The winner of the 2020 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award has been announced as Western Australian artist Cameron Richards.
His acrylic on canvas artwork Miss Priya Premkumar attracted the acclaim of the National Portrait Gallery director and guest judge Karen Quinlan, AM who made the announcement online due to the COVID-19 situation on Friday night.
Ms Quinlan was impressed with the quality of all 38 finalists, but reserved glowing praise for the winner.
"The artist really captured a great portrait, it reflects on two different worlds and the challenge that Priya would have had juggling expectations of her family," she said.
"I feel like I engaged with her and in a sense could almost talk with her.
"Everything is working and it's definitely the winning portrait in the show."
Mr Richards, who has won $50,000 in the award for his work, has no formal art education and until now has used painting as a creative outlet that contrasts with his qualifications in physiotherapy.
He said the portrait explores his strong first impression of Priya who he describes as his superior at work and life.
"Three years into our friendship, the creation of this piece has been incredibly positive and admittedly tedious," Mr Richards said.
"My understanding of how Priya has come to be has deepened while painting as I have explored the complexities of her life: Australian, Sri Lankan and personal ideations, all intermingled and juxtaposed."
The biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award celebrates realistic portraiture in memory of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery's (BVRG) eponymous patron.
Ms Hannan, a gifted portraitist, was well-known in the Bega Valley as a staunch supporter and generous patron of the arts.
BVRG director Iain Dawson said the great esteem this award is held remains clear, with 250 entries being received and all Australian states and territories represented.
"Despite the incredibly challenging year, a fascinating field of works appear in this exhibition, with the strong trend in entries during the COVID-19 lockdown being toward artist's self-portraits and portraits of their close family, many of which are represented here," he said.
"There are wonderful representations of distinguished Australians, alongside local heroes and quiet studies, that allow us to visit personal relationships and private lives.
"Huge thanks go to our guest judge, Karen Quinlan. Karen's choice of winner in 2020 is an important recognition of ability and skill and we are excited to follow Cameron on his career journey."
The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award will be on display at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery, Bega from Monday, July 27 to September 11.
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