The final expert judge we have the pleasure of welcoming to the expert judging panel for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2021 is artist Ruth Murray, who won the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020 with her oil painting Geraniums. Here, Ruth tells us about her favourite artists, exhibition highlights of the past year and, speaking from experience, gives her advice to those thinking about entering the competition this year.
Above image: Duff, 2018, Ruth Murray, Oil on canvas, 210 x 150 cm | 82.6 x 59 in.
Clare: Can you tell us about your experience of filming the interview this year?
Ruth: We had to be a bit more imaginative with filming during the pandemic since it wasn’t possible for Jackson’s to travel to my studio in Manchester. I knew a local videographer (Dann Cooper) who fortunately was able to do the filming for us. He was excellent at making me feel less self-conscious!
Clare: Do you have an art collection of your own? Can you tell us about any of the works in your collection?
Ruth: I have a few pieces but not a collection. I did buy a painting by Emma Sophie Wilson recently through #artistsupportpledge, a helpful initiative on Instagram, where artists use the hashtag to put up work costing £200. And then every time an artist reaches £1,000 of sales, they pledge to buy £200 of work from other artists. This started early in the pandemic and Matthew Burrows, who established the pledge, has been awarded an MBE for service to the arts.
Clare: Which four artists, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Ruth: David Hockney, Mamma Andersson, Gwen John and Gillian Carnegie. This is a difficult question because I don’t know what most of my favourite artists would be like in person. What makes for a good artist doesn’t also make for a good dinner guest! Having said that there are some artists that I’d like to talk to. David Hockney is a bit of a hero to me, and he is someone who is really good at articulating his ideas. I’d also invite Gwen John, I love her work and she is known for painting female sitters too. She was overshadowed in her lifetime by her brother Augustus and her lover Rodin. I think it’d be wonderful for her to see how loved her work is now; perhaps we could have a good gossip.
Clare: What have been your exhibition highlights of 2020, either online or in real life?
Ruth: I have really missed visiting exhibitions this year. I saw Slow Painting at Leeds Art Gallery in January – that was an incredible show! There were many artists included that I admire – Benjamin Senior, Gareth Cadwalleder, Lucy McKenzie, Tim Stoner. The show also introduced me to Mairead O’hEocha and Sherman Mern Tat Sam. I am a slow painter myself, so I also related to the theme of patience and gradual unfolding. More recently, Celia Hempton had a show at Southard Reid. I love her paintings and was so disappointed I couldn’t get to London to see it: this was one I had to view online. She deals with challenging subjects in a thoroughly considered way and the results are quite beautiful.
Clare: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Ruth: Painting is an inherently solitary activity, and artists without connections to galleries or a useful network can really struggle to get their work seen. At the moment competitions are one of the very few avenues open to emerging artists, so I think it’s vitally important. In general I also like the principle of anonymity, where success is determined by the work alone.
Clare: What will you be looking for in the entries submitted to the competition this year?
Ruth: I’ll be aiming to approach the entries on their own terms, but I like work that makes me pause and contemplate. And honest – I think honesty always shines through.
Clare: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Painting Prize this year?
Ruth: My advice is to always be applying. Enter work that you are pleased with and feel ready to share. There are a lot of rejections but don’t let it get to you. The most important thing is to keep making work that you think is good. Hopefully other people will recognise that too.
Clare: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Ruth: I’m working on a large painting titled The Bosses’ Daughters. I work part-time at a family-run art shop which has been in business for 134 years. The subjects, Emily and Iris, are set to one day inherit the shop. It’s part of a series of melancholic paintings set in domestic spaces, especially front rooms with views from the window, and feature my female friends and colleagues from Manchester. It has been interesting how this subject has taken on a different significance during lockdown, as everyone has found themselves bound to these spaces, contemplating the view from their windows.