Michael Simpson wins the John Moores Painting Prize 2016!

7 July 2016 by Felicity

Squint (19), 2015, by Michael Simpson is the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2016

Squint (19), 2015, by Michael Simpson is the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2016

The Walker Art Gallery has announced the winner of the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize 2016 is artist Michael Simpson with his painting Squint (19). Michael (b.1940, Dorset) receives the £25,000 first prize for his work, which is one of a continuing series of paintings by the artist.

The winning painting depicts a ladder positioned underneath a ‘leper squint’. In medieval times, a ‘squint’ referred to a small opening in the wall of a medieval church, which allowed people with leprosy and other ‘undesirables’ a chance to look within, in order to access the sermon.

Michael’s painting will be displayed at the Walker Art Gallery as part of the John Moores Painting Prize 2016 exhibition, which runs from 9 July to 27 November during Liverpool Biennial 2016. The exhibition will showcase 54 works in total, which have been selected from more than 2,500 entries!

The entries were judged anonymously by an esteemed panel of jury members, who represent an international cross-section of influential voices from the art world. Here’s why the judges thought that Squint (19) was a worthy winner:

Gillian Carnegie: “I felt slightly uncomfortable looking at the cold, austere painting of Michael Simpson. As a painter and as a viewer this is a feeling that greatly inspires me. The painting has an elegance that is timeless. For me it was the clear prize winner.”

Richard Davey: “Michael Simpson’s stood out from the rest, a distinctive and particular voice that epitomised what painting is capable of today. It relates to the past in its subject matter, yet Simpson’s emphasis on the process of painting, seen at the canvas edges with the different layers of colour left visible, is emphatically modern. It pulls us into a defined space, intrigues us with the possibility of a space beyond, but then throws us back out into our own space again. It offers questions, but doesn’t answer them, leaving it to our imaginations to finish the work. Through the simplest means of colour and form, he has created a world we want to enter, which is both familiar and entirely strange.”

Ansel Krut: “This is a wonderfully understated, conceptually elegant work. In its formal restraint, with measured spaces, diffused light and muted tones, it recalls Pieter Saenredam’s (1597-1665) church interiors. The painting uses an almost minimal vocabulary to open up a world of great sympathetic imagination. It touches on the nature of silence, on distance and on exclusion. But most importantly, it touches on the privileges of looking.”

Phoebe Unwin: “It is an ascetic painting which provokes rich ideas about pictorial space, imagination, witness and the body.”

Ding Yi: “Fusing with the elements of sculpture and stage art, Michael Simpson creates great energy by minimal expression. The composition of his painting presents extraordinary talent of spatial description and strong sense of balance, implying multiple symbolization.”

Michael attended Bournemouth College of Art from 1958-60 and the Royal College of Art from 1960-3. He has exhibited widely in both solo and group exhibitions across the UK and Europe. He’s no stranger to the Walker, having exhibited in John Moores Painting Prize exhibitions in 1989, 1991 (as a shortlisted prizewinner), 1993 and 2010.

Michael’s winning painting was selected from a shortlist of five paintings, with the other four shortlisted artists each receiving £2,500. You can see all five prizewinning paintings here. Exhibition visitors will also be invited to vote for their favourite painting to win the popular Visitors’ Choice Award, sponsored by Rathbones. Voting closes on 16 October 2016 and the winning artist, who will receive £2,016, will be announced on 3 November.

@JMPaintingPrize  #jm2016

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