By NOAH SONNENBURG, February 2021
Competitions play a vital role in the world of fine art. In an industry where professional recognition is invaluable, the chance to have work judged and appreciated by experienced panelists can be an important opportunity.
For emerging artists, however, the benefits of an award win often cannot outweigh the barriers to entry. Hefty application fees and anxiety about who will actually be judging their art can be stressful obstacles.
For losers of the competition, their fee is a sunk cost and their time becomes wasted energy. For those who win, financial compensation (if even offered) is of course welcome, but where does it all lead to? As any artist will tell you, money is great but also fleeting; instead, advancing one's career is what can be truly invaluable.
Enter the Boynes Emerging Artist Award (BEAA). Started by Melbourne-based artist Chantal Boynes in 2019, the BEAA is an artist-run, artist-judged, artist-focused competition with a prize pool of over $90,000. Geared around career advancement, the award has entered its fourth iteration this year, continuing a demonstrated commitment to offering comprehensive support for artists and their work.
The BEAA’s eponymous founder, Chantal Boynes, started her own artistic practice in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago. A fascination with design and aesthetics started at an early age. As a child, Boynes would fantasize about one day being a world-renowned fashion designer.
Taking refuge in her work, a sixteen-year-old Boynes dove head first into honing her skills and developing her own visual language. She experimented with drawing, watercolor, oil painting and photography among other media.
Today, Boynes has cultivated a distinct style which melds her many talents and interests and has established a competition of her own, one which focuses on long-term career development rather than incremental gains.
In an interview with Whitehot Magazine, Boynes reflects on the memories of her early foyer into the creative process and why she founded an award to develop emerging artists’ careers and form a community for those who participate.
NOAH SONNENBURG: I’d love to hear about your introduction to the art world. When and how did that start?
CHANTAL BOYNES: I have always been a creative person. Even as a child, when I was obsessed with the idea of being a world famous fashion designer, I would spend hours drawing women in dresses in my little neon pink book. However, it wasn’t until I was sixteen that I seriously began experimenting with mediums and attempting to teach myself how to draw and paint people via a lot of YouTube. There was a lot of frustration in sitting in my room drawing the most wonky looking faces and bodies, but even in that frustration there was a lot of personal peace when I was creating. My true start, I think, was at the age of sixteen when I realised that creating my art, painting, and drawing, was the only thing that really allowed my mind to slow down and allowed me to breathe.
NS: Tell me about your artistic work prior to starting this award program. I’d love to hear about your process and philosophy.
CB: I paint figurative and colour intense works of women. I have always adored women, because they are so multifaceted, complicated, and beautiful. I have had the honour of being raised by a single mother, a woman who went through a lot raising three children, a woman who also happens to be a badass and very intimidating lawyer. I say intimidating, though she never showed that to us, I only heard stories from her colleagues. To me she was just my nice and funny mom. To be raised by someone who commands respect, helps you require the same for yourself and still never fails to call you pumpkin is really a continuous and profound inspiration to me to attempt to capture the intensity of it in my work. I adore using colour specifically to do this. In a lot of recent works you will see my uses of blues and reds, a combination of a supposedly calming colour with a colour most associated with passion has really been calling to me in the last couple years. I generally will utilise either my own photography as a photo reference, or attempt to recreate a drawing of someone I have seen in the street and remembered. I then do a brief mono colour underpainting, before finishing with either my brush or palette knife (whichever fits the piece best).
NS: Did you enter any artist competitions yourself? If so, what was that experience like? If not, why didn’t you?
CB: I have entered art competitions, the last one being the Prisma Art Prize, where I was named a Finalist with my oil on canvas work “Drinking Water”. My creation of the Boynes Emerging Artist Award actually came while I was putting together an application for another art competition. I remember sitting there and thinking to myself that I was very prepared to pay the $100 application fee, but why? Even if I did win, then what? Even as a Finalist in the Prisma Art Prize, was that it? I realised that if you are going to create an award or competition, it really should act as a gateway to create and support a community for all those involved. It shouldn’t be the final destination. This occurred to me at 3AM one night in the first week of October, 2019. I then spent the next three weeks doing research on what it takes to organise and run something like this, and on November 1, 2019, I launched the 1st Edition, with everything I had and myself as the sole judge.
