Martin Greenland, Before Vermeer's Clouds, winner, John Moores 24 exhibition, Liverpool Biennial 2006. Courtesy Walker Art Gallery
The winner of the John Moores painting prize has been annnounced at the Walker Art Gallery, heralding the opening of the Liverpool Biennial 2006.
Martin Greenland beat off competition in a strong shortlist of five, with his oil on canvas entitled Before Vermeer's Clouds. To judge Sir Peter Blake, Greenland's winning entry was, "a very beautiful painting - strange and mysterious."
Greenland wins £25,000 and will also have his painting, which is priced at just under £10,000, bought by The Walker as part of the John Moores Collection. Visit The Walker and see the winning painting from September 16 to November 26 2006.
"Getting in, in the first place, and then being told I was a prizewinner, but not really daring to believe I actually might win the big prize, has been incredible," said a visibly stunned Greenland, speaking to the 24 Hour Museum at the award ceremony.
Martin Greenland and John Moores judge, Sir Peter Blake, next to the winning picture. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum
"It feels very strange. The first time I came here was in 1980 when I was on my art foundation course. Since then, for me, the John Moores has always been 'the big one'. To actually get here, and get this far, is just incredible."
Martin Greenland was born in Marsden,Yorkshire in 1962. He studied at Nelson and Colne College, Lancashire, and Exeter College of Art. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Piccadilly Gallery (Cork Street), London, 1997, Ainscough Gallery, Liverpool, 1998, Huddersfield Art Gallery 1999 and Piccadilly Gallery (Dover Street), London, 2000.
He was awarded the GCI Financial Purchase Prize in The Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London 2000. He exhibited in four consecutive John Moores exhibitions in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995.
The four other prizewinners, each receiving £2,500, are: Matthew Burrows, James White, Graham Crowley and Vincent Hawkins.
Matthew Burrows, Baptism, oil on linen, prizewinner. Courtesy Walker Art Gallery
The judges were artists Tracey Emin, Sir Peter Blake and former John Moores prizewinner Jason Brooks, along with the British Council's director of visual arts Andrea Rose and curator of fine art at the Walker Art Gallery Ann Bukantas.
They first looked at 2,300 entries on slides - the highest number of entries in 43 years - and chose a shortlist. The jury picked the prizewinners and 52 paintings in the exhibition after seeing 268 actual paintings on the shortlist.
Sir Peter Blake was effusive about Greenland's winning painting: "I particularly liked it," he told 24 Hour Museum at the award ceremony. "When it came through as a slide, it seemed to be a very traditional landscape - at that point, it could have not got through. And then suddenly, you realise that there's this little tower that looks like a child's toy - and you think, what's that about?"
"And then there's this river that looks like snow. And suddenly it looks mysterious - at first sight a very traditional landscape that then becomes mysterious."
Graham Crowley, Red Reflection, prizewinner. Courtesy Walker Art Gallery
The John Moores competition has always been about painting - and for Martin Greenland, that's been one of the main attractions of the Prize. "Painting has taken an awful lot of stick over the years," he said. "I thought to myself recently we are actually being quite brave as painters, when it's been quite unfashionable for some time to be a painter. There's always been a temptation to go off and do something else. This is a triumph for painting. "
For ten weeks every two years, several hundred of the world's most exciting visual artists show their work in over 40 locations across Liverpool city centre, from major gallery spaces to unexpected temporary locations. The fourth Liverpool Biennial, the UK's contemporary visual art festival, takes place 16 September to 26 November 2006.
Co-ordinated by Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art Ltd, it is delivered in association with the city's major visual arts organisations: Tate Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery, FACT (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology) Open Eye, A Foundation and Bluecoat Art Centre as well as smaller arts groups and organisations. An extensive programme includes International 06, John Moores 24, Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2006 and a penumbra of smaller scale exhibitions.