UKNA Award finalist Wesley George secures bursary and partnership with 4C Hotel Group 

During the lead-up to the Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award 2022, we chat to 2021 shortlisted artist Wesley George about his new bursary from 4C Hotel Group, as part of UKNA and 4C Hotel Group’s new partnership.

Self-taught artist Wesley George’s work focuses on portraiture, featuring young black individuals, mainly his friends and family, against bold single colour backgrounds. Wesley presents his subjects in a candid and uplifting manner, seeking to shed light on overlooked narratives of black subjects throughout history and society.  “I want to place a clear emphasis on individuality, exploring the complexity of nuances of black identity in an engaging and relatable way.  The unique ways people use clothing to express their individuality, their personal quirks, this is a really important part of my practice.” 

In 2019 Wesley George made the life-changing decision to take a step away from his Law degree to pursue his passion for painting.  “It was important for me to take that leap because it allowed me to realise and recognize that my passion was art.”

After a pop-up show in a Shoreditch pub in 2019, Wesley made it his goal to exhibit in a gallery space, and during the global pandemic, he took time to develop and reflect on his work and explore different avenues to exhibit his work. Encouraged by 2019 shortlisted artist Linnet Panashe Rubabya, Wesley entered and was shortlisted for the Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award 2022.  How did that feel? “That all my hard work on the application had paid off!  And I was excited to show my work in the beautiful space at the Saatchi Gallery.  When I saw my pieces and how they were arranged in the gallery (by curator Garth Gartrix) they just looked amazing.”

At the launch of the Awards, Wesley met Al Karim Nathoo, CEO of 4C Hotel Group. “I was enjoying talking about my work and practice and it seemed to really resonate with him.”  An exciting new partnership between 4C Hotel Group and UK New Artists was launched in the spring of 2022 with Wesley the first recipient of the annual 4C Hotel Group Bursary.  Managed by UKNA the bursary offers a 12-month programme of support and significant investment for one new artist per year, over three years.  

For Wesley the bursary will provide valuable financial support for him to develop his practice.  “Having a separate studio space and the freedom to invest in paint, canvases and resources will enable me to experiment with scale and materials, my parameters are less restricted.”

The partnership also includes a solo exhibition at Canopy by Hilton London City (check with Laura), owned and managed by 4C Hotel Group. This opportunity is an exciting one for Wesley “It is not a gallery space and there will be so many different and diverse people from all walks of life passing through, a lot more eyes on my work.  Which is what you want as an artist, you don’t want to be limited to one audience.”