NS: As noted on your website, “This award was created to support, promote and connect emerging artists all around the world and work to enhance the profile of young and/or undiscovered talent.” How important was it to you that this mission was undertaken by artists for artists?
CB: Given the reason for the award’s creation, the idea that me as an artist and other fellow artists were the ones to control how it runs has always been the only possibility for me. At the end of the day, as an emerging artist, I found myself having the gall to believe that I knew better when it came to what talented emerging artists needed and wanted and that has not left. A simple thing for me that I have gotten better at implementing recently is ensuring that not just finalists and winners are given access to our platform but many talented artists who submitted and did not win a prize. We make a point to highlight this talent on our social media platforms, and I have even gone on to interview several submitters.
NS: This year the winner of the award will receive a three-month campaign with PR for Artists. How important is it for young, emerging artists to get representation like that?
CB: This contract to me is a phenomenal expansion of my belief in a prize that increases the reach and exposure of the artist’s profile, and this PR contract is really such a perfect way to do that. To have a team of people dedicated to getting your work out there through the media, and to reach out to galleries on your behalf is a really multifaceted benefit for an artist’s career.
NS: This award seems very support-focused—often highlighting runners-up and finalists even after the competition is over. What kind of support network do you hope to achieve?
CB: I hope, in time, to build a large community of highly talented artists who are celebrated for their talent and with nothing else required, not the connections, or their degree. For a field built on subjective appreciation and free expression, there always seems to be a lot of additional requirements to have your work shown on an international platform, much less bought or exhibited, and my ideal is to have the access to success be easier for those that are talented. Although I’m aware of how lofty this goal is, I can only continue working towards it for all the artists who are currently a part of our community and those that will be.
NS: Dovetailing off of the last question, the Boynes Emerging Artist Award seems very singular in what it offers. What do winners of the award receive and what is its advantage compared to other awards like it?
CB: I firmly believe, especially in the age of COVID, that digital marketing and social media marketing and promotion is the most beneficial way to increase the platform of our artists and widen their reach. So while winners do receive cash prizes, we are also very focused on getting their stories out there, through interviews I myself conduct and publish, as well as promoting them. Given that a lot of other awards instead choose to award an exhibition, I find that the comparison is summed up perfectly in the phrase: “Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man a fish he eats for his lifetime.” The example I would give is our 1st Edition, 1st place winner, realist painter Tanya Atanasova, who went on to being featured in multiple magazines and being invited to show her work at the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona. She is also now taking part in her first solo exhibition.
NS: What are you looking for when considering a finalist or winner for the award? Is there something in their work that sets them apart or something more comprehensive about their entire portfolio?
CB: Everything you see in our Rules page is what the judges are told to look for: Originality, Skill, Composition and Impact. Beyond that, what really makes the determination in a winner and finalist is when you can feel that an artist has put their soul in the work. Sometimes it is that moment when I first see the work and I sit back in my chair and just stare for a long time. Some works of art do incredibly well in reaching you with the perfect combination of soul and skill, and for me that really is a way the past winners and finalists have set themselves apart.
NS: Is there anything different you are looking for from contestants for your newest edition of the competition?
CB: I have really learned a lot in this journey and been exposed to a lot of incredibly talented and skilled artists, which I think has had the unavoidable effect of increasing my expectations for the artists in our 4th Edition.
NS: Where do you see the future (and function) of art awards leading?
CB: Frankly, as I’m a bit of a pessimist, I would rather say that I hope the function evolves to a place where art awards are used as a gateway to continual support of its artists. But I may be biased towards that point of view.
NS: Are there any future plans for the Boynes Award?
CB: I have learned and grown the award with my devotion to my artists—yes, I do tend to call the award’s artists my artists—as they guide all decisions. I simply want to continue the growth of the award with this in mind and hold tight to the reasons for its creation.
For more, please visit the Boynes Emerging Artist Award’s website: www.boynesartistaward.com
TikTok: @boynesemergingartaward WM
Noah Sonnenburg is a freelance writer based in Pasadena, CA. His work covers automobiles, film, fine art and entertainment.view all articles from this author