Art Prize 2023 People's Choice Winner- Yael Aliza
October 16, 2023

Introducing artist Yasmin Smith. Learn more about her, her inspiration and her work. 

Introducing Yael Aliza, winner of the 2023 LGC Art Prize supported by Theo Paphitis, People's Choice Award. 

Congratulations on winning the People's Choice Award! Can you share your initial reaction and emotions when you found out you had won?

When my name was announced, I was so overwhelmed with conflicting emotions that I burst into tears. I poured so much love and emotion into my painting of something deeply personal to me, so seeing it recognised in this way was a very powerful experience for me. As well as being proud and in disbelief, I felt very grateful to the many people who voted for my piece. This award is to me, at least in part, a reflection of the wonderful friends and family I have who enthusiastically supported me and who so eagerly shared my work.

Tell us more about the artwork that won you this award. What inspired it, and how did you go about creating it?

Given the prompt “connection”, I thought about connection in my own life, immediately leading me to my family and my brothers (I am the eldest of five, with four younger brothers). I decided to depict the relationship that I had with my youngest brother, Donnie who was born with a terminal condition and spent his life in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

I started by finding a canvas, and I felt that a non-standard size would be perfect as nothing about Donnie was standard. I then searched for a moment to portray with the goal of showing Donnie exactly how I saw him and the reality of our unique sibling relationship. I looked through all of our pictures together and landed on a photo from 2017. In the photo, I am 15 years old, reading a book that is lying gently on Donnie, and he is resting comfortably on my arm.

I wanted the focus of my piece to be on myself and Donnie, to seem as if someone had pressed pause on this moment, as if all sense of space and time had dissipated. Working with acrylic paints, I decided the best way to achieve this was to remove the chair I was sitting in, instead painting an earthy green background. I played around with different greens until I found one that felt “still” and a little abstract. To me, this piece is a truthful depiction of our relationship at this time, towards the end of his life I understood his condition and I wasn’t so scared of hurting him anymore, he felt less fragile. He was comfortable lying gently in my arms, and I was so comfortable I felt I could read my book.

Art often has a powerful message or meaning. What message or emotions were you hoping to convey through your winning piece?

Connection to me is coexistence, being at peace and being truly comfortable around your loved ones. The emotion that I hope people feel most strongly when they see my piece is “comfort”. There was lots of “uncomfortable” for Donnie; no one expected to see him “happy” like a normal child, but “comfortable” was a goal. As a grieving 15-year-old, I found it difficult to relate to my peers as the concept of death was so abstract to many of them. As an artist and in my life, I aim to help people eliminate their own taboos and fears about death and dying. I hope my art helps people see the value and beauty of a short life.

Artists often have a unique relationship with their materials and techniques. Can you tell us about your artistic process and the materials you prefer to work with?

Once I have a lingering idea, I start by taking lots of photographs. Then I do some basic thumbnail sketches inspired by the pictures, adding anything from freaky musculature to much smaller edits like changing a hand position. Once I’m happy with a sketch, I go for it! I don’t usually have a plan in terms of colour before I start, as this always feels more intuitive for me. I currently prefer to work with acrylic paints and on canvas/board, but I am always experimenting and open to new ways to approach my art. I particularly look to learn from artists who have more experience than me.

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