Artists' Statements: Shells, salt, stars and sheep in the Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016

| 05 January 2016

Pipping thousands of entries from 29 European countries, six finalists are in line for the £20,000 Columbia Threadneedle Prize. Here are the thoughts of four of them

An image of a dark blue painting of a horse
© Laura Smith
Laura Smith, Shells

“I paint still lifes generally, so I paint objects from observation rather than from my imagination or photographs. That’s because I find the real world, looking at things that exist, really fascinating.

I think, very often, my inspiration comes from seeing an object and feeling drawn to it, like something in it chimes or I connect with it. That can be for all sorts of reasons, so I let myself buy it or take it with me and put it into the studio, and then I play around with it and see if I’m interested to paint it.

I was drawn to these shells, to the slits in them, the strange shape of them. And then I just let that take me and the painting is one of a few results of that kind of exploration, really.

I suppose I like the fact that each year the judges are different – it’s a different group, new eyes. So that means that I’m very intrigued to see their selection. Two judges can have looked at art their whole lives and completely disagree.

The wonderful thing about it is that it’s life-changing if I did win it. It’s such a lot of money and it’s so much exposure.”

An image of a painting of people working at a carpentry workshop
© Lewis-Hazelwood-Horner
Lewis-Hazelwood-Horner, Salt in Tea

“The inspiration really came about from working in [Victorian umbrella shop] James Smith and Sons for three years.

Everybody looks at the beautiful outside of the building – hand-painted, wooden-clad – but the real beauty I find is downstairs where there are these handmade, sometimes completely bespoke umbrellas being made by these three gentlemen.

For someone who’s lived in London their whole life, to find craftsmen making these exquisite pieces of almost artwork is a rarity, a minority now. Just to exhibit for me, to have artwork showing in such a central spot, is phenomenal.

To have any money reinvested into my practice is incredible is gonna help massively.”

An image of a dark blue painting of a horse
© J Carlos Naranjo
J Carlos Naranjo, El Mameluco (After the Battle)

“I remember I saw a popular painting by Goya – The Charge of the Mamelukes – in the Museum of Prado. It’s very popular in Spain.

What I remember about it was it’s a crazy picture of war, of horses, a lot of people. I thought, ‘why not make a new version?’ But in my case I was looking for the other side of the painting.

I imagined a horse lost in the night. When the people see the painting they should feel calm, like the stars in the night.

They should feel good. It’s the opposite to the fight. It’s calm.”

An image of a colourful painting of a pastoral landscape
© Chris Thomas
Chris Thomas, Sheep with their Lambs

“I’ve lived in this place in Cornwall, where this view is, for the last 50 years, and it’s a place that I come back to over and over again. Each time I come back it feels different.

It’s a space which overlooks the Atlantic and each time I begin I want to somehow describe that space. But always, when I’m working outside, something remarkable will happen.

The sheep might seem like a very romantic, pastural theme, but actually it’s about life and death. These lambs are for the slaughter in several weeks, and it’s kinda poignant for me, not being a farmer but living on a farm, seeing this happen every year.

It prompted the finish for this picture. The whole board got covered, probably in the space of two hours. Really it was a new picture on top of a history of looking at that landscape and feeling it.”

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