Uni of Leeds student wins a national lockdown art competition

The painting is of herself in the bath with a cuppa and it’s a vibe

Abigail McGourley, a second year Fine Art student at the University of Leeds, has won a national lockdown art competition.

The painting is a self portrait of her in the bath with a cup of tea, and is called ‘Brewing’. Abi says the piece is an ode to two things which have brought her comfort during lockdown:

“The uncertainty of lockdown put me in quite a stressful mindset, and I found it, at first, difficult to feel motivated. But it is due to lockdown that I have rediscovered my love of painting. This piece captures a real moment of comfort in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea.”

Abi hiding behind her winning painting

The competition was hosted by the Art’s Society, a well regarded organisation promoting education in the arts. Artists were asked to respond to the theme of isolation and to produce new work to reflect their experience of lockdown.

Abi told The Tab Leeds: “As a student and artist, trying to get exposure for your work and recognition is so difficult you do feel like you could get lost among all the talent around you. So competitions and projects like this one are so important in getting artists started in their career and I’m so excited for what the future holds for me and painting!

“I think I’ll try and embrace painting more when I go into my next year at university as I’ve focused mainly on sculpture but I’m definitely excited to get my new selected of work underway! I’m so grateful to the university for all there support around the competition and taking the time to boost the voting and shortlist that allowed me to then win!

“I was on Women’s Hour this morning which for me is unbelievable a real highlight in my growing career as an artist and I will be on BBC Look North this evening. I’ll be in the Art Society’s exhibition alongside all the other amazing shortlist entires and will be on the membership cards for the year so I will definitely be wanting one of those!”

Abi chilling with her corgi in lockdown

Florian Schweizer, Chief Executive of The Arts Society said: “We want to recreate and promote a sense of community, belonging and connection during a time of isolation and distancing. We believe the arts have the power to bring people together, and we will not let this virus stop communities from enjoying the arts with each other.”

Abi was one of seven artists shortlisted for the prize and the winner was decided by public vote.

She will have her work featured in Art Society’s online exhibition, be featured on their membership cards, and receive a £50 Cass Art voucher (absolute result).

She was even featured in her local Sheffield newspaper before winning

Abi, who had been furloughed from her lifeguard job so found lockdown hard without routine, said: “I decided to take back some control that the quarantine had denied me and set goals for myself. I began to learn French, work on my fitness and flexibility and most of all focus on my painting projects.

“Despite the struggle, I feel that I am much more optimistic about my future now, I know I want to make changes to my life and I have been proving to myself that these changes are achievable over the past few months.”

The painting has serious lockdown energy

Since winning, Abi told The Tab Leeds: “I’ve had quite a few people asking about commissions an the general sale of my work so I’ve been so busy over the past few weeks trying to organise what I can get done this summer. I’m really keen to get some more original work done where I’m following my own self led direction, and painting what I want to paint but I will still incorporate commissions into my practice.”

Abi has an Instagram and Twitter dedicated to her work so you ca keep up to date and maybe even grab a cheeky commission.