AN ARTIST from Darwen is having her work displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London after being shortlisted for an award.

At 21, Khushna Sulaman-Butt is also the youngest exhibitor shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award.

She is one of 53 artists to have a painting selected from almost 3,000 entries from 87 countries around the world.

Miss Sulaman-Butt studied at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy from 2008 to 2013 and was the first Aldridge student to gain a place at Oxford University graduating last year with a degree in fine art.

She said: "It's such an honour for me to have a painting hung alongside some of the best contemporary portrait painters, in the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Prize.

"To be selected was a huge shock as the gallery received around 3,000 entries from 87 countries.

"Even though I couldn't believe it, it is a dream that I have worked towards.

"When I was in year seven my teachers Mrs Klink and Mrs Anderson gave me a 2008 BP catalogue to inspire me and this gave me the incentive to work towards my dream of being an exhibitor at the NPG portrait prize."

She describes her ‘Society’ painting as a snapshot of modern life and culture.

She said: "Tension comes from the make-up of society, the categories and expectations it sets. I wanted to create stiffness and vulnerability in the painting and I used a variety of compositional techniques to achieve this."

The sitters in the portrait were all fellow students at Oxford University.

She said: "Not all of the sitters knew each other prior to the sitting.

"I intentionally chose people who had different types of relationships, some knew each other really well and were good friends, some were acquaintances and some had never met each other at all.

"I wanted to explore the vulnerability of being exposed in front of stranger.

"I believe that this translated very well into the painting and created ambiguity and suspense in the characters and intrigue into their relationship, or lack of."

Miss Sulaman-Butt, who now lives in London and returns to Darwen regularly, is currently working on a number of commissioned paintings and is artist in resident at Timber Yard, Soho.

The work will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery until September 24.