The Walker Art Gallery has announced Graham Crowley as the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2023 with his work Light Industry, a painting inspired by a visit to a motorcycle dealership.
2023 marks the tenth occasion that Graham Crowley has entered the prize – his first entry being in 1976 – however this is his first win. Crowley has been shortlisted on two previous occasions, and even served as a juror for the 2008 edition.
Graham Crowley said:
“The John Moores Painting Prize is without doubt the UK's pre-eminent painting competition and exhibition. One of my ambitions, apart from painting the best paintings I possibly can, has always been to win. Exhibiting as part of the prize in the past has played a significant part in establishing my reputation as a painter. This is important as I, like most practicing painters, am not represented by a gallery or commercial interest.”
“The prize has an authoritative history of post-war painting in the UK, and its credibility and longevity are testament to the anonymous judging process. I am thrilled to be the first prize winner this year.”
Light Industry is inspired by a visit to a motorcycle dealer in Framlingham, Suffolk – which the artist describes as part workshop, part counter-cultural ‘museum’. Crowley continues: “What I found enthralling about the place was the light; a diffused, dusty kind of light that emanated from a grubby, obscured skylight.”
Inspired by themes including class and creativity, Crowley’s work has been shown extensively in England and Europe, including exhibitions at the Venice and Paris biennales and at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. He is included in many public collections and has also completed several large-scale public commissions.
Sandra Penketh, Executive Director of Galleries and Collections Care at National Museums Liverpool, said:
“Graham’s painting is wonderful and a truly worthy winner. We are so delighted to celebrate Graham’s work here at the Walker. I’m sure our visitors will also appreciate the whole exhibition and the great selection this year’s jury has made.”
Jurors The White Pube – the collaborative identity of Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad, said:
“Judging a painting prize felt (and still feels) like a truly impossible task! But good, because the impossibility of it gave us so much faith in art and in artists: proof that art is valuable, vital and totally alive and kicking.”
“Graham Crowley’s painting is a rugged use of paint that manages to make a rugged scene absolutely glow; a blur of painting that makes memory and space momentarily lucid. In places, the monochromatic image ceases to be an image and paint and colour take over, which is very much the desired effect of a workshop -- a haven we know all creatives are excited by.”
Alexis Harding, Juror, said:
“During the anonymous judging process, Graham’s painting exerted a strange glowing force. Not only is it paint, it’s also a record of a specific space. I love how it is so high frequency and yet grungy at the same time.”
“Judging allowed me to open my mind more, to absorb the views of the other judges and this has changed the way I am making my own paintings. It’s been a real pleasure and an honour.”
Yu Hong, Juror, said:
“All of the shortlisted works this year are truly exceptional. During the final round of judging in Liverpool, it was fascinating to engage with the artworks in person and have real discussions with fellow judges - each of whom brought their unique personality and artistic perspectives.”
The four other shortlisted artists who will each receive £2,500 are: Social Murder: Grenfell In Three Parts by Nicholas Baldion, Stochastic 14 by Emily Kraus, Other Light by Damian Taylor and Champagne Cascade I by Francisco Valdes.
Also announced today is the winner of the Lady Grantchester Prize, supported by Winsor & Newton. Emma Roche is the first winner of this award, developed to support artists in the early stages of their career. She is awarded £5,000, a residency and £2,500 worth of art materials for her work Hurl.
Emma Roche said:
“I really value this recognition and support from the John Moores Painting Prize. I am interested in pushing painting to its limit through the different processes that I use, so the work is not always immediately recognised as painting or as paint. I was thrilled to find out that I made it through to the exhibition stage and to be a prize winner is surreal. I feel very grateful.”
The 70 paintings selected for this year’s exhibition were chosen from a record number of 3,357 entries. From large scale canvases, bold in brush strokes and colour, to exquisitely detailed pieces, the exhibition covers a wide range of styles, united by their use of paint.
Visitors to the exhibition are now invited to vote for their favourite painting to win the popular Visitors’ Choice Award, sponsored by Rathbones. The winning artist will receive £2,023.
The John Moores Painting Prize has awarded more than £685,000 in prize money across 31 exhibitions, which have showcased more than 2,350 works of art. It presents a rich history of post-war painting in Britain. The first exhibition was held only six years after the Walker Art Gallery re-opened following the Second World War.
Past prize winners include David Hockney (1967), Mary Martin (1969), Lisa Milroy (1989), Peter Doig (1993), Keith Coventry (2010), Rose Wylie (2014), Michael Simpson (2016), Jacqui Hallum (2018) and most recently Kathryn Maple (2020). Sir Peter Blake, winner of the competition’s Junior Prize in 1961, is Patron of the Prize.
The previous winner of the John Moores Painting Prize, The Common by Kathryn Maple, is now part of the permanent collection at the Walker Art Gallery. She also held her first solo display at the gallery, Under a Hot Sun, earlier in 2023.
The John Moores Painting Prize 2023 exhibition opens at the Walker Art Gallery on 16 September 2023 and runs until 25 February 2024. For more information and to book tickets, visit liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/jmpp-2023.