Sanctuary calls to Bega gallery visitors

Sanctuary, oil on linen, by Claire Bridge.

Sanctuary, oil on linen, by Claire Bridge.

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THE biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award has concluded with the announcement of the People’s Choice prize winner.

Melbourne-based figurative artist Claire Bridge won the $3000 prize with her portrait of her friend and actor, Medina Sumovic.

Bega Valley Regional Gallery curator Iain Dawson said the winning portrait, titled Sanctuary, was a clear favourite with visitors to the gallery.

“I’m not at all surprised by the results of the people’s choice award – our visitors overwhelmingly loved Claire’s sensitive and exquisitely realised portrait of her friend,” he said. 

“Claire is an amazingly talented artist, who will be presenting new works at the prestigious Melbourne Art Fair this coming August. 

“She has studied in New York, San Francisco and extensively throughout Europe, yet her style and sensibility remains uniquely Australian. 

“I have no doubt we will see Claire’s work again in the Shirley Hannan Portrait Award.”

Talking about her winning portrait, Bridge said Sanctuary tells of a cherished place - a space of internal reflection and also, with the symbolism of the floral chemise, speaks of our connection and reverence for the sanctuary to be found in the natural world. 

“A sanctuary is a place that is both a refuge and a place that is cherished, of quiet and intimate connection,” she said. 

“Medina is profoundly deaf, is a survivor of cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant which gave her what she calls a ‘second chance at life’.

“Her inner sanctuary becomes a place of quiet and sustaining power.

“Sanctuary talks about a kind of introspective listening that is both curious and full of intent. It is also about a state of being.” 

Mr Dawson said the closing of the 2014 Shirley Hannan award marked the beginning of the Hannan Gifted exhibition and the continued growth of a national award that is gaining in popularity both here and overseas.

“I’m thrilled by the support and close relationship the Hannan family is maintaining with the local community and our regional gallery.”

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