness of Mary’s expression that drew the artist in. Based on the little she knew about Mary, having never met her before, Canning invented a persona for her and explains that she imagined them having great chats about apple tarts and many other things.
She looks forward to meeting her.
Christopher Lindhorst (b.1984)

Solomon, 2018
Photograph, 56 x 84cm

Solomon is part of an ongoing series of portraits of people who, like the artist, reside in Ireland without being of Irish descent. As an eclectic group, many find themselves fixated on their sense of national identity and belonging, simultaneously rejecting and embracing elements of their colliding worlds, while being an integral part of an ever-growing human mosaic in their adopted homeland.

Comhghall Casey (b.1976)

Self Portrait, 2018
Oil on canvas, 40 x 36cm

This self-portrait is part of an ongoing series. Comhghall has completed at least one painted self-portrait every year since he was in his early teens. The series records some of the physical and mental processes of aging as well as the changing technical abilities and artistic inclinations of the artist.

David Booth (b.1986)

Maho, 2020
Oil on board, 80 x 60cm

Maho is a portrait of the artist’s friend Maholin Navarro. Maholin was born in the city of Maracay in Venezuela and has been living in Ireland for the past seven years. Booth recalls that on meeting her, he was “immediately struck by Maholin and her vibrancy.” 

The portrait was completed over a number of months. In line with his artistic practice, Booth first started by photographing the subject. Then the portrait underwent a process of addition and subtraction in which the subject and her apparel coalesced within a graphic abstraction.

Elizabeth O’Kane (b.1970)

Selam, 2019
Resin on mahogany base, 42 x 25 x 30 cm

Elizabeth O’Kane is fascinated by the quiet observation in portraiture, slowly building up a likeness in clay over several months. She invited Selam, an Ethiopian student based in Dublin, to sit for this portrait. She has depicted Selam wearing a traditional seven-braid hairstyle, a number significant in her culture. This pulled-back hairstyle highlights her unique bone structure.

Emmet Kierans (b.1981)

At One with Nature, 2020
Oil on wood panel, 116 x 100cm

Emmet Kierans enjoys painting figures that exist in a parallel reality, where the characters portrayed are manifestations of their underlying feelings, emotions and psychological states. This self-portrait imagines a version of the artist that rejects the conventions and formalities of modern society in an attempt to become a more instinctive and intuitive being.

The painting follows this idea to an absurd conclusion, portraying the artist as a city dweller, whose only notions of nature are houseplants and pigeons, naively living in the woods.

Gillian O’Shea (b.1981)

Lockdown, 2020
Oil on canvas, 120 x 120cm

This is a portrait of Gyuri, the daughter of one of the artist’s friends. It was painted during a period of lockdown in Ireland that stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic. This portrait invites the viewer to consider the story behind Gyuri’s pensive and intense expression, which conveys a sense of wisdom far beyond her young age. The juxtaposition between Gyuri’s playful pink animal hat and her accusatory expression prompts the viewer to consider her compelling narrative.

Jackie Hudson Lalor (b.1966)

After the Storm, 2020
Oil on canvas, 76 x 51cm

After the Storm is a self-portrait, which represents how a traumatic event in one’s life may have lasting effects and can take a surprisingly long time to ‘get over’, both physically and psychologically. The artist suggests that there are some things we may never fully recover from, noting, “the storm may be over, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining, but we are still wet and cold, and something has been lost or changed irreparably.” This idea is represented in the artwork by the absence of the artist’s left hand. The artist is not only interested in a realistic representation of her subject, but in capturing a psychological mood at a particular moment in time.

Kathy Tynan (b.1984)

Over Heavy Seas, 2020
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm

Over Heavy Seas is a portrait of the artist’s brother Luke, as he sits at their mother’s kitchen table, looking at his laptop. He has lived in various far-off countries since his youth. This scene depicts a rare moment when he was on the artist’s side of the screen looking in, as opposed to on a video chat. The artist contrasts the dark lines of the sitter’s tattoo with gentle pastels and soft brushstrokes to convey the delicacy of this moment.

