A painting inspired by the moment hundreds of Libyan refugees were rescued at sea has won a top art prize.
Refugee Rescue, created by driving instructor and amateur portrait artist Stephen Burgess, won the 2017 MS Amlin World Art Vote prize organised by National Open Art.
Burgess, from Buckinghamshire, was inspired by an image taken from an Italian Navy helicopter and said his painting “signifies the small degree of hope that hopefully exists in us all”.
The picture depicts, in miniature, the faces of the 307 refugees on the boat – a painstaking process that took the artist 53 hours over six weeks to complete.
Burgess, a member of the Refugee Support Network, said: “The boat had been at sea for six days yet the joy on people’s faces is undeniable.
“Lots of people have their faces turned to the sky, looking at the helicopter above them, and many have their hands raised.
“There is a real sense of relief to it – it’s the moment they realised they’ve been saved.”
The MS Amlin World Art Vote prize is part of the National Open Art competition (NOA).
Now in its 21st year, it is widely recognised as the UK’s top open art competition which exists to nurture both emerging and established artists in the UK and Ireland.
The winner is picked by the public, with people from 60 countries casting a total of 28,000 votes this year after viewing the entries online.
Adrian Britten, global director of communications at sponsor MS Amlin, said: “With submissions from across the UK and Ireland, we can see there is a strong desire for artists themselves to engage with a wider public, with established artists willing to pitch their work against amateurs in a public vote.”
:: Refugee Rescue will be exhibited at the 21st National Open Art Exhibition, which runs from November 17 to 26 at the Oxo Tower’s Bargehouse.