I’m a painter and my portrait of a Preston woman will be on display in the National Portrait Gallery

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A painting featuring a young woman from Preston is to be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery after winning a prestigious competition.

Manchester-based fine artist, Peter Davis, has beat nearly 2000 artists from 62 countries to make it into one of the most prestigious portrait painting competitions in the world - with a painting featuring Fahima Patel, a former Penwortham Girls’ and Cardinal Newman pupil.

Peter’s hyperreal painting, called “Stereo (diptych)”, is made up of two portraits of the Preston based graphic designer, one of Fahmia in a black hijab and the other in a white one.

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Stereo (diptych) has now been selected for the Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery with all winners set to be on display between Thursday, July 11 to Sunday, October 27.

Artist Peter Davis and Preston based grahpic designer Fahima Patel with Stereo (diptych)Artist Peter Davis and Preston based grahpic designer Fahima Patel with Stereo (diptych)
Artist Peter Davis and Preston based grahpic designer Fahima Patel with Stereo (diptych) | submit

How did the painting come to be?

Peter, who is a creative director at the marketing agency, Uppb2b, where Fahima works said: “I've known Fahima for a couple of years and the first couple of times I met her, I was just really struck by all the different coloured hijabs that she wore. She's a really fun character so I asked if she would be up to having her portrait painted and she was!”

When thinking about a concept, Peter decided he wanted to paint Fahima twice to explore “how the different hijabs changed her appearance”, explaining “once I saw her in a white hijab, and then another time, she was wearing a black hijab and she came across so differently.”

Peter added: “There's also something called chiaroscuro, a 17th century painting technique about extreme lighting which I thought would be really interesting to use because how something is lit can completely alter the way you perceive it.

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“So we played around with different hijabs and backgrounds and ultimately, it's ended up in this two panel painting. The painting’s called stereo which alludes to the sense of two and double.”

In total Fahima sat for an afternoon whilst Peter took hundreds of photos and then he spent another 60 hours completing the painting.

Stereo (diptych) depicts Fahima twice in different hijabs with different lighting. [The white border is not part of the painting.]Stereo (diptych) depicts Fahima twice in different hijabs with different lighting. [The white border is not part of the painting.]
Stereo (diptych) depicts Fahima twice in different hijabs with different lighting. [The white border is not part of the painting.] | submit

What does Fahima think of the painting?

UCLan graduate Fahima, who is also a junior creative at Uppb2b, told the Post: “Having your portrait painted once is really special, but having a painting of you twice, side by side, is a bit overwhelming. Seeing every facial feature painted in so much detail is incredible, Peter’s done a very good job.

“I especially love the way he’s done the folds in the hijab fabric. It’s also interesting how my different coloured hijabs make me look different, and that’s something I’d never particularly thought about before.

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“Not only does the painting give hijab the recognition it deserves but also young Muslim girls and women who wear the hijab. I'm so excited to see the portrait on display. 

What has Peter said about the work featuring in the gallery?

Peter said: “I feel honoured that mine is one of the paintings chosen…this is the first time I will have work displayed in the National Portrait Gallery so this is the biggest feather in my cap so far. 

“I'm excited about the fact that it's this painting, to be honest, because it feels very contemporary. There's a lot of discussion surrounding the hijab around the world - about what it means and it's a strong symbol of religious pride but it brings out lots of reaction. Plus Fahima’s a fab person so I'm glad that I managed to paint her.

“This will also be the first time that this portrait has been shown. The public’s interpretation of this two-panel painting is an important part of its narrative, so I’m really looking forward to finding out what people see.”

The HSF Portrait Award exhibition is on at the National Portrait Gallery in London, from Thursday, 11 July to Sunday, October 27.

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