Art Student wins £5,000 award and exhibition in Shoreditch 

Irene Montemurro Pic: Royal Drawing School


An art student from Hackney Wick has won £5,000 and exhibition space in Shoreditch Gallery to allow her to continue her work as an artist in London.

Irene Montemurro, 24, an outgoing MA Drawing Year student, has been awarded the prestigious Sir Denis Mahon Award for her exceptional final portfolio at the Royal Drawing School in Shoreditch.

The Sir Denis Mahon Award is presented to one postgraduate student on the course to enable them to continue their practice each year. In addition to the £5,000, the award includes space and time for a solo exhibition in a reputable local gallery. This year, the exhibition will be held at Shoreditch Gallery. 

Montemurro, born in Switzerland, now living in Hackney Wick told ELL of her plans for the award: “The idea is just to help fund my exhibition, so I don’t have to work full time and can still afford rent, studio rent and materials.  I normally use very basic, simple sketch books and pens, I like the idea that my work is very sincere and immediate because I can do it wherever I am.”  

The final portfolio which won Montemurro this award was made up of ink drawings completed in a sketchbook and transferred to frames and projections to make them more immersive and exciting.  

“Normally they are intimate scenes taken from real life or memory. They are very zoomed in and tactile. I like the idea of creating a narrative universe through my work. They are very personal and somehow autobiographic.” 

Smettila Pic: Irene Montemurro

Montemurro is now working on her exhibition for Shoreditch Gallery which will be shown in the beginning of 2020. Given this opportunity and funding she is considering branching out from the format of her final portfolio.  

“I’d like to work with some bigger canvases, textiles, all options I will go through. Smaller work is easier to control, bigger work is very hit and miss.  I tend to look at people like Raymond Pettibon and Robert Crumb, I look at medieval and renaissance art, but I’d say that my main inspiration is music, literature and film.  What I’d like to do with images is create the same type of narrative power that can come through a novel, an album or a song.” 

Montemurro completed a BA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Art before attending the Royal Drawing school and explained that she always had a passion for drawing but didn’t realise she could make a career out of it until recently: “I didn’t always know it was possible, but I’ve always been passionate about it.”  

As winner of this year’s award, Montenurro provides next year’s class with advice: “I guess just keep making whatever feels more urgent and gives yousatisfaction.  Be very open to things that are not just visuals, it’s important to take inspiration from a lot of different environmental mediums. Make art that needs to be done and make yourself heard.” 

Summer of 2018 Pic: Irene Montemurro

This is just the start of Montemurro’s artistic influence in London, as she joins two of her classmates later this week to create a mural on Great Eastern Street: “They are some of the best artist I’ve ever met and I’m really excited to be working with them. One of the things our art has in common is the representation of the female figure so that will probably come through on the mural.  We will be playing around and seeing what happens, but it will be fun.”  

The Royal Drawing School prides itself in being “Open to all” as it offers MA-level postgraduate programmes in drawing and fine art on full scholarships.  It runs over 250 different full and part-time drawing course each year for adults and children of all abilities. Find out more here.

For more of Irene Montemurro’s work click here.



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