Interview: Professor Christine Borland, Woon Art Prize, BALTIC 39/Northumbria University

The Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Art Prize, a partnership between BALTIC 39, Newcastle, and Northumbria Unviersity, launched in 2012. The Prize offers an exceptional opportunity for students currently in the final year of their undergraduate study within the United Kingdom. The Woon Foundation funds three major prizes and discretionary consolation prizes each year to the value of £40,000. Final year undergraduates of Fine Art Painting and Sculpture in the UK are invited to compete for the Art Prizes. Kayt Hughes was awarded the 2015 Fellowship. BALTIC’s project space at BALTIC 39 will present the annual exhibition in summer 2016. We speak to BALTIC Professor of Art at Northumbria University, Christine Borland, about the award. Through her research in laboratories, scientific and medical institutions, Professor Borland has rendered visible people and practices which are usually inaccessible to the general public.

A: The Woon Art Prize celebrates work by talented graduating artists from across the country. Please discuss your role in the exhibition at BALTIC 39, as BALTIC Professor
CB: I’m chairing the panel of judges who select first the short list of artists for the exhibition in the BALTIC project space at BALTIC 39, then the prize winners.  I also have the lovely job of mentoring the Woon Fellow while they’re in residence at BALTIC 39.

A: What makes the competition unique, and how does it assist graduates in their future careers?
CB: The generous nature of the prize is unique in all respects; for the selected Woon Fellow not only a studio and a one person show with a catalogue but the support of the community of artists, students, and academics at BALTIC 39. For the other prize winners, these kinds of sums, to be spent in the way that the artists choose; for travel, for materials, or to pay the studio rent is a game changer. Association with the Prize, and an exhibition at BALTIC 39 will, I’m sure be a welcome addition on any young artist’s CV.

A: Could you talk about what qualities you look for in an entrant?
CB: We’re looking for works in the mediums of Painting and Sculpture which stand out from the crowd and speak to us in some way . Each of the four judges will have their own preferences but the distinctiveness will be in the use of materials, and the ambition of the work. We’ll also be looking carefully at the applicant’s statement to show us what the Fellowship will mean to them and to give us an indication of how it will be used.

Applications can be made from 1 February and the closing date is 31 March. For more details and to apply visit:

Follow us on Twitter @AestheticaMag for the latest news in contemporary art and culture.

1. Kayt Hughes, Study Scores, 2nd Movement, 2015. Courtesy of BALTIC 39.