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Exhibition view, Art Gene Open Prize, 2005

NW Open Prize 2005

In 2004 Art Gene decided to try and make our own contribution to a widely indentified need to showcase and raise the profile of artists across the North West of England and established the first NW Open Prize in 2005. Building on the success of this first Open Prize exhibition we later extended the remit to include artists from the North East for the Art Gene Open Prize 2007.

Carole Romaya, Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman were shortlisted for the NW Open Prize 2005 along with Ben Cove who was announced as the winner by Lucy Chen Zhou of the Chinese European Arts Centre, Xiamen, South China. Since 2005 each of these artists have continued to make significant contributions to the Visual Arts in the NW and beyond.

Lucy Chen Zhou joined the selection panel during a period in residence at Art Gene supported by Visiting Arts and the British Council. Art Gene’s links with Lucy later resulted in, Out of Place an Exhibition of Chinese artists work at Art Gene which addressed the massive impact of capitalist economic developments in China and shed light on our own situation.

Following an open call for entries, Art Gene received around a hundred submissions from artists from which thirty works by twenty artists were selected for the exhibition. The Selection Panel short-listed three artists’ work for the Prize, works by Ben Cove, Rushton and Tyman, Manchester and Carole Romaya, Lancaster

Artist Ben Cove of Manchester was announced as the Winner of the N.W. Open Prize during the Private View held on 14th October at the Art Gene Gallery, in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria.

Ben Cove was presented with the prize by Chen Zhou, Director of the Chinese European Art Centre in Xaimen, South China.

“It’s great, I never thought I would win. I’m really looking forward to the residency at Art Gene, It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop some new work.”

Ben Cove

The selection panel were particularly struck by Ben Cove’s three paintings; Superman’s First Love, Super Manor and Lori Falls for Clarke.

Painted on board in acrylic and household gloss with wheels attached, they make bold, striking and witty personal statements referencing wheelchair use and the comic book superhero.


“Its an uncompromising exhibition bringing new work to new audiences in Barrow, a testament to the quality of art being produced by local and regional artists including painting, sculpture, print, mixed media, video works, and a nice line in legs…wooden table legs and taxidermy bird legs!”

Maddi Nicholson, Artist co-founder of Art Gene

Symphony of Love, by Lisa Ashcroft
Cephalopod, by Adrian Pritchard. Paint on Canvas
Seven Minutes of Flight, by Samantha Donnelly, 2005. Biro pen on paper
Sea of Stories, by Susan Daltry. Print
Superman’s First Love, 2002, SuperManor, 2002, and Lori Falls for Clarke, 2001 by Ben Cove
In Advance of a Broken Heart, by Trevor Avery, 2005. Readymade

Selection Panel

Chen Zhou, Director of The Chinese European Art Centre, South China.
Paul Moss, Artist and Curator,
Judith King Freelance Curator,
Stuart Bastik Artist / co-Founder Director, Art Gene.
Maddi Nicholson Artist / co-Founder Director, Art Gene.


Lisa Ashcroft
Trevor Avery
Margaret James Barber
Bernie Blackburn
Ben Cove
Susan Dalty
Matthew Davies
Samantha Donnelly
Gary Leddington
Brendan Lyons
Lisa Mee
Adrian Pritchard
Michael Rollins
Carole Romaya
Ian Sloan
Rushton & Tyman
Patricia Townsend
Michael Ward
Steve Wharton
Gary James Williams

Image gallery below:
Street Lamps (Midnight), by Carole Romaya. Acrylic on corrugated polycarbonate
Cinema Broken Down, by Steve Wharton. DVD
Full Circle, by Patricia Townsend. DVD
Head 1, by Michael Rollins, 2005. Unfired Clay (tiny head on a large wall)
Free Poster, (stack of) by Rushton & Tyman. Printed poster
Legs and co., by Ian Sloan
Image below (footer)
Chen Zhou awards the NW Open Prize, 2005 to Ben Cove