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Artists Wassily Kandinsky
Leonardo da Vinci
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About Painting

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

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Mercury Prize: Self Esteem and Little Simz lead race for album of the year

Feb 16,2020 8:26 am

Rap star Little Simz and art-pop singer Self Esteem are favourites to win the Mercury Prize for album of the year.

Self Esteem, aka Rotherham-born Rebecca Lucy Taylor, is the bookmakers' tip for her razor sharp second album, Prioritise Pleasure.

Little Simz is a close second for Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, a hip-hop coming of age tale delivered with a cinematic sweep.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday.

Other nominees for the prestigious award include Harry Styles, Sam Fender and indie newcomers Wet Leg, alongside lesser-known names like jazz musician Fergus McCreadie and rock duo Nova Twins.

Welsh singer Gwenno is recognised for Tresor, an album sung almost entirely in Cornish, which reflects on her experiences of motherhood.

The shortlist is completed by soul singer Joy Crookes, postmodern punks Yard Act, London rapper Kojey Radical and actress Jessie Buckley, who is nominated for a collaborative album with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.

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‘I'm overwhelmed,' says Mercury nominee Joy Crookes

All the acts will perform at the prize ceremony, with the exception of Styles, who is in the middle of a sold-out US tour. However, a filmed live performance will be shown to celebrate his number one album, Harry's House.

The ceremony will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC 6 Music, with the winner announced shortly before 22:00 BST. 6 Music will also play the winner's album in full on Thursday night.

Judges for this year's prize include such musicians as Jamie Cullum, Anna Calvi, Loyle Carner and Lanterns On The Lake's Hazel Wilde, alongside a panel of broadcasters and critics. Jeff Smith, head of music at Radio 2 and 6 Music, will chair the deliberations.

Rock critic Will Hodgkinson, who is one of this year's judges, took the unusual step of in Tuesday's edition of The Times

He said Styles' album was delivered with " real sophistication and flair" but was unlikely to win the £25,000 prize " because he's such a big star that [it] won't mean a great deal".

Sam Fender's " literary sensibility" works in his favour, he added, but his " resolutely traditional" songwriting is likely to deter judges. Self Esteem is more aligned with the Mercury Prize's ethos, thanks to her " clever, arty" compositions.

" The self-obsession and synthetic pop production could prove a bit of a barrier, " he added.

Hodgkinson will have to argue those points with his fellow judges on Thursday, with deliberations taking place during the ceremony itself.

Until then, here's all you need to know about this year's nominees.

Fergus McCreadie - Forest Floor

" The approach is jazz but the music is folk, " says Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie of his third album, Forest Floor. Like its predecessors Cairn (the Gaelic term for a stone mound) and Turas (pilgrimage), the record is rooted in the natural world, with tracks like Morning Moon and The Unfurrowed Field exploring how the changing seasons affect the ecosystem.

McCreadie, twice winner of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician Of The Year, is capable of incredible, intricate keyboard runs. But he mostly plays with lyrical restraint, drawing out beautiful, singable melodies that effortlessly evoke the beauty of the Caledonian forest.

The critics said: " His music may be rooted in the Scottish landscape but Fergus McCreadie is a world class act. " []

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Gwenno - Tresor

Welsh singer-songwriter Gwenno Saunders has had a varied career - from starring in Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance, to singing with retro girl group The Pipettes, before settling into a rewarding psych-folk groove as a solo artist.

Tresor, her third album, is sung almost entirely in Cornish, a language she learned as a child from her father, the poet Tim Saunders. Its dreamy, gentle songs are largely a celebration of motherhood, sketched in layered harmonies and languid instrumentals that recall the French pop wave of the 1960s.

The critics said: " A thrilling psych-pop journey well worth the four-year wait. " []

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Harry Styles - Harry's House

A bright sunshiny collection of effortless pop, Harry Styles third album is also the first Harry Styles album where he sounds truly comfortable as a solo artist. The scat singing and synth horns on Music For A Sushi Restaurant capture his quirky charisma; while Boyfriends' critique of toxic masculinity is the song every girl wishes Harry would sing to her while he painted their toenails.

Unusually for a big pop album, Styles' voice is mellow and restrained, tapping into his love of Fleetwood Mac and Ram-era Paul McCartney for stylistic cues, instead of belting out the hooks, Adele-style. It makes the album less immediate than you might expect, but repeated listens pay off.

The critics said: " He's pulled off the neat trick of making his music at once elegant and more refined but also warmer and more intimate. " []

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Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler - For All Our Days That Tear The Heart

Two years ago, Oscar-nominated actress Jessie Buckley and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler were strangers. But Buckley's manager had a hunch they'd get along, and orchestrated a meeting. The result is a mysterious, brooding album that embraces everything from Celtic folk to Americana, anchored by Buckley's bewitching vocals.

She can be smoky, intimate, yearning and quietly devastated, with a nuanced, elegant delivery that echoes Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling.

Highlights include the haunting Beautiful Regret and The Eagle and the Dove - a beautiful, flamenco-flavoured ballad whose lyrics reference the changing seasons, surging tides, wild beasts, love, faith and lust.

The critics said: " Buckley is certainly no luvvie on leave. This is, at times, a dazzling album. " []

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Joy Crookes - Skin

" It's a genuine reflection of being a human being, " says Joy Crookes of her debut album, Skin, that laces coming-of-age stories with social commentary and old-school soul melodies.

