Isolation, Ayahuasca, Brown Sugar: The Sovereign Art Foundation London Students Prize Finalists

Meet the young artists whose work is on view at the Phillips Berkeley Square Galleries, December 9-15.

Meet the young artists whose work is on view at the Phillips Berkeley Square Galleries, December 9-15.

 Skye Davies, Brown Sugar. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation. 

For nearly a decade, The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) Students Prize has celebrated young, contemporary talent by supporting secondary school art education. This December, Phillips is partnering with SAF to present the inaugural edition of The SAF Students Prize, London. Secondary schools from the 12 inner London boroughs nominated their most talented art students to submit artworks, and a panel of judges—including Eugenio de Rebaudengo, founder of ARTURNER; Howard Bilton, Founder and Chairman of SAF; British artist Idris Khan; Melanie Gerlis, columnist at Financial Times and Editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper; and Tamila Kerimova, Specialist and Head of the 20th Century & Contemporary Day Sale, Phillips—has narrowed the selection down to 20 finalists. 

As their work heads to Phillips' Berkeley Square Galleries from December 9 to 15, we asked each young artist to tell us a little more about their submissions. Below, the talented artists share their processes, speaking to the choices behind their compositions, the personal histories that motivated them, and offering individual glimpses into the year that has been 2020.

Dellilah Jamal, St Paul's Way Trust School



“This painting is a portrait showing three expressions of my inner emotions. I chose to upload this composition as it displays my ability to observe the structure of the face. The three portraits have been created by using oils, acrylic, and water colour. I matched the mediums and technique of painting to the emotion. For example, the middle portrait rendered in oil paint represents contemplation and serenity which I achieved by layering soft brush strokes. This differs from the first portrait as it symbolises anger and frustration. Here, I used a combination of acrylic and oil paint to create surface texture. The loose background contrasts with the structured painted portraits, which creates the illusion of different emotions floating in space. l like the fluidity of this piece and how the composition fits together.”

Dellilah JamalState of Mind. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Fathia Adeniran, St Saviour's & St Olave's School



"This is a physical recording of his untimely death in the hands of institutional racism aimed to evoke anger and embarrassment of our flawed society."


Fathia Adeniran, How a Policeman Killed George Floyd with his Knee. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Fritzie Anne de Gala, West London Free School



“Using a drawing from direct observation the image was then simplified and developed into a painting.”

Fritzie Anne de Gala, Imogen. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Grace Sheldon, Dunraven School



“I decided to make this piece as I love to merge my love of botanicals and nature with textiles. The meaning of it being the Calathea and its link to ‘turning over a new leaf’ ties in with my own life as it was done at a time of change—leaving secondary school and moving home when my parents divorced, I felt it was a signifier of fresh change and a light breaking through the shadows. I embroidered it using a punch needle and it’s all made of reused materials because that’s part of my values as an artist. My Mama collects things she’s found thrown out and so the frame is from her, the wool is too. I dedicated the piece to her because she’s been part of my journey of change the most and supported me when I decided to pursue my art foundation degree.”

Grace SheldonCalathea. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Jesse Rivero Vela, Hurlingham academy



“Portrait on a photograph of a homeless man, the idea behind the drawing is to focus on key details and to capture the amazing gaze of the man's eyes.”

Jesse Rivero VelaWild Stare. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Joseph Murphy, Kingsdale Foundation School



“A series of photographs inspired by the theme The Human Condition. The portraits express the joys and the complexities of being a teenager in contemporary society.”

Joseph MurphyThe Human Condition. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Kerri-Ann Annan, St Saviour's & St Olave's School



“This portrait painting was inspired by the perception of women's Self Image and how societal beauty ideals affect it. The subject in the painting is turning away from the viewer and is allowing herself to be observed for who she is naturally which is an attempt to challenge these ideals.”

Kerri-Ann Annan, Self Image. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Lily Plowright-Taylor, Dunraven School



“A portrait inspired by the emblematic nature of Renaissance artwork intertwined with a modern interpretation of femininity. The subjects, two women, are depicted gazing into the distance holding a shared pomegranate in their hands. The seated figure wears a dress I had embroidered, its pattern an abstract imitation of the pomegranate's shape, contrasting the traditional form of the fruit both girls hold. Throughout history the fruit has been a symbol of fertility and life and in the absence of any masculine presence, this portrait explores the delicacy in the power of female expression.”

