Inaugural winner of newly relaunched Peter Kinley Prize for Painting announcedWednesday, 2 December, 2020
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. For artist and Bath Spa University alumna Saffron Murray Browne, it is also worth £1,000.
Saffron, who graduated in 2020 with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art, is the winner of the newly relaunched Peter Kinley Prize for Painting. In addition to the £1,000 cash prize, she will also receive £200 towards materials from the Art Shop at Locksbrook Campus, and a solo exhibition at its Michael Pennie gallery.
Peter Kinley was an internationally recognised painter whose work is represented in major collections around the world. He was a lecturer in painting at Bath Academy of Art (later Bath Spa University’s Bath School of Art and Design) from 1971-1988. The prize initially ran for nearly ten years, beginning in 1989, and was re-inaugurated in March 2020 as a generous gift from his widow, Catherine Kinley.
Peter was also close friends with colleague Michael Pennie (1962 - 2019), after whom the gallery is named, making the prize a fitting tribute to the two.
While studying for her degree, Saffron was encouraged to apply for the prize by her Fine Art lecturer. The idea of having her own exhibition in the Michael Pennie gallery really excited her, and the prize money would be a huge boon to her burgeoning career.
“I was absolutely thrilled when I learned I’d won,” she said. “As an artist you’re often working inwardly so much that you have no idea whether your work would appeal to anyone else, so a response like this is wonderful. It really makes a successful artistic career seem achievable.”
Saffron currently works from home as a painter, specialising in portraiture. Her work explores conceptual ideas such as the viewer’s role within the painting, or narcissism within self-portraiture. “I’m fascinated by the historical baggage that comes with contemporary portraits,” she said. “I like to use traditional tools such as symbolism, but paint with vibrant primary colours that break from the traditional genre.” She plans to use the prize money to rent space within an artists’ studio, and hopes that being back in a space with buzzing conversations and discussions will revitalise her and make a positive impact on her work.
Speaking about her late husband’s thoughts on painting, Catherine said, “The artist Michael Simpson, who also taught at Bath Academy of Art, sent me a very good account of a conversation he had with Peter shortly before his death. He said: Form and colour and how these two elements fix coherency above all else was what [Peter] hammered home to his students. A painting must move beyond its subject - that was his creed. I think this might sit well in the context of Saffron’s work.”
Saffron credits the excellent teaching and support she received from her lecturers at Bath Spa University’s Bath School of Art for helping to make her the exemplary painter she has become and been recognised for. “They have all helped me understand and progress my work in ways that would have been so difficult alone,” she explained. “My work would not be where it is without them.”
Saffron is not taking much time to rest after her win, and is already thinking about her next project: a series of work exploring the male gaze within portraiture.
“Even today, a lot of paintings presume the viewer is going to be a man, and I want to challenge that,” she said.
Saffron’s upcoming exhibition is planned for Spring 2022.