Laura Fitzgerald (b.1983)

Portrait of a Stone, 2018
Video, Video monitor dimensions: 21 x 22 x 34 cm

Portrait of a Stone is a two-channel video work, which the artist made during her Lucian Freud Residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2018. She made the film from her combined experiences of studying at the Royal College of Art, a former office job in London, and phone calls made to the NHS Mental Health Helpline. The work also interweaves a series of video portraits of the artist’s father, which she created when she was worried that he might be dying. The piece is inhabited by stone characters, collected by the artist around her father’s home in County Kerry, while out walking to “calm the nerves.”

Martin Redmond (b.1983)

Patient, 2020
Oil on linen, 40 x 32cm

This is a portrait of the artist’s father. It was painted using a photograph, taken in 2011, as reference. It was one of many photographs that Redmond had taken of his father after his first round of chemotherapy, two years before he passed away. He felt that this image most clearly captured the stoic attitude that his father portrayed through the entire process of his treatment.

Matthew McCabe (b.1968)

MC1R variant phenotype, 2019
Oil on canvas, 70 x 50cm

This is a painting of the artist’s son and his incredible orange-coloured hair. Red hair is linked to a variation in the MC1R gene sequence that reduces the amount of melanin in the skin. This allows more UV light to penetrate and activate vitamin D synthesis. Ireland has the world’s highest percentage (approximately 10%) of ‘People With Red Hair’ (PWRH). It remains socially acceptable to single out PWRH because of their physical appearance. The look of defiance in his son’s expression is not unintentional.

Matthew Thompson (b.1977)

Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, 2018
Photograph, 70 x 50cm

Commissioned by editor Lucy White & Eoin Higgins for Cara Magazine. Styled by Kitty McLaughlin Dunning, grooming by Vivien Pomeroy, photo assisted by George Voronov.

This portrait of Andrew Hozier-Byrne was made at the Irish Tenement Museum, 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin, in an empty room, dating from the 1720s. The sole evidence of generations of previous occupants is the weathering and re-layering of paint
on aged wall plaster. Elegant pastel shades have given way in time to more vibrant colours, attempting to make these spaces fresh once again.

Niamh Smith (b.1980)

Home, Soft Focus Life, Cocooning, 2020
Photograph, 74 x 107cm

This portrait is part of a series of work titled Home, Soft Focus Life. The artist notes, “The scene is a transformation of the everyday banal and isolation felt in an obscure time of uncertainty. This ordinary moment is expressed by a sombre colour palette that paints with feeling and inspires emotion.” This 95-year-old grandfather, Eugene, was shot from an intimate distance. A decisive moment is captured, which creates a spiritual experience and awakens reflection during a macabre time.

Nicholas Benedict Robinson (b.1974)

Dr Maeve Robinson, Family Planning Doctor and Educator, 2020
Oil on birchwood, 96 x 60cm

This is a portrait of Dr Maeve Robinson, who became a family planning doctor in the early 1980s – the era of the Kerry Babies case, the death of Ann Lovett, a 15-year-old girl who died in childbirth in 1984, and a general societal disapproval of family planning. For many years, Dr Robinson worked for women burdened by many children born in quick succession and who often suffered from poor health and poverty. She subsequently passed on her skills to family planning doctors throughout Ireland.

Patrick Bolger (b.1973)

Max, My Boy, 2020
Photograph, 35 x 35cm

Max, My Boy is a portrait of the artist’s son. When speaking about the subject of this portrait, Bolger says: “This is Max. My boy. Max is labelled by a society that struggles with difference. He is full of joy and ability and wonder. He sees the world in a way that I can only dream of. He doesn’t turn his gaze away from anything. He asks questions that reveal truth. He challenges me and he teaches me.” Bolger sees portrait making as a collaboration between the artist and the subject. In this portrait, he explains that Max is asking his father to see him.

