Astaire Art Prize 2015

Interviews with Prize founder (Mark Astaire) and 2015 winner (Oisin Gallagher)

The winners of the Astaire Art Prize 2015 were announced on Wednesday 25th March 2015 at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). In this article, the ECA web interns, Alice Chandler (Sculpture student; words) and Ben Shmulevitch (Graphic Design student; pictures), report from the awards ceremony. 

The Astaire Art Prize is a celebration of outstanding work by third or fourth year students at ECA. Now in its second year, it was founded by University of Edinburgh graduate, Mark Astaire.

Mark’s artistic upbringing and love for art prompted him to start the Prize. Showing his admiration for the difficulties artists face, and his respect for Edinburgh College of Art as a special and motivational place, he explained that "a prize was a way of motivating and helping people in the early stages of their career; a little bit of success now might spur them on to work as an artist for the rest of their life.”

Headed by Mark, the judging panel also comprised Karen Forbes, Professor of Art, and ECA lecturers Colin Lawson and Andrea Roe. They had to make some tough decisions in order to narrow down the 36 entries to nine shortlisted works. Mark Astaire described the standard of the entries as “really fantastic, any of the nine could have won the prize.”

And the winner is...

The winner of the 2015 Astaire Prize, and £2500 prize money, was fourth year Painting student, Oisín Gallagher. His piece, titled Impractical Table, employs the repetition of the 10 by 12 inches format that runs throughout much of his work, applied to a sculptural form. The work embodies the collision between art and design, and consists of a glass fibre reinforced cast cement top, resting on a metal box frame base. It was originally made as part of Oisín's collaboration with RAIL, a pop up shop and art gallery developed by students, Hugo Ross (Fine Art), Ariadne Irving (History of Art) and Gigi Ettedgui (History).

Mark Astaire said of the piece…

“Oisín Gallagher’s work is really quite extraordinary, the more and more time I spent with this extraordinary sculpture the more intense and powerful I found it.”

Despite being run down with a cold, Oisín was over the moon with his win. He explained…

“I feel pretty thrilled about the whole thing, but it’s only really started sinking in now. The money’s going to make a huge impact on creating more work and furthering my practice. It will really open up some doors in terms of what I can make from now up until the degree show and a show I’m having in Mayfair, London on June 12th with RAIL.”

Runners up

The two runners up were Thomas Dawson, a fourth year Sculpture student, and Olivia Turner, a fourth year Painting student, who both received £500 to help them towards their artistic endeavours.

Olivia Turner’s prize-winning painting is her own interpretation of an architectural space. Her research lies within intriguing architectural buildings and their spaces, both internally and externally. She is especially interested in spatial awareness and how the viewer interacts with a space, whether this is visual or physical. Olivia was also shortlisted last year, so she explained it was “a great achievement” to receive a prize this year. She plans to use the money to buy high quality materials for her degree show, which will allow her to produce work to the highest standard.

Tom Dawson’s sculpture is a crushed oil container with colourful and intricate painted sections. He says winning a prize for his work “felt like getting a strange, merited paycheck” and that the money would “definitely help with the degree show and possibly getting a studio space for after college.”

Impractical Table Oisin Gallagher 960 x 610.jpg

Impractical Table by Oisin Gallagher
Oisin Gallagher's prize-winning entry
The Impractical Table
Image courtesy of RAIL