Offering some of the best opportunities and awards available in the North of England, the New Light Art Prize showcase event is quickly becoming one of the largest and most talked about open exhibitions in the UK. This year’s prize exhibition has turned out to be the largest event in the prize’s history, with the challenges presented during 2020 resulting in the online auctioning of all shortlisted works.

The fifth installment of the New Light Biennial Prize Exhibition, 2020 brings with it the celebration of New Light’s 10th anniversary. Sadly, the usual Prize Exhibition Preview Launch event was not able go ahead due to government guidelines relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the prize-winners were instead announced in September on the New Light website and across social media.

The judging panel for the New Light Art Prize is made up of artists, art writers and representatives from a number of art organisations and galleries. Prize winners this year include Joanna Whittle, Victor Harris, Linnet Rubaya, Ian Brooks and Christian Alexander Bailey, with a sixth prize – The TIG Visitors’ Choice Award – still awaiting announcement. The judges have also selected a shortlist of 105 artists to be included in the New Light Prize Exhibition – a number of whom are members of The Net Gallery.

Laura Quinn Harris


‘Jon’ by Laura Quinn Harris. Oil on Board. 30 x 30 cm.

Specialising in oil portraits of people and animals, Wigan artist and TNG Member Laura Quinn Harris has two paintings on the New Light shortlist – Jon and Owl You Need is Love. Quinn Harris has degrees in Scientific & Natural History Illustration and in Mathematics, and her work has been displayed in a range of exhibitions across the UK and abroad.

Jon is a portrait of my good friend Jon Hodson. It is the latest in a series of portraits I’ve painted with patterned backgrounds, and Jon is seen here in front of some original 70s wallpaper from my own living room.”

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“Owl You Need is Love” by Laura Quinn Harris. Oil on Board. 39 x 55 cm

Owl You Need is Love is a portrait of renowned American owl sculptor, Clarence “The Owlman” Cameron (r) and his partner of almost 59 years, Bob Lockhart (l). I met them in 2017 at the Birds in Art exhibition in Wisconsin, and they kindly invited me and my husband to their delightful home, filled with all things “owl,” and showed us around their hometown of Madison. They are such a charming, sweet couple, and clearly still very much in love, I just had to paint them!”

Catherine MacDiarmid

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‘Behind the Doll Paint’ by Catherine MacDiarmuid. Oil on Linen. 30 x 25 cm.

The second TNG member to make the New Light shortlist is Kendal-based Catherine MacDiarmid, who draws inspiration for her work from the human form. MacDiarmid splits her artistic practice between portrait commissions and creating her own thematic figurative compositions. She works in oils, watercolour and charcoal, and loves to explore human displacement and disguises.

MacDiarmid was selected for the shortlist for her oil painting, Behind the Doll Paint. This piece was created as part of a larger project, “Behind the Paint”, which focuses on the masks and disguises that people can create using face paint. Inspired by her own children’s love of dressing up and becoming another character, Behind the Doll Paint is one of a number of face-painted portraits whose theme developed from the artist’s side-line business of face painting.

MacDiarmid explains: “Having two boys with Autism Spectrum Condition I discovered that they found disguises a helpful tool which displaced themselves from the world around and gave them confidence to join in and, sometimes, socially interact… I am keen to see how much of the original character remains when protected by a guise, and whether I could still paint that person behind the paint.”

You can read about some of Catherine MacDiarmid’s Favourite Paintings in our article on

Peter Davis

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‘Late Night Screening’ by Peter Davis. Acrylic on Board.

Social realist painter Peter Davis MAFA was selected for the New Light shortlist for his work, Late Night Screening. This work is part of Davis’ current project exploring the subject of humanity and its relationship with personal technology. Discussing his inclusion in the exhibition, he states that “The biennial New Light Prize Exhibition is one of the most important showcases for promoting Northern artists and I am proud to have been selected to participate this year.”

Davis has previously been featured on The Net Gallery through his participation in #portraitsfornhsheroes, his painting for which was featured in an exhibition installed and scanned at Fitzrovia Chapel, the former chapel of Middlesex Hospital. He also had work in the “Perceptions” exhibition scanned in The Space at Cass Art.

Davis believes that technology now dominates our lives, and started working to reflect this addictive relationship in 2015. The majority of his recent figurative compositions focus on individuals who are absorbed in their personal technology – present in body but not in mind. His technology-centric subjects create an intentional dichotomy with his traditional painting process.

You can read more about Peter Davis in our article on

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The New Light Art Prize Exhibition is available to see in Scarborough Art Gallery until January 2021.

Featuring the work of over 100 artists, the New Light Art Prize Exhibition can be seen at Scarborough Art Gallery until Sunday 17th January 2021. It will then move to Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle and the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, before travelling to London’s Bankside in November 2021.

Rebekah Tadd, New Light Development Director, says: “We are delighted by the positive reception to the New Light Prize Exhibition. We have been extremely fortunate to have been one of the few open art competitions able to go ahead this year, due to its predominantly online nature and the collaboration of our partner galleries.

“With over 2,000 entries, the judges had a tremendous challenge. Their shortlist features 125 artworks from 105 of the most talented artists in the UK, making this our biggest exhibition ever and giving a unique insight into contemporary Northern art.”

“In order to make the exhibition available to those unable to attend the gallery in person, we’re working to ensure that we share as much as possible through online sources. We aim to enhance visitor enjoyment by providing as much information as possible about the artists and their work to enable them to make informed decisions if they wish to purchase art work on line at This in turn enables us to promote and support northern artists during this difficult time .”

New Light also runs New Light Art for All, an education programme which includes talks, workshops and school projects, and the New Light Collection, which will be launched this spring and which aims to make the best in Northern visual arts available to more people, by loaning pieces free of charge to public bodies and charities.

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New Light Art Prize Judges. L to R: Sam Phillips, Valeria Sykes, Ian Hay, Annette Petchey and Grant Scanlan.


Article by Toby Buckley.

The image shown at the top of the page is:  The New Light Prize Exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery, courtesy of New Light.