Ian Cumberland for BP Portrait Award

Banbridge-born artist is Northern Ireland's sole representative at prestigious competition

Ian Cumberland has been selected from almost 2,000 entrants to be one of the 56 exhibitors at this year’s BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Cumberland, originally from Banbridge in Co Down, is the only artist from Northern Ireland who will be exhibiting in this year’s competition. At 26 years of age, he is one of the youngest entrants, qualifying for a chance to win the BP Young Artist Award.

He has been nominated for his striking portrait '1 in 2', of Belfast man Jackie Quate.

Reacting to the news, Ian said: 'I’m delighted to have been selected for this competition, and even more stunned to learn that I’m the only artist from Northern Ireland whose work will be on display this year.'

'It’s a real honour, especially so early in my career. I’m just over the moon, and really looking forward to seeing my painting on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery.'

The Portrait Award, now in its 30th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 20th year of sponsorship by BP, is a highly successful annual event aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work.

In addition to a prize of £25,000, the winner of the BP Portrait Award will receive a commission worth £4,000. The second prize will be £8,000 and third £6,000. For the third year there will also be a BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30. Twelve exhibitors, including Ian Cumberland, qualify for this award. The winners of the prizes will be announced on the evening of Tuesday 16 June.

The portraits will be on display from 18 June – 20 September 2009, before touring galleries in Southampton and Edinburgh.

Born and bred in Northern Ireland, Ian’s career was almost cut short by a motorcycle accident in 2003, which severely damaged his left hand and put his art degree on hold for a year. He recovered and resumed painting, graduating from the University of Ulster with First Class Honours in Fine Art in 2006.

Ian has displayed paintings in the Ormeau Baths Gallery and the Royal Ulster Academy, and his first solo show took place in London’s Albemarle Gallery in October 2008. His painting 'The Mercy Seat' resides in the collection of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.