Major art award reflects "people's love of Brighton"

Brighton-based artist Faye Bridgwater has won the Derwent Art Prize 2020 People’s Choice Award – a great vindication of the art of drawing, she believes.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 8:55 am
Faye Bridgwater
Faye Bridgwater

Out of the 4,756 entries submitted by 1,884 artists from 72 different countries, the Derwent Art Prize judges selected a shortlist of 70 pieces.

Derwent then decided to announce two People’s Choice Awards rather than one. Faye Bridgwater and Oluwatobi Adewumi will share the £1,000 prize – a win which is hugely significant for Faye. It comes in response to her piece Studying Murmurations.

“The reason I entered is because there are not many drawing competitions out there. Mainly they focus on painting. If you look at the Mall galleries, there are a lot of watercolours and oil paintings. There are hardly any drawings, and I think it is because it is seen as a lesser artform. Some people almost see it as the beginning of an artform, and I think that is maybe why there is so much focus on painting competitions.

“And that’s why I was so thrilled to enter this one and to be picked. It is great to have the recognition. When you are an artist, you spend a lot of time on your own in your studio thinking ‘Maybe my work is good; maybe it isn’t.’ You just don’t really have any idea until you put it out there, and putting it out there can be quite scary. But over the years, I have tried to put work out to get feedback. Sometimes you can be working on a piece and think it is brilliant and you put it out there and there is just nothing. Other times you might just be doing a sketch and people really connect and you get great feedback. You just can’t predict.”

And again, that makes the win all the more special “You had to put in a work that was in pencil, and my piece was 140 studies of murmuration. Murmurations are wonderful, dazzling things you see between the two piers in Brighton. It really is the most amazing free performance by all these starlings, and my drawings try to capture it. I don’t want my drawings to be sweet birds. I want the energy of the murmuration.

“I run a Facebook group called Brighton Skies and we have thousands of photographs coming in of it. I use their photographs to influence my drawings, as the starting point for my work.

“I had never seen a murmuration before, and when you first see it, it is so breath-taking and spectacular.

“You just can’t believe it is real. It stops you in your tracks especially when you see it over the sea and the sun is setting and it could not be more romantic. It is beautiful. It is not scary at all. It is like a ballet. It can last minutes or up to 15 to 20 minutes.”

Faye sees her win as proof of the love out there for Brighton, but also of the love out there for starlings.

“We were just going out for our daily walk when I got the email (announcing the win), and when we got back, we did have a drink. It is really nice to have a bit of good news during lockdown – especially as I have not done much art since lockdown began. I have become a home-schooler. I have got a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old, and they have been brilliant. They have been really fantastic. There has been lots of playing and a little bit of home schooling. They have gone back to really innocent play. They are out there making mud pies right now – and they wouldn’t have been doing that if it hadn’t been for lockdown!”


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