On Saturday 10th September 2022, the winners of the fifth annual Write on Art prize were announced at a buzzing award ceremony in London. Aimed at students in the last four years of school, the award is jointly run by Art UK and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (PMC) where the ceremony took place.
After two online ceremonies throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, we were delighted to once again meet in-person with the shortlisted students. Their essays came out top from the 190 submitted in time for our June deadline. In August, our three judges – artist Sutapa Biswas, art historian Jo Baring, and archivist and curator Arike Oke – had the tough job of selecting the winners and runners up from a particularly strong and diverse set of essays. Jo Baring commented: 'I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved reading all the essays – they were so spirited and full of zest. Very inspiring.'
Several of the shortlisted essays dealt with topical issues, connecting older works with our contemporary situation, such as the first prize winning Year 12/13 essay by Tavishi Gupta on Laura Knight's 1913 oil painting Self Portrait aka The Model. Sutapa Biswas added: 'All of the submissions were heartening in their optimism and thoughtful engagement not only with the subjects of the paintings in question but their relevance in the context of our current challenging times. Brava!'
The Year 10/11 shortlist was one of the strongest yet, showing there is much hope for the future of arts writing, as Arike Oke explains: 'The range of works selected by the young people was surprising, and inspiring. The insights and writing displayed vulnerability, sincerity and clear analytical thinking. All of the shortlisted entries were great in their own right, and instilled in me confidence for the future of art, audiences for art, and thinking about art.'
The winners and runners up of this year's competition are as follows:
Years 12 and 13
Runner up: Jayden Formston-Jones on ID Crisis by Zanele Muholi
Runner up: Yueshi Yang on Lady Staunton with her Son George Thomas Staunton and a Chinese Servant by John Hoppner
Runner up: Hettie Farmer on By His Will, We Teach Birds How to Fly No.1 by Ibrahim El-Salahi
Shortlisted: Hannah Barnett, Alice Febles, Farrah Gower, Alex Lake and Lena Radzins
Years 10 and 11
Runner up: James Rayner on Human Frailty by Salvator Rosa
Runner up: Amy Pinckney on A Selection of Five Pots by Barry Flanagan
Runner up: Alexa Nettelton on A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet
Shortlisted: Mehda Dixit, Heike Ghandi, Luella John, Nina Luong and Lara Wong
The winning students in each category received £500, the second-placed students £200 and each of the runners up received £100. The top two essays in each category will be published on the Art UK and Paul Mellon Centre websites this week.
While some of the shortlisted students intend to study Art History at University, others plan to study Architecture, English Literature, Geography and Journalism, reflecting their diverse interests and how they will continue to utilise their visual literacy skills in exciting ways beyond their success in Write on Art.
Art UK and the Paul Mellon Centre launched the Write on Art prize in 2017 to encourage a greater interest in art and art history at schools. Submissions for the 2022/2023 prize – our sixth year of the competition – will open in January 2023.
Shane Strachan, Learning & Engagement Manager at Art UK