On Selecting II

Shortlisting update: Gordon Dalton writes on the shortlisting process for the 2023 Contemporary British Painting Prize

As Leeds buzzed with graduates popping prosecco and snapping selfies, we entered the School of Design to select the exhibiting artists for the CBP Prize exhibition.

Fuelled by caffeine and cookies and armed with sharpened pencils, we each had submitted 15 artists to make up the long list. To get to this point had taken three weeks of deliberation and carefully considered decisions. Remarkably, and perhaps justification of the different styles of the selectors, there had been only three duplicate choices, meaning our reserve choices came into play (more on that later).

To get the ball rolling and get names on paper it was agreed that those choices would be on the list as they had support across the selectors already. Selectors were asked to pick one from their own lists, which was also added.

There was no fixed approach to making up the list. The first session was overly cautious, as selectors were initially polite and getting used to seeing some of their choices receive no support from the other three selectors. It’s worth saying that each selector gave their choices an often-impassioned reason for why they should be in the exhibition. In some cases, they fought defiantly in their defence. The selectors spoke highly of other people’s choices, sometimes not, making the case against or abstaining.

Proceedings were expertly overseen by CBP Chair, Judith Tucker, who gave space and time for discussion, silence and quelled what at times felt like a gladiatorial arena.

The afternoon fell into a good rhythm with thoughts starting to form about the overall look of the exhibition. Artists who had split support from the selectors fell away in favour of those that had support from three, or in some cases, all four of the selectors. Some of these decisions were achingly close.

‘Everyone had an opportunity to talk about why each painter made it to our shortlist. There were some difficult moments for all of us, when painting we thought brilliant couldn’t collect any other votes from the outset, despite our impassioned promotion.’
Lesley Bunch

Whilst I still had some of my original list present by mid-afternoon, artists from the other selectors had become fixed in my mind and I questioned why I had missed them in the first place. This is not only the strength of the long list, but the overall quality of the 1100 submissions. Its only natural to feel protective of your own choices. Egos were bruised a little but soon left behind in favour of an eclectic yet coherent exhibition.

Two of the artists who had made the longlist via the reserves ended up in the final list. They had not been in any of our initial lists, but their work almost demanded to be in the show, with the full support of all four selectors.

In the end we could not get it down to 15, so after looking at how the work might physically look in the space, we decided on 16. We each had several of our own selections. There were two I personally didn’t fall in love with, but they’ll make an interesting addition to the show and I’m looking forward to being proved wrong. There had been one artist I hoped would make it from the very first time I looked through those 5500 painting three weeks ago. They made the final list. 

That little red devil on my shoulder really hopes they win, but it could be any of the 16. I don’t envy the judges one little bit.

Gordon Dalton is a painter based in Saltburn by the Sea. He is a board member of CBP and represented by Aleph Contemporary.

‘Although we ended up having to be quite ruthless in the end, all the selectors felt they had some representation of their initial long list. I found that quite a few of the shortlisted artists selected by others were ones that had narrowly missed my long list inclusion.’
Mandy Payne

Contemporary British Painting Prize 2023 Selectors:

Lesley Bunch

Gordon Dalton

Susan Gunn

Mandy Payne