On April 30 submissions close for the fourth edition of the Boynes Emerging Artist Award, an independent, international artist-run online art competition. The "Boynes" comes from the competition's founder, 23-year-old Trinidadian artist Chantal Boynes, and she is hoping to finally see some Caribbean artists compete for the more than US$90,000 prize pool.
The award was "created to support, promote and connect emerging artists all around the world and work to enhance the profile of young and/or undiscovered talent." The award accepts all two-dimensional mediums from drawings to paintings to photography. There is no set theme for the international competition and artists are required to submit the best of their portfolio.
Boynes has studied and practised fine art all over the world, from Canada to Italy to Australia to TT, and has exhibited locally and internationally, namely Australia, Jamaica, and Switzerland.
In late 2019, while completing a diploma of visual art in Melbourne, Australia, Boynes decided to expand her involvement in the art world and with other artists by attempting to create a way for fellow emerging artists to have a platform that was solely dedicated to the support of their talent.
She told Newsday in a telephone interview that in October 2019 she was filling out an application for an art competition and she got annoyed at the US$100 entry price. She also checked if the winners would receive support after the competition but that was not the case.
"No support after the award. You get your prize and that's it. And I thought I could do it better."
So on November 1, 2019, she launched the Boynes Emerging Artist Award, put up the US$5,000 prize out of her own savings and was the sole judge. Submissions for the first edition closed on February 1, 2020 and the winners were announced on February 15. Two more editions were held last year (March to June and July to November) and the competition grew from strength to strength.
Submissions increased from over 300 in the first edition to more than 500 in the current edition which launched on January 18 this year. The jury also expanded with time and the fourth edition sees Boynes joined by fellow artists and judges, fashion photographer Natasha Wilson, former art professor Noah Verrier, Nigerian visual artist Ken Nwadiogbu, and internationally-renowned artist Dennis Perrin.
"We have some incredible judges," Boynes said.
On the subject of women
But who exactly is Chantal Boynes? Her story starts in Westmoorings but with her parents' divorce and her grandparents' illness, the family moved around, eventually settling in Cascade where she currently lives with her mother and two young brothers. Moving around also meant different schools and Boynes is an alumna of Providence Girls, ASJA Girls, and private school The British Academy.
Her informal art education, however, began with her drawing women in a fluffy pink neon book.
"I would draw them from my head. My mom would laugh at me. I would spend forever with my pen and draw very clean lines (even though I was only eight). The women would be in very magnificent dresses and were very fashionable women. My mother was convinced I would be a fashion designer."
At age 16 she had an "aha" moment when she was painting someone at her school from memory.
"I was stressing myself out like normal. But while I was doing it I was very calm and peaceful. It was a surreal realisation that even within the 'stress' I was not actually stressed out. I was feeling centred. I knew what I was about. And it made me feel 'this is it, I'm an artist. I'm going to be painter.'"
Her art evolved into acrylic paintings of scenery and she studied watercolours under local artist Tessa Alexander.
"Then I got into oils and I did not move."
She was drawn to the medium of oils because of the ability to blend colours as the oils would take "forever" to dry compared to acrylic which dries quickly.
"I would put on my gloves and get into it. I would do a painting that would take weeks. It felt like home to me."
In terms of subjects, she discovered a love for painting women, especially women of colour. She recalled her last project before the award she was painting just blue, to be specific cerulean.
"Everything blue. An intense blue. I don't know why. Blue was something that just stuck with me. It very much excited me. And I went through bottles and bottles of cerulean blue paint."
Asked if her love for painting women was influenced by her mother, a lawyer, Boynes said she both started and fuelled it.
"My first realisation that outward women could be so very different and complex was when I looked at her. Her lawyer friends told stories of her being bad*ss and people being scared of her. It was so confusing because she was 'nice mom'. (My brothers and I) never saw that side of her."
Boynes said as she went out into the world and met other women it reminded her of the complex parts of women that are never seen.
"It did pique my interest and show a complexity outside myself. So I just focused on women."
She said her mother was concerned about her being a "starving artist" but did not voice those concerns until after she started to do well.
"She has always been so wildly supportive of me and my brothers. And she has been an amazing mother to us."
Stepping back and building up
Because of the time-consuming nature of the award, she has stepped away from her artwork.
And has it been difficult putting her own art aside?
"It is a very strange mix of feelings. As I run the award I look at other artists' work and help them. It is very creatively stimulating. But I am intensely missing being in front of a canvas and getting messy. I haven't done it for a solid year. It is heartbreaking."
But Boynes has felt gratified at the success of the award winners. First edition winner Tanya Atanasova, a Bulgaria-born, Belgium-based painter, recently had her first solo exhibition and has been showing at the European Museum for Modern Art. Second edition winner Jesse Lane from Texas was a cover artist for The Guide Artists Magazine, which showcases the best in international contemporary art. Boynes added third edition winner, self-taught artist Cameron Richards from Australia, was continuing to build up his body of work.
She said the three main countries from which submissions have come are Australia, US, and UK, though they have also received from people from Russia, China, Japan, France, Italy, and Canada.
"I like that the reach is so huge it has attracted people from all over the world."
She was sad, however, that she has not seen any submissions from the Caribbean yet. She recalled speaking to Trinidadian artists online and they said because it is an international competition they did not think Caribbean or Trinidadian art would be accepted.
"They are very surprised when I say that I am from Trinidad and will be judging."
Boynes said she would really like to see some Caribbean art and stressed the judges were from different parts of the world and have different perspectives, including her as a Caribbean artist.
"Your work will be judged fairly. And I am excited to see it."
She described the experience of judging hundreds of pieces as "mentally stretching and stimulating" and art education in itself.
"It was amazing to see so much talent."
She said there is no age restriction as people can be emerging artists at any age. She said the third edition winner was 22, and submissions have come in from people in their late 60s.
The first-place winner for the current edition will win a three-month PR contract (including media and gallery outreach) with PRforARTISTS (worth US$15,000) as well as social media/digital marketing (worth US$2,500), an artist profile (worth US$1,500), and a permanent place on the website.
She said PRforARTISTS, a Los Angeles-based firm, provided its services at a steep discount.
"It is very exciting to work with people and give artists prizes that can really help."
She said from her experience a lot of artists do not know anything about PR and on a survey of what the best prizes would be, PR was the lowest picked thing. She stressed however, that PR is what gets artists in front of people, in the media and in galleries.
"If they want exhibitions and residencies they will need PR."
Boynes explained she does not receive any grant funding for the award but it is pooled from the entry fee (US$40 for three images and an additional US$10 for each additional image) and from support.
"As support grew we grew the prize. And it has been growing and growing."
She said after the competition the award continues to support artists, including winners and finalists, by publishing interviews and creating opportunities for them. She added a community of emerging artists was already developing and finalists have been supporting each other on social media.
"It always makes me smile."
She said they will be trying to find more clear-cut ways to bring the community together.
"So it is very amazing and it is happening now."
For more info on Boynes Emerging Artist Award or to submit artwork: boynesartistaward.com.