Every creator desires to be original, especially in the art world. Originality and innovation are two ideas that drive the creative industry, yet it’s arguably just as important to learn from the past. Recently, interest in the art historical past has grown; artists and institutions are increasingly turning to the Old Masters for inspiration. There are now numerous examples of the contemporary being inspired by the past, including the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), where works by Tintoretto were exhibited alongside contemporary artworks. 

The Young Masters Art Prize was set up in 2008 by the owner of a successful art gallery, Cynthia Corbett, with the aim of celebrating these contemporary artists who pay homage to the past. This year, Iranian artist Azita Moradkhani won both the Young Masters Art and Emerging Woman Art Prizes, while Lucille Lewin took home the Grand Ceramics Prize. Azita’s delicate pencil drawings of lingerie, which won her two prizes, bring together traditional technical skill with contemporary socio-political ideas. She uses a mix of source images drawn from journalism, iconography and historical paintings, which present a disrupted narrative of nations and art.

For her prize-winning ceramics, Lucille Lewin researched 18th century European porcelain and its origins in alchemy. Her pieces, which combine porcelain with other media including glass and salt crystals, reference the Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities and the early microscopic photographs of the natural world by Karl Blosfeldt.

The Young Masters Emerging Woman Art Prize was a new category this year, and women made up two-thirds of the entries and won all three prizes. This goes to show that while women may not have had a place in Renaissance art, today some of the most exciting contemporary artists are female.

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