Lily Plowright-TaylorThe Fruits of Love. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Lily Stephans, West London Free School



“The photoshoot was inspired by the iconic Pre-Raphaelite image, Ophelia. It has an otherworldly quality that is evocative of Tarkovsky's polaroids as well.”

Lily StephansUntitled (Under the Flyover at Boston Manor after the Pre-Raphaelites). Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Lottie Simpson, Kingsdale Foundation School



“This image was in response to the Covid pandemic. When we were sent home and the country was put into lockdown, I continued making work and created this self portrait of my experience.”

Lottie Simpson, Isolation. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Maci-Skye Anthony, Kingsdale Foundation School



“This is my second piece of vector art. It is a portrait of my Mother.”

Maci-Skye AnthonyMy Mother. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Melanie Larre, Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch



“My cousin sleeping peacefully, a moment of peace and calmness.”

Melanie LarreSafe Space. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Natalia Latka, St John Bosco College



“A detailed acrylic painting inspired by decayed fruit and vegetables.”

Natalia Latka, Decay. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Rania Javid, Kew House School



“Experimenting with Dada techniques through the process of collaging, taking inspiration from René Magritte's paintings.”

Rania Javid, Piece of Your Mind. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Róise Callaghan Dixon, Dunraven School



“Inspired by Antony Gormley’s Lost Horizon.”

Róise Callaghan Dixon, Room of Statues. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.


Samira Elbahja, St Paul's Way Trust School



“This piece is entitled Ayahuasca, which is a pharmaceutical drug that allows you to have an out of body experience, therefore representing a double exposure effect in my painting. The impact of Ayahuasca is the opportunity to endure a double life where you can fundamentally escape within yourself. Ayahuasca is symbolic of prehistoric escapism. I wanted to capture this because I found it a unique way of escapism. Which is actually quite common within society as many people have different ways of dealing with their mental health issues, and Ayahuasca is a historic remedy for escaping reality. This entire piece was done with oil paint which was a medium I thoroughly enjoyed as it allowed me to express the depth of colour.”

Samira ElbahjaAyahuasca. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Sara Ali Ahmed, St Augustine's CE High School



“After researching Carravagio and Rembrandt, Sara somewhat branched away from these artists, taking with her what she had learned. It creates a kind of muted post-impressionist painting, a very matter of fact pose.”

Sara Ali Ahmed, Ifrah. Courtesy of the artist and Sovereign Art Foundation.

Sheyaan Ul-Haq Ramsey, St Augustine's CE High School



“Drawn from a photograph taken by the artist of a Second World War Pill Box.”

Sheyaan Ul-Haq RamseySecond World War Pill Box. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.


Theodore Thompson, West London Free School



“After a school art trip to Madrid's Prado this year in February, the drawing was inspired by Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. The monochrome quality adds a sinister air to the image.”

Theodore Thompson, Untitled (After Bosch). Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Skye Davies, Bacon's College



“This piece is inspired by my great grandmother who came over on Empire Windrush from St Lucia to Britain. She had to work as a cleaner to support her family, despite being a trained hairdresser. During her 50 years as a maid, she was verbally and physically abused for being Black. When I asked her what she remembers most clearly from that time, she said "The Rolling Stone’s song Brown Sugar"; a popular song about enslaved black women being raped by their slave owners, discussing young rape victims and their "taste." She said that the song being played over and over again on the radio made her feel sick. After researching the song, it became clear to me why: the exploitation of Black people was being marketed, without fully understanding the traumatic effect it has on them, who are stuck in the same cycle of oppression as their ancestors were. The floor has a reflection, to show the mirroring of the racism my grandmother experienced and that of the generations before her. I have chosen to draw on the MDF board as its base colour lends itself to the skin tone of my grandmother, whilst not making it the focus of the piece. By having the brown hue as the base, it represents how, despite black migrants’ influence and groundwork for Britain being massive, they are still treated horribly. The black and white tonal aspect represents the divide of the two races. I chose to faintly write the words on the wall’s background to show that the normalisation of racism is plastered all over Britain, yet is treated as if it is barely there. The chosen font mimics more traditional handwriting, that educated higher class men, such as slave owners, would have, showing that their inflicted oppression still affects people to this day despite slavery being abolished hundreds of years ago. This piece was made to not only celebrate my grandmother’s strength and story, but to highlight the issues within society’s complacency of racism.”

Skye DaviesBrown Sugar. Courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.


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