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Bushfire triptych is this year's Basil Sellers people’s choice winner

Charred leaves falling from the sky. They were a potent portent of last summer’s bushfires, and one captured by artist Karyn Thompson after her Verona property, south of Cobargo, came under attack on New Year’s Eve. Her triptych Portents captures views of burning ridgelines viewed from her property homestead, each panel overlaid with one of the “charred leaves that spiralled from the sky that afternoon”.

Above: The triptych Portents by Karyn Thompson has won the people’s choice award for the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2020.  

Above: Karyn Thompson in her studio at Verona, south of Cobargo

The large artwork has resonated with 2,300 plus visitors to the Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition, taking out the people’s choice award after voting closed on Sunday.

“I’m honoured and delighted,” Ms Thompson said.

Portents was not so much about what was happening at the time but capturing the feeling. The positive response means so much to me – how it has resonated with so many other people, their stories, their experiences.”

Ms Thompson said she began the work in early January but it took a while to finish it.

“I wanted to convey the story but was feeling unsure of how to proceed,” she said.

“I think art is an important part of reflecting on and responding to life – life’s difficulties and joys.”

Ms Thompson said she moved to the area in 2015, first to Quaama then to the historic property Avalon at Verona. Ms Thompson and her partner stayed to defend their home on New Year’s Eve.

“It is a very old property established in 1908. We have six acres surrounded by dairy farming – some of which made up the original property.”

Eurobodalla Council’s arts coordinator Indi Carmichael congratulated Ms Thompson, saying the 2020 Basil Sellers Art Prize had drawn an incredible array of talent this year.

“As ever, the people’s choice award was hotly contested,” Ms Carmichael said.

“Two other works came in close but the powerful symbols Karyn captured in Portents really struck a chord with viewers.

“As an interesting aside, Karyn also worked as project architect with Munns Sly Moore Architects on the Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre, home of the art prize, helping to develop the building’s design.”

The Basil Sellers Art Prize runs at the Bas until 4pm on Sunday 7 November. Find the virtual tour of the show, artists’ profiles and prize winners at

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