Buxton school secretary shortlisted for prestigious national art prize with lockdown self-portrait

A Buxton school secretary has been shortlisted for a prestigious national art prize and exhibition for a self-portrait she created over months of lockdown last year.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 3:06 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 5:44 pm

Milldale Avenue resident Laura Critchlow’s entry was selected from more than 2,000 submissions to the prestigious Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize, and is one of around 40 to feature in an exhibition which opened at Coventry cathedral on Monday, May 17.

She said: “I had initially been delighted that my work had been longlisted, so to then find out it had not only been shortlisted, but chosen as one of the pieces to be hung in the exhibition was fantastic.”

Working around her day job at Bradwell Junior School, Laura, 42, is a member of the Royal Miniature Society who usually specialises in small, still life painting. But to continually refine her practice, she often sets herself larger portrait projects too.

Laura Critchlow's self-portrait has earned her a place in a prestigious exhibition and the chance of a £10,000 prize.

She said: “It’s been hard to find people close by who could pose over the past year, so my family got stuck with it at first. I painted a portrait of my mum and then wanted to follow that with one of my dad, however he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and therefore needed to shield whilst he waited for treatment. So, I began painting a self portrait.”

Thankfully Laura’s dad, Harpur Hill resident Larry Gartside, got the all-clear just a few weeks ago after a difficult few months for the family. Although they have been separated for long periods, his presence is still felt in the painting’s backdrop.

Laura said: “Dad bought me this copper kettle and it’s always mum who buys the gifts for everyone, so it feels quite special. It was actually the most challenging bit of the painting.”

Ruth Borchard was a writer who assembled one of the most important collections of modern British art over the course of her lifetime, all in the form of self-portraits. Following her death in 2000, the prize was established to continue the ethos of her collection and an ongoing record of British society.

Laura has been painting all her life and is a member of the Royal Miniature Society.

There is a £10,000 prize and some of the works will be bought for the permanent Next Generation collection created in Ruth’s name.

Entrants to the competition have previously included famous names like Eileen Cooper and Tracey Emin and, while she awaited the announcement of this year’s winner, Laura says she is thrilled just to be among such company.

She said: “I never dreamt I would get this far but I’ve followed the competition for years and admired the works selected for it. I just thought I’d give it a try.

“I was thrilled to hear I was on the longlist, then I got a phone call about the shortlist, and then the exhibition. It means a lot to be hung alongside really beautiful work like this.”

The exhibition will run until July 9 as part of the Coventry City of Culture events, and Laura is planning a visit with her two teenage daughters during the half-term break.

A collection of this year’s best submissions can also be viewed online at ruthborchard.org.uk.

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