W Gordon Smith Award: Robbie Bushe wins £10k painting prize

Robbie Bushe with his award-winning painting. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Robbie Bushe with his award-winning painting. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A LONG-time art school lecturer has won a major new Scottish painting prize set up more than 25 years after graduating himself.

Robbie Bushe, who studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1980s, now runs short courses in the city for students in art and design.

Award-winning painting 'The Admissions Gate', by Robbie Bushe

Award-winning painting 'The Admissions Gate', by Robbie Bushe

However, Bushe, who has combined lecturing with work as a figurative artist, is celebrating after his painting was selected from more than 430 entries to claim what has become the nation’s most lucrative art prize.

He was named the inaugural winner of the W Gordon Smith Award, set up in memory of the much-loved art critic from Scotland on Sunday, sister paper to the Edinburgh Evening News.

The £10,000 prize has been launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Smith, who started his career as a newspaper journalist, then became a pioneering maker of TV documentaries about the arts, as well as a leading playwright.

Bushe, 51, who still teaches, revealed he had been inspired to enter the contest after receiving early encouragement in his career through three separate reviews by Smith.

His award was presented by actress Maureen Beattie at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, where the 50-strong shortlisted entries will be on display until January 30.

The ceremony also saw two £2500 runners-up prizes awarded. One went to another Edinburgh College of art graduate, landscape artist Calum McClure, who is also a previous winner of the Jolomo Award. The other winner was Samantha Wilson, a recent graduate from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, who specialises in large charcoal drawings and oil paintings.

The W Gordon Smith Award was open to all artists living and working in Scotland, as well as Scots working in the rest of the UK and overseas.

The judging panel – art critic Susan Mansfield; Sandy Moffat, former head of painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art; Tom Wilson, former director of Edinburgh’s Open Eye Gallery, and the artist Margaret Hunter – spent two days debating the entrants before deciding on the winners.

Bushe, who was born in Liverpool and brought up in Aberdeenshire, has been living in Edinburgh since 2007 after returning to the art school following spells teaching and painting.

His winning entry, The Admissions Gate, is said to represent the growing barriers artists face, particularly when trying to learn their craft.

He said: “The painting is ­really all about people being denied access to doing stuff.”