David Piddock, winner of The Moth’s inaugural Art Prize: Driven from abstraction
‘Because figurative painting has been a bit ignored you can do something really fresh and innovative with it’
“A lot of credit should go to the Moth,” says David Piddock, “always wonderfully idiosyncratic and beautifully designed, for launching the prize and responding to figurative painting, largely ignored by the contemporary art scene. We have nothing like it in the UK”
Why, Brad, darling, this painting is a masterpiece! by David Piddock
David Piddock, a British artist whose work features in major public and private collections including those of the Museum of London and New York-based advertising mogul Cindy Gallop, has won the inaugural Moth Art Prize run by the arts and literature magazine, the Moth.
Piddock, who is now residing at the Moth’s new artists’ retreat as part of his prize, has been a champion of figurative art for the past 30 years. “At art school in the mid-eighties figurative painting was regarded as very bourgeois, everything figurative was bourgeois. Although the conceptual movement was growing, if you wanted to paint, the pressure was very much to paint towards abstraction. You were basically regarded as not very relevant unless you were moving towards abstraction, which is odd in a way because abstraction had already been around for 80 years, more or less.
“It’s a rather different battle going on now, where the contemporary art establishment is dominated by the conceptual. But I think because figurative painting has been a bit ignored you can do something really fresh and innovative with it. There are things you can use in figurative painting now that you couldn’t 10 or 20 years ago.
“I think figurative painting is creeping back in. The American painter John Currin, for example, is very interested in historical techniques and he uses them in quite an ironic, postmodern way. He’s one of very few figurative painters welcomed into the ‘cutting edge’ world. He gets away with it, I think, because he uses a lot of very provocative imagery alongside traditional techniques so people regard him as daring and modern.”
Like Currin, Piddock delights in ignoring current fashions in contemporary art. Most of the works he submitted to the Moth Art Prize were a semi-fictional take on London. Imagery is often plundered from the past to inform the present, so anything from a small terracotta maquette to a monumental Canova sculpture might materialise in unexpected places, like London’s Embankment or the riverside adjacent to the City.
Work by Anna Evans and Sarah Leonard was also commended by The Moth. Evans, who is from Belfast, dropped out of a degree course in painting because it had become increasingly conceptual in focus, and subsequently received a scholarship to the Florence Academy in Italy, where she begins her final year this autumn. Leonard studied at Edinburgh College of Art and is working on a portraiture project involving refugees and asylum seekers. She also set up the Glasgow Drawing School.
“A lot of credit should go to the Moth,” says Piddock, “always wonderfully idiosyncratic and beautifully designed, for launching the prize and responding to figurative painting, largely ignored by the contemporary art scene. We have nothing like it in the UK.”
Piddock will spend a month at the Moth, where he hopes to work on some landscapes. His work adorns the cover of the autumn issue of the Moth, while other works, including the wonderfully titled Why, Brad, darling, this painting is a masterpiece! appear inside its pages. You can purchase a copy for €6 at themothmagazine.com or in select bookshops.