The Lurner Prize Interview

Anyone in London with a SE postcode will likely recognise this poster:

The Lurner Prize

Couple Samuel Mead (@beg4cred) and Arizona Smith (@arizonathecat), the artists behind the Lurner Prize, live together in Peckham and kindly let me interview them ahead of Lurner’s submission deadline. Here’s what you need to know:

Hi Sam & Arizona, could you give us an introduction to yourselves, what’s your artistic background, what do you do? 

Samuel Mead (@beg4cred) and Arizona Smith (@arizonathecat)

S: I’ve been making art since I was a child. I have never studied art formally but have always enjoyed being creative in all sorts of different ways. These days I mainly draw, paint, tattoo, make collage and write poetry and fiction.

A: I am an artist and writer, most of my artwork is painting and drawing at the moment but I do some sculpture too.  I am also training to be a psychotherapist & hope to be able to bring together the healing power of creativity and the structural and experiential knowledge from my course to create something that will help people, especially children and young people, in the future. I also work as an illustrator and have just self-published a children’s book which looks as the stigma and negative labelling that can be internalised as a response to trauma.

What is the Lurner Prize? 

A: The Lurner Prize is an independent art competition for self-taught artists, the first prize of 3 is £500, with one piece of work from all entrants featured in an exhibition/event in the new year. 

Why is this project important to you? 

S: The Lurner Prize is important to me because it represents an opportunity for us to support other self-taught artists and give encouragement to those who love making art but have not been ‘legitimised’ by an art school education. The Lurner Prize also demonstrates a way in which artists can independently create their own art world, on their own terms, without relying outside funding and approval.

A: I feel that it’s important to share the spirit of ‘doing’, having confidence in your work and potential without waiting for validation from establishments. I also believe that everyone is creative, and would really like to champion those who have continued to create in a world which is so focussed on money, external validation as success and art being something for only a select few. We really wanted to bring together a community of artists, and we hope to get across a message of support from us to all independent artists and between the collective.

Is this project a rejection of the “traditional” contemporary art world? What made you set this up?
S: The Lurner Prize is not, in essence, a rejection of the traditional contemporary art world – it is simply nothing to do with it, primarily because neither of us has anything to do with the traditional contemporary art world.

A: It’s less about being a rejection and more about being an inclusion I would say, it’s more about having the means to do something so we did it. We were talking about a way to give back with a little money saved to do something for others and I just thought that this would be a really nice way to not only give to people but also spread some of things Sam and I have learnt and most benefitted from in the last couple of years – which is really the understanding that you must believe in yourself, think outside the box and always be kind. 

Was the turn-around for the project, from idea to advertising it, a long process? 

S: No. We thought of the idea and launched it about two weeks later.

A: I think I like to plan ahead a bit more than Sam does which has been known to cause some contention but, with this we seem to have a good timeline, the event/exhibition will be in early 2020 giving us time to prepare.

What sort of pieces are being submitted? 

A: A real range, overall mostly painting but a few sculptures, some textiles and drawing. There is such a huge scope of people who fall under self-taught artists, we have people entering who are or have been homeless, young people who felt discouraged by GCSE’S but continued making,  elderly people who started to make artwork in their retirement, as well as people who have made art their whole lives and or made their art their income and are really successful in that. We want this to be about creativity not skill level so we are not looking for the most polished artist, the winner could easily be someone who wouldn’t term themselves an ‘artist’ but makes work with passion.

Do you collaborate often? 

S: We collaborate fairly regularly.  Most recently we collaborated on some illustrations for a book of short stories called ‘At Night’, by our friend Gary Grace.  It’s available now on Amazon.

A: The first drawing in there is by both of us and then the rest are solo. We both make stuff constantly and both work from home so even separate projects feel collaborative because we live and work so close together, but yes, we do also collaborate often, on little ideas and projects as well as drawings and paintings. We have also asked some amazing artists to judge the prize with us, these are all people whose work we really respect and it’s exciting to be able to work with them. (@creamguillotine , @ripsymay , @tomfoleyart @delainelebas).

How can people get involved? How long left is there for submissions

A: The deadline for submissions is December 1st, more info on @thelurnerprize Instagram, or message either of us directly @arizonathecat or @beg4cred if you don’t have Instagram email us on beg4cred@gmail.com . 

What’s next for the Lurner Prize, and for you both as artists?

S: The Lurner Prize will be an annual event and we hope to see it grow bigger and bigger until it is as well-known as any of the other corporate funded art prizes.

A: We have been asked to partner with a charitable org for the prize next year, which would be great to be able to run some workshops to make entries with people that might not have access to materials etc. I’m sure we will come up with some more ideas once this one’s out the way! In terms of our work, I’m looking to have another solo show in maybe 6 months or so, Granny and the Bad Cat is available to buy directly from me on my Instagram and my illustrations will be out in a book by Sally Bayley end of May.

S: As artists we will continue to create, experiment and have fun with art, while finding more ways to help other people do the same! Follow us both to see what we’re doing – @beg4cred @arizonathecat.

A: We will both be growing and making and growing again. 

Art Plugged is a contemporary online creative gallery, inspired by our relationship with the wider arts communities, and our passion to showcase great work on this platform. We exhibit unique work from the global art scene.

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