“Winning the Shirley Hannan would be a dream come true” – Bermagui’s Bethany Thurtell

Jess Mara SA – Embrace (self-portrait with daughter). Photo: Supplied.

Four local artists have been selected as finalists in the nation’s most loved and richest realistic portrait prize, the $50,000 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award.

Thirty-five finalist in total have been chosen from a record number of entrants from across the country.

Bega Valley Regional Gallery Director, Iain Dawson, praised the quality of entries.

“This year’s entries were our strongest ever and audiences will see works from past winners, Archibald Prize finalists, and many of Australia’s best-known portraitists,” Mr Dawson says.

Bermagui’s Bethany Thurtell – Subjective. Photo: Supplied.

The selection committee was made up of Brisbane-based gallery director, Edwina Corlette; influential art collector and architect, Ross Bonthorne; Alaska Projects Director, Sebastian Goldspink; and International Art Services Business Development Manager, Alison Guthrie; along with members of the Hannan family.

The four local finalists are: Bega’s Tim Moorhead with Cincuenta Man Self Portrait, Bermagui’s Bethany Thurtell with Subjective, Eden’s Joseph O’Gara with Weary Warrior, and Bibbenlukes’s Lucy Culliton with Jamie.

“Winning the Shirley Hannan would be the pinnacle of my painting career so far. It would be a dream come true to use a cliche,” Ms Thurtell says.

“Portraits are my favourite subject.”

Bega’s Tim Moorhead – Cincuenta Man Self Portrait. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Thurtell has lived in the Bega Valley for the last 16 years, “and painting and drawing for as long as I can remember. My day job is a teacher,” she says.

A semi-finalist last year in the $150,000 Moran Portrait Prize and a past prize winner in the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize, Ms Thurtell has entered the Shirley Hannan for the last 10 years, but this is the first time she has been selected as a finalist.

“My reaction to the news? Pure joy!” she says.

“I have been painting portraits by commission for many years, [this year for the Hannan] I entered two portraits of my daughter.

“They are both life-size oil portraits showing two different moods, one thoughtful and one quietly happy.”

It was the more thoughtful of the two selected by the judges.

Bibbenlukes’s Lucy Culliton – Jamie. Photo: Supplied.

“My daughter’s name is Elise and she is at Wollongong Uni completing her PhD in Education. It’s the portrait she likes best as well!” Ms Thurtell says.

“I have been painting her portrait for many years, in many poses showing many different moods.

“This portrait is part of a series of strong, resilient women that have sat for me. She is a fantastic supporter of my art and is always willing to sit for me as I try out new compositions.”

The four locals in amongst a strong field of 35 cements the region’s reputation as a hotspot for artistic prowess.

The 2018 finalists are:

Sally Ryan NSW – Yassmin Kim Leutwyler NSW – Jess Red and Green Melissa Ritchie NSW – Game Face Lucy Culliton NSW – Jamie Jess Mara SA – Embrace (self-portrait with daughter) Claire Bridge VIC – Brave not perfect Carla Fletcher VIC – John Butler Kerry McInnis NSW – Mantelpiece Treasure Lisa Axiotis VIC – Reverence Bronwyn Hill QLD – Segments Ellie Kammer SA – Caitlin Stasey, Herself Genevieve Gadd VIC – Portrait of Alicia Christine Wrest Smith VIC – Portrait of Robert Hague Marie Mansfield NSW – The Hyper-realist Matteo Bernasconi NSW – Sweat and Blood, portrait of Robert Whittaker Adoni Astrinakis VIC – Saroo Nick Stathopoulos NSW – I recognise you Peter Smeeth NSW – I am watching you 2 Ross Potter WA – 10 Years Phil James NSW – David James Griggs Geoff Lonergan NSW – Martin Cooper – My life in ruins Sean Hutton NSW – A Meditation on peace Kevin Goldenbrut VIC – Liberty Joseph O’Gara NSW – Weary warrior Warren Crossett VIC – My firstborn (Rebecca) Mathew Lynn NSW – á présent – Justine Ndayi Alun Rhys Jones NSW – Ian Tim Moorhead NSW – Cincuenta Man Self Portrait Ross Townsend ACT – Always Creating Marcus Callum NSW – The Green Man Todd Simpson VIC – Nice Garry Julian Aubrey Smith VIC – Assailed Tsering Hannaford SA – Portrait of Mrs Singh Bethany Thurtell NSW – Subjective Daevid Anderson WA – Sheila Click HERE to see each entry

The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award is a non-acquisitive prize for realistic portraiture held biennially at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Mrs Hanna, was a gifted portraitist in her own right and well known in the Bega Valley as a generous patron of the arts.

Eden’ Joseph O’Gara – Weary Warrior. Photo: Supplied.

The Award her name now takes has its roots as the John Balmain National Award for Portraits and Figure Drawing which Mrs Hannan funded from 1993. She re-energised the idea in 2002 and substantially increased first prize to $15,000.

Before her death in 2005, Mrs Hannan doubled the purse to $30,000. In 2012, Peter Hannan, himself a talented photographer, paid further tribute to his mum’s memory adding an extra $20,000, taking first prize to $50,000.

The Shirley Hannan Trust establish by Mrs Hannan’s husband Brian Settle sustains the Award as a biennial, national portrait prize with a focus on accurate depiction.

Peter Smeeth NSW – I am watching you 2. Photo: Supplied.

Works selected as finalists must depict their subjects accurately and demonstrate a sound skill and knowledge of drawing and painting technique. The award was established with a specific and unremitting realist bent, which continues in 2018.

The exhibition will launch on Friday, October 26 when the 2018 guest judge, art critic and broadcaster, Dr Andrew Frost, will select the winner.

You can view all finalists on the Bega Valley Regional Gallery website.

Ross Townsend ACT – Always Creating. Photo: Supplied. ****** This article first appeared in The RiotACT

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