The Art of Protest

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Artist talking infront of painting

Nicholas Middleton talks about his painting

Nicholas Middleton’s "Protest, April 1st 2009" has been a popular painting in this year’s John Moores Painting Prize. Visitors have been astonished by the level of accuracy and detail in the stunning photo-realist painting. As one visitor put it: "So alive! Can not believe it is a painting!"

The judges this year certainly also felt the painting stood out, making it one of the five prizewinners.

Nicholas came to the gallery on Wednesday to talk about his work and this painting in particular. I was really interested to hear that he had actually been at the protest and had taken the photograph himself. I had presumed it was a photograph he’d found but knowing he was there, and part of the crowds of people attempting to make their voices heard, gives an extra dimension to the work.

Nicholas explained he takes his camera everywhere with him and is actually one of the few people remaining using film. He even develops the film himself which is why his paintings tend to be black and white, it being cheaper and easier to develop.

From all the photographs he took that day the composition of this stood out to Nicholas because it seemed to him he could create from it something following in the tradition of a particular type of ambitious Victorian painting. He made a comparison to the work of William Powell Frith, in particular his painting “Derby Day”, making the connection that they were both images of society, full of life and energy, that represented a particular point in history.

There are more free artists talks scheduled over the next few weeks.

And there is still a chance to vote for your favourite painting in the Visitors’ Choice prize in the gallery. Nicholas won the Visitors’ Choice in 2006. Keep an eye out on the blog to see if he can make it “a double”!