Young Northern artist wins prestigious award

The Northern Art Prize and it's £16,500 purse went to Sheffield's Haroon Mirza last night – making the artist the youngest and the first Yorkshire-based winner of the award.

Mirza, 33, was announced the winner by broadcaster, author and 2010 Northern Art Prize (NAP) judge Mark Lawson in front of 700 guests in Leeds.

Winning the prize was extra special for the Sheffield artist because last year he failed to make it to the final four after securing a place on the longlist of 23.

"I guess it was my year," said Mirza.

"It was nerve-wracking, because you really don't know until your name is called out if you've won. It was pretty terrifying."

Mirza's installation, Anthemoessa, draws on Greek myth and used Edward Armitage's 1888 painting The Siren, taken from the permanent collection of Leeds Art Gallery, along with Islamic influences including the azaan, or the call to prayer, as part of the light, sound and image installation.

Mirza said: "The work asks questions about religious structure and its relationship to death.

"It doesn't provide any answers, because that's not what I want my work to do, I want it to ask questions."

Now in its fourth year, the NAP has become a well established fixture in the arts calendar.

Initially set up by Leeds based artist Pippa Hale in a bid to give artists the belief that they can stay in the North, resisting the art world's pull towards London, the judges of this year's prize said its stature is impressive and growing.

Mirza's installation was chosen as the winner against the work of fellow artists Alec Finlay, Lubaina Himid and David Jacques – although Himid won the public vote which ran on the internet since the opening of the NAP exhibition in November last year.

The exhibition is set to continue until February 6 at Leeds Art Gallery.