GIBRALTAR artist Christian Hook got an early Christmas present this year by scooping top prize in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year competition.
The 43-year-old award-winning artist was crowned portrait artist of the year after beating 1,600 other artists from the UK and Ireland through his portfolio of work throughout the series and finally painting a portrait of renowned actor Sir Ian McKellen live in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
The final, broadcast on Sky Arts 1 on the night before Christmas Eve, saw Christian being named Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2014. The win not only adds another prestigious title to his already award-winning resume, but he also won a £10,000 (€12,700) commission to paint a portrait of actor Alan Cumming for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which has been on display since December 30. A year’s worth of art materials was part of the prize.
“Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2014 has been an incredibly challenging feat and I am very proud to have won,” Christian told Sky Arts. “It has allowed me to dig deep and push myself to new limits. I am truly honoured to have been given the opportunity to take part in this fantastic series. I’ve had the chance to work with some of UK’s finest portrait artists and learn from them. Painting Sir Ian McKellen live at the National Portrait Gallery was a once in a lifetime experience I’ll never forget.”
Series judge Kate Bryan, commented: “Christian creates work which interrogates the boundaries between figuration and abstraction beautifully, lending his sitters a unique sense of energy. I love the way his work is so filmic, it speaks of another era in some ways, but yet feels totally new.”
The competition started in early 2014 with heats held in Dublin, London, Cardiff and Edinburgh and the semi-final saw seven artists paint a double portrait of biologist Richard Dawkins and Anglican priest Sally Hitchiner. Christian and two other artists made it to the final round where they were set an individual portrait challenge, with Christian painting a portrait of two-time world champion boxer Amir Khan.
Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, commented: “We in Gibraltar have known of Christian’s prodigious talent for a long time but I am thrilled to see that it has now been recognised.”