Kathryn Maple's 'deeply social' scene wins John Moores Painting Prize

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment & arts reporter

image copyrightKathryn Maple
image captionKathryn Maple's The Common was inspired by parks in south London

The dozen figures in the packed, sun-drenched park have no masks, no social distancing and not a care in the world.

Kathryn Maple's painting The Common sums up the kind of scene that many people are longing to go back to soon.

It's partly for that reason that it appealed to the judges of an award billed as UK painting's biggest prize.

Michelle Williams Gamaker, one of the judges who have given it the £25,000 John Moores Painting Prize, said it "struck a chord during the judging".

That is "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," she said.

image copyrightRobin Clewley/National Museums Liverpool
image captionThe painting measures more than two metres square

Maple's vibrant, large-scale painting is based on a park near the artist's home in Lewisham, south London. "I painted it way before lockdown and the pandemic," the 31-year-old artist said.

"But actually, it's amazing how it has that sort of energy of people coming out into this new world again.

"We have all been exploring our local area and parks. It has that balance of people and plant life in it. That's what I was thinking about when I was making it, and it feels very 'now'".

The John Moores Painting Prize is organised every two years by National Museums Liverpool, and past winners include David Hockney, Mary Martin, Peter Doig and Rose Wylie.

image copyrightKathryn Maple
image captionKathryn Maple, who was born in Kent, is also a double winner of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

Sandra Penketh, director of galleries and collections care at National Museums Liverpool, said the work "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".

The Common will now join the museums' collection, and will be among 67 entries on display at the city's Walker Art Gallery, when it is able to reopen.

"You always hope that at some point one of your works might end up in a national collection, so that's really exciting," Maple said.

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