Appropriately, surrounded by the timber panelling and images of ocean liners in the former P&O shipping office, originally built in 1906 to the designs of A T Bolton for the Hamburg America Line, and now the Embassy of Brazil, the 30 finalists of the 2018 VIA Arts Prize bring artists from the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain and Latin America together along work by the 2017 winner, Susan Phillips.
The 2018 VIA Arts Prize, organised by the Association of Cultural Attachés of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, and supported by People’s Palace Projects in the Drama Department of Queen Mary University of London, the Instituto Cervantes and Itaú, asked artists to consider the theme of ‘Dialogues’, to which they have responded in a variety of ways, reflected in the three artists who have received awards: Portuguese artist Hugo Brazão, the 2018 winner, with his large, multi-coloured tapestry ‘HIATO’ filling the window, which, highly appropriately in these times, seeks to encourage connections and dialogues between different and diverse groups and ideas, rather than conflict and isolation, and British artist Graham Guy-Robinson, winner of the 2nd prize, with his sculpture ‘Social Structure’ inspired by the curving movements of the human body, its reflective metal and hazard paint a contradiction as he seeks to explore ideas of private and public space in urban society.
Brazilian artist Sabrina Collares’ sculpture ‘Raízes do Brasil’ received a special commendation. Based on the 18th-century Baroque dress inspired by a painting of Carlota Joaquina (1785) by the Spanish artist Mariano Salvador Maella, the three-dimensional representation has naturalistic roots flowing downwards, holding it firmly to its base, representing a conservatism that holds new ideas and keeps them firmly rooted in the ground rather than letting them free to soar upwards to explore new opportunities.
Given the quality and variety of work on show, including work by Anthony McKerr, Romina Cristi, Olav Lorentzen, Vanessa da Silva and Victoria Ahrens, it must have been difficult for the judges to make their decision, while Hugo Lami’s sculpture ‘Promised Land’ connects directly with the street outside.
Up on the balcony are a series of sculptures ‘Constructed Geometries’, with drawings downstairs by the 2017 winner Susan Phillips’ with echos of the 20th century Brazilian neo-concrete movement.
A great initiative which itself bridges across different countries and continents.