Paul Seawright (b.1965)

Untitled, from Beasts of Burden: Rwanda, 2020
Archival pigment print, 120 x 95cm

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, an estimated one million people were murdered in just one hundred days.
Twenty-five years after the genocide, a unique initiative pairs perpetrators with their victims and supports them to raise a cow together in an effort to reconcile.

This image is from a series titled Beasts of Burden, which encompasses portraits of those convicted of the genocide, those who survived the slaughter and the animals they raise together in a powerful act of reconciliation.

Rachel Ballagh (b.1968)

High Anxiety, 2020
Oil on board, 70 x 50cm

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” Frida Kahlo
Rachel Ballagh sought to create a self-portrait during the Covid-19 pandemic. After several failed attempts, she decided on an exaggerated pose that was not only about the surface image or likeness, but also the emotions and feeling behind the facade.

As the title suggests, High Anxiety attempts to describe the artist’s opinion on how many people must have felt at the outset of Covid-19: an unsettling, heightened sense of reality. Every element of reality seemed underpinned with anxiety. She notes, “While the Spring felt Springier, and the bird song sweeter and louder, a sense of isolation was heightened. Unable to travel to be with family was agonising and a feeling of uselessness prevailed for a number
of months.”

Simon Walsh (b.1987)

Mrs Ryan in Her Kitchen, Crumlin, 2017
Photograph, 76 x 51cm

Born in 1923 on Bride Street in Dublin, Mrs Ryan’s family moved to Crumlin in the 1940s as part of a Dublin Corporation rehousing scheme. She met her husband and raised a family there.

Mrs Ryan in Her Kitchen, Crumlin was made as part of a series of images documenting Mrs Ryan in her Crumlin home. Walsh was drawn to this particular photograph because of the sense of pride that the sitter exudes, sitting in the kitchen built by her late husband.

Sinéad Lucey (b.1968)

HSE Heroes, The Wonderful Staff of St. Joseph’s Ward, St. Columba’s Care Home, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, April 2020, 2020
Oil on wood panel, 38 x 56cm

This portrait was painted as part of ‘Portraits for HSE Heroes’, an artist initiative in support of frontline workers during the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic. While paying tribute to the staff of St. Columba’s Hospital, the portrait also explores the relationships between the institution and the workers, both as a group and as individuals. The artist notes, “The bright April light creates a rhythmically coloured scene which acts as a counterpoint to the atmosphere of anxiety, experienced by the workers as they cared for their patients.”

Theresa Nanigian (b.1961)

Seamus & Jacek, 2020
Photograph, 152.4 x 101.6cm

Theresa Nanigian first met Seamus and Jacek while conducting research for her portrait series titled clann. Employed by Murphystone, a family owned business spanning multiple generations, Seamus is an accomplished sculptor who takes
great pride in his profession. The exquisite craftsmanship of his moulded church corbels and manual letter-carving sets Seamus apart from most other stonecutters today. Nanigian was also struck by the strong connection between Seamus and
his assistant Jacek, as well as the beautifully rich aesthetic of their chalky workshop.

Vanessa Jones (b.1981)
Self Portrait with Snail Shells, 2020
Oil on canvas, 50 x 40cm

The artist’s self-portrait embodies ideas around protection, isolation and nature. Jones painted it with a medieval sensibility in mind: enclosed within nature and the monastic, yet wild at the same time. She wanted to give voice to ideas surrounding the Dark Ages and play on the parallels with our current notions around plague, nature and death. The snails are an
art historical reference to laziness and lowliness. They also have an association with garden pests and, more generally, the enthusiasm for gardening that bloomed during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
in Ireland.

Emmet Place, Cork, Ireland
T12 TNE6
Tel: 021 480 5042

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*Second floor closes 15 minutes before closing
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