THE 2013 New Lights Art Prize for emerging northern artists has been awarded to Liverpool painter Josie Jenkins at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate.

Josie, who receives £10,000 from arts patron Valeria Sykes, was judged to be the most exceptional talent with the most potential to succeed by a panel of independent judges that included contemporary printmaker Norman Ackyroyd CBE, co-ordinator of the 2013 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. She also will receive mentoring and business advice.

An exhibition of all the shortlisted works, New Lights 2013, will run at the Mercer gallery, in Swan Road, until November 17.

New Lights’ chief executive, Annette Petchey, of Ripon, says: “The judges could see real talent in Josie’s painting and composition in her work Geograph Collage With Paper Clips and felt she would have the ability to apply her talent in a way that would enable her artistic practice to support her.“ 

This year’s judges, Norman Ackroyd, Mercer Art Gallery curator for art Jane Sellars and writer, lecturer and former gallery owner Chris Wadsworth, were tasked with the difficult decision of short-listing 50 artworks for the exhibition from 298 entries.

“I selected artists based on new ideas and their original way of seeing,” says Chris. “In my 25 years of running a gallery at Cockermouth, many thousands of images have passed before my eyes. I’m looking for that extra quality that makes me stop and think, possibly smile, but above all something that gives me a buzz – a frisson of excitement and anticipation of what might hatch.”

The panel chose five Yorkshire artists for further prizes, including self-taught Pickering painter Diana Armstrong, who received the £2,500 sponsor’s award from Valeria Sykes for her work The Fox.

Christopher Hall, from Leeds, was awarded the Swinton Foundation Prize for Elegy II; illustrator Karolina Szymkiewicz, from Leeds, the tig Prize for best representational work for Dance Drawing No 7; and Shipley printmaker Sarah Harris, the Curzon Ripon Prize, for Cow And Calf With Foxgloves, shared with Northumberland artist Gina Brown for Like Your Mother.

In addition, Matthew Child, from Warrington, won the Biscuit Factory Foundation Prize for 5 O’Clock Shadow and Emma Lloyd, from Cheshire, the £1,000 Norman Ackroyd Printing Prize for her text piece Tameidiau Ohona’i.

The New Lights charity was formed in 2010 and aims to support emerging northern artists aged 25 to 35 to further their creative careers through a biannual exhibition. This year’s prize attracted entries from Leeds to Liverpool, Hull to Northumberland, from artists creating work in a variety of styles and media, ranging from the ancient techniques of wood engraving and etching to paintings, illustration and mixed media.

Chief executive Annette Petchey believes the North needs New Lights. “While the image of an artist living in a garret might be a romantic notion for some, the reality of not being able to sell really good work for enough money to provide the equivalent of a minimum wage is not much fun. It’s not going to encourage the Hockneys, Hepworths, Gormleys and Ackroyds of the future to stick at it,” she says.

“The cuts in spending have hit the North – per capita – two or three times as hard as the South; and cuts in arts funding, especially, feel like a message that we’d prefer to have the London and the South East as UK Ltd’s Art Quarter.

“That said, we should rely on private purchasers, sponsors and patrons for artistic development. We live in difficult times, and quite frankly, I agree that we should pay for hospitals, education and a number of other things that call on public funding before we fund the arts.”

Annette notes that the North does not have the density of population of the South, resulting in “the few excellent galleries we have being spaced wide apart”.

“There just isn’t the same opportunity to spend a day cruising a number of galleries as you might in London, and this translates into fewer people thinking that seeking out new artists in the area is a fruitful use of time: why spend days or weeks trailing around lots of small shows to find new artists when you can get on a train and see 20 galleries in a weekend?” she says.

“Fewer people looking means the work needs to be sold for less money just to keep things moving, buy more materials, juggle a bill or two.”

The internet is a great leveler, suggests Annette. “Once an artist has a decent reputation and following, it doesn’t matter where they live and the prices of works by established northern artists are comparable to their southern contemporaries,” she says.

“New Lights exists to give support to exceptional artists in the time before they step on to the level playing field. The North needs New Lights. Despite some views to the contrary, the North of England does give a frack.”

Look out for the work of three York participants in New Lights 2013: paper-cut artist Rosie Scott-Massie; portrait artist Hannah Ostapjuk and oil painter Philip Gurrey.

Gallery opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday; 2pm to 5pm. The closing time from November 1 to March is 4pm. Entry is free.