Robert Walters Group UK Young Artist of the Year Award: 2019


Three unique organisations are collaborating to provide a significant platform and stepping stone for young artists. The Robert Walters Group UK Young Artist of the Year Award in partnership with Saatchi Gallery discovers and champions exceptional artists who are representative of contemporary Britain.

The award will run for three years: 2019, 2020 and 2021. In 2019, we launched an open call across the UK to discover 10 outstanding artists whose work demonstrates a strong and original voice, and is of exceptional artistic quality.  We sought artists who represent the UK’s richly diverse population, and embody the experiences of their community. Artists who create bold, unique pieces of art that reveal their own perspectives and experiences and whom represent unique viewpoints and will help start new conversations in the UK art scene. The awards signalled the first time these three organisations – Robert Walters Group, UK Young Artists and Saatchi Gallery – have joined together to help provide a platform for a new generation of artists to launch their careers.

For 2019, judges included Philippa Adams - Director of Saatchi Gallery, Robert Walters – CEO of Robert Walters Group, Gavin Turk - artist, Michael Forbes - artist, and Rosalind Davis - artist, writer and UKYA alumni.

The awards ceremony exhibition was curated by Garth Gratrix, an internationally exhibiting artist, curator and studio director based in the North West of England. Gratrix’s work often showcases cross-disciplinary practices in diverse and unique settings.

A total of 500 artists submitted work. The 2019 finalists were: Azraa Motala; Camilla Hanney; Conor Rogers; Francisco Rodriguez; Linnet Panashe Rubaya; Malgorzata Lisiecka; Manon Ouimet; Morgan Dowdall; Rob Branigan; and William Harman. Find out more about the finalists here.

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The winner of the inaugural award was Conor Rogers, who receives £10,000 towards his ongoing practice, presented at an awards ceremony held at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery on Monday 7 October. The winning piece of work will be shown at the Robert Walters Group head office in Covent Garden for 12 months and at an international art event with UK Young Artists (UKYA) in 2020.

Sheffield-based artist Conor focuses his work primarily on landscapes and domestic scenes in the North of England, which are painted directly onto found or constructed materials from the everyday.

Specifically, for his winning pieces Conor focused on using ice pop wrappers, unused betting slips and discarded drug baggies. His works of art tend to be influenced by a very personal relationship he has with a time or place, combined with a critical approach towards painting as an object. The subjects of his ideas can touch upon varying concerns and interests towards our everyday British environments, daily happenings, northern council life, cultural identities, and the sense of self in Northern Britain.

Conor commented:

“I am so grateful to the Robert Walters Group, UKYA and Saatchi Gallery for recognising the work, time and patience it takes to sustain a career as an artist and for choosing to support us. Since leaving art school, I’ve had connections with certain organisations that have supported the structure and direction of my practice and allowed me to explore new boundaries and territories. It’s incredible to be showing my work at a renowned gallery such as Saatchi, but also to be recognised by UKYA who have consistently supported me and helped shape my practice.

“This platform is amazing for emerging artists. To show our work in spaces like the Saatchi Gallery, to be recognised by my peers, by the judges and the guests. I’m so happy and overwhelmed, it feels like the hard work is paying off!”

Runner-up on the evening Camilla Hanney was awarded a cash prize of £5,000 to go towards the development of her future career in the industry. London-based Camilla Hanney, 27, created a stir on the evening with her ephemeral floor installation – ‘The Fragile Texture of Desires’ – which explores both the fragility of the human condition and the complex nature of our desires. Her second piece of work on display – ‘Domestic Pleasure’ – plays with the tropes of the witch. The broomstick presents us with a symbol of the oppressed powerful woman who was demonised because of her sexuality.

Take a look at the pictures of the exhibition, finalists and awards ceremony by photographer, Reece Straw:

The call for the 2020 Robert Walters Group UK Young Artist of the Year Award will be launched next Spring.