These are the three winners of the Royal Prize for Free Drawing

The powerful, colorful and somewhat cartoonish portraits of Kenneth Idow (1988), the delicate paintings without right angles on the frail body of Eva Sperenberg (1987) and the confident, bold faces of Eri Zamblet (1995). These artworks are this year’s winner of the Royal Prize for Free Painting, which will be awarded by King Willem-Alexander on Wednesday at the Royal Palace on Dam Square. Consequently, the jury chose less for the experience of form and more for the “personal necessity” of the drawing. What they want to portray is fundamental to the three illustrators, form follows content.

The Motivation Award for painters up to the age of 35 was established in 1871 by King Willem III. Last year, the award marked its 150th anniversary with an exhibition with past winners such as Raquel van Havre, Iris Kinsmil, Naveed Norr and Helen Verhoeven. This year’s winners will receive €9,000. Their work and that of the other twelve nominees can be seen until 23 October at Paleis op de Dam in Amsterdam. This year’s three winners have been nominated before.

The jury, chaired by Paula van den Bosch (curator of the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht), was recognized among the participants, and in painting in general, a trend in which artists are increasingly focusing on the body as well as on their bodies. “With Kenneth, Eva, and Airy, this same body becomes a medium: weak, combative, and unforced.”

Remarkably, the jury report states that there was a fourth contender to win, but that choice can be “read as a statement, as an option to illustrate an existing social debate.” The jury did not want to make a statement and chose “three technically talented artists”. What this unintentional statement was that the jury retracted from – but explicitly refers to it – remains vague in the report.

Kenneth Ido, You took away my freedom and forced me to defend what belongs to you2021 (oil paint, acrylic paint, oil pastel 80 x 60 cm).

Kenneth Ido

The black soldier looks at the French flag with a suspicious but also resolute look, and the title of this painting by Kenneth Idow tells the rest of the story: “You have taken away my freedom and you have forced me to defend what belongs to you.” Aidoo was drawn by Sar Tender, a Senegalese soldier who fought with France during World War I.

In his work, Aidoo, he draws inspiration from biblical texts and historical events and examines the role and lives of blacks. With fresh, vibrant colours, he gives his rather simple, almost childish portraits a colossal allure. The blue of the Tinder Soldier outfit has a depth that you’ll want to look at endlessly.

Eva Sperenberg, untitled attempt (download)2022 (acrylic resin, cotton, acrylic paint, modeling paste, pencil, twine, clay residue, 128.5 x 59 cm)

Eva Sperenberg

Although the most abstract and experimental, you realize the “personal necessity” that the jury was looking for, certainly also in the work of Eva Sperenberg. Painted on plates of strange shapes, the features of which were based on observations in her body, in which pain and exhaustion occurred after the death of Sperenberg’s father.

appearance untitled attempt (download) She based this on her doubts about the choice of motherhood. According to Sperenberg, the zigzag contour, which forms a kind of two-headed hanging bag, follows her breathing, “when I imagine I carry life inside of me.” The figures of Spierenburg’s paintings are distinguished by great purity, they seem random, but at the same time you feel as the viewer that they are deeply lived.

Erie Zampel, twice beautiful2022 (oil, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150 cm)

Airy Zambly

As in the work of Kenneth Ido, the representation of blacks plays a role in the work of Eri Zambly. “The essence of this triptych is to show the visual representation, where black people can be in peace and quiet,” Zamblé says in the exhibition catalog. On her three huge canvases, measuring one and a half meters by one and a half meters, the characters look directly at the viewer, as if conscious of themselves as they disarm.

The most exciting thing about Zamblé’s paintings is that they intentionally leave the background blank behind the characters. Through the light sandy cloth you can see the musculoskeletal structure behind. In the semi-transparent painting there is a subtle interplay of light and dark, which the artist herself did not apply, but which gives her intriguing images greater depth.

Royal Exhibition Award for Free Drawing, 23/9 to 23/10, The Palace in Dam Square, Amsterdam. Information:

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