It's a rich storybook of experience - honouring her Irish-Bengali heritage on 19th Floor; tackling anti-immigration sentiment on Kingdom; celebrating an ex-partner on When You Were Mine; and unravelling an experience of sexual assault on Unlearn You.

Crookes' smoky, jazz-tinged delivery has been compared to Amy Winehouse - and for once the comparison is earned. But her self-aware lyrics and experimental sonics mean she deserves to be treated as an artist in her own right.

The critics said: " If the point of a debut album is getting to know an artist, then Skin is a masterclass. " []

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Kojey Radical - Reason To Smile

The first voice you hear on Kojey Radical's debut album is his mother. Speaking in the Ghanian dialect Twi, she gives the east London rapper some advice on becoming a father: " Keep focused, do good, this is what your son will see. And it will guide him. "

Fatherhood informs the entire album - as the 29-year-old looks at the people, situations and music that made him who he is; and the lessons he wants to pass on to his son, Zach. With assistance from Ella May, Wretch 32 and Kelis he cooks up a compelling celebration of blackness, family, love and hard work, set to an infectiously sunny blend of psychedelic funk and soul.

The critics said: " Not just an album, but a beaming victory lap. " []

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Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Contrary to the title, Little Simz is bursting with confidence on her fourth album, which takes you on a journey through her family background and artistic struggles over a funky, orchestral brand of hip-hop.

On Little Q, she raps from the perspective of her cousin, who was stabbed in the chest in south London. The moving I Love You / I Hate You, meanwhile, is addressed to the father who abandoned her when she was 11. " Never thought my parent would give me my first heartbreak, " she observes.

The star's laid-back delivery balances the sadness with empathy and understanding, and the music pulses with an unstoppable life force.

The critics said: " The kind of project that cements her status as one of the most talented artists of her generation. " []

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Nova Twins - Supernova

The London-based duo of Amy Love and Georgia South once described their band as " two mixed race girls who shout through distorted mics and play gnarly bass riffs". In other words, expect noise. . and lots of it.

Their second album is appropriately in-your-face, especially in the lyrics, which rip into the racist and sexist critics who've questioned their place in rock music. " Blacker than the leather that's holding our boots together, " Amy raps on Cleopatra. " If you rock a different shade, we come under the same umbrella. "

Puzzles is an electro-punk anthem to lust; while KMB tells a cartoonishly gory story of murdering a boyfriend. And when it all threatens to get too heavy, the band sweeten the pill with a series of sweetly addictive pop melodies.

The critics said: " Aptly titled, Supernova sees Nova Twins burning brighter than ever with their gloriously self-made sound. " []

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Sam Fender - Seventeen Going Under

Like his hero, Bruce Springsteen, Sam Fender's sympathies lie with the working men and women who scrape a living in the face of what he calls neglect from an uncaring government.

On his second album, that means turning a spotlight on his hometown, North Shields, and the havoc that deprivation wreaks - from broken homes to drug deals via pub fights and political alienation.

And yet there's a thread of hope in his tenacious vocals and the insistent saxophone that punctuates the record's more anthemic moments. The end result is an album that's both socially compelling and primed for a stadium singalong.

The critics said: " A towering piece of work. " []

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Self Esteem - Prioritise Pleasure

Unapologetically direct, Rebecca Lucy Taylor's second album as Self Esteem is a battle cry for fed-up women everywhere. She slams down sexism and celebrates femininity, confronts her own toxic behaviour and that of others, and refuses to succumb to other people's expectations of womanhood.

It's all delivered with a mixture of righteous anger and knowing humour. " When I'm buried in the ground I won't be able to make your birthday drinks but I will still feel guilty, " she deadpans on the self-help anthem I Do This All The Time.

The music, meanwhile, is as big as her feelings: Drums pound, choirs scream, synthesizers explode. It's all hugely cathartic and intensely physical, as her sold-out live shows have proved.

The critics said: " With its witty authenticity and propulsive rhythms, Prioritise Pleasure is a glorious stirring manifesto on female self-worth. " []

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Wet Leg - Wet Leg

Hailing from the Isle Of Wight, Wet Leg were formed by musicians Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers after their respective solo careers failed to take off.

Almost immediately, they hit upon a rich vein of surreal-but-catchy indie rock. Their first single, an innuendo-laden ode to the Chaise Longue, became an immediate viral hit, racking up millions of streams in the middle of 2021.

It's the sort of song that rings the " one-hit-wonder" alarm bell, but Wet Leg proved everyone wrong on their debut album, which took that dry humour and injected it into a brisk and inventive collection of indie disco anthems.

The critics said: " Hooks for days, cheek for weeks. " []

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Yard Act - The Overload

Acerbic and mischievous, Yard Act's skittery post-punk anthems are peppered with wry observations on post-Brexit Britain.

Frontman James Smith populates his songs with white-collar crooks and red-faced racists who declare: " If you don't challenge me on anything, you'll find I'm actually very nice" - painting a picture of a country divided by wealth and suspicion.

But there's an undercurrent of empathy, especially on Tall Poppies, which tells the story of a handsome football prodigy who never pursued his dream. And by the closing track, 100% Endurance, Smith is observing " the key to peace lies within us". Perhaps things don't have to be so bleak, after all.

The critics said: " A hugely impressive debut bubbling with sardonic wit, wisdom, anger, and compassion. " []

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