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Artwork embodying ‘deeply social nature of humans' wins painting prize

The Common by Kathryn Maple was announced as the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2020.

An artwork which “embodies the deeply social nature of humans” has won a contemporary painting prize after judging took place online due to coronavirus restrictions.

The Common by Kathryn Maple was announced as the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2020 by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool on Thursday.

The work shows people “sharing an open space” and is based on ideas around resting places within a city.

John Moores Painting Prize 2020
Kathryn Maple’s work was judged entirely online (Liverpool Museums/PA)

Judging took place in November last year – after Liverpool was put under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions – so for the first time in the prize’s history the works were judged entirely online, with high-spec cameras, screens, speakers and software used to allow judges to appreciate their scale, texture and detail.

Artist Michelle Williams Gamaker, who was on the jury, said: “Kathryn Maple’s The Common struck a chord during the judging process, perhaps because it depicts the very thing we are currently unable to share: the painting resonates with movement and communality, and embodies the deeply social nature of humans.

“I loved how Kathryn paints a combination of a remembered and imagined scene of reciprocity in tandem with a verdant landscape, it fills me with hope and longing to be part of this form of connection again.”

John Moores Painting Prize 2020
The Common is installed in the Walker Art Gallery (Robin Clewley/Liverpool Musuems/PA)

Sandra Penketh, executive director of galleries and collections care for National Museums Liverpool, said: “Kathryn’s wonderful painting is a truly worthy winner and we’re delighted to not only be awarding her the first prize but to also be acquiring the painting for the Walker’s collection.

“The Common is an observation about human interaction, and the way we commune with the natural world, particularly in our cities.

“It has a special poignancy at this difficult time when the value of our physical and emotional connections to people and places have taken on such a deep resonance.”

Maple, who was born in Canterbury, Kent, will receive a £25,000 prize after her painting was selected from almost 3,000 entries.

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