Australia’s best in portraiture on show in Canberra

The Darling Portrait Prize and The National Photographic Portrait Prize are both on view at the National Portrait Gallery, in Canberra now until Spring, wrapping up on Sunday 9 October.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize was awarded to Wayne Quilliam for his work Silent Strength. The judging panel said;

Everything about this portrait is exceptional. The composition, the contrast, the richness of the colours in the ochres and feathers, and also the sense of pride the subject is portraying – all of these layers and details carry such power in connecting the subject and his story with the audience.

The panel, comprised of Nick Moir, Sandra Bruce and the National Portrait Gallery’s Director of Collection and Exhibitions and Associate Curator Rebecca Ray, celebrated Adam Ferguson with a Highly Commended award for his portrait of Guatemalan migrant Carlos Soyos and his eight-year-old son Enderson.

In the image you can see the Father and Son hold the button to capture the image, as Ferguson said, ‘Through a collaborative process I attempted to give the migrants agency in their own representation and story’.

Adam Ferguson, Carlos Soyos, age 34, a migrant from Guatemala City, Guatemala and his son, Enderson Soyos, age 8, takes a portrait of himself and Enderson at the El Buen Samaritano migrants shelter in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

The Darling Portrait Prize features paintings and is a national prize for Australian portrait painting honouring the legacy of Mr L Gordon Darling AC CMG (1921-2015) who supported the much loved Gallery coming to be.

The winner for this year is Jaq Grantford for a self-portrait titled ‘2020’ which depicts the artists ‘mixed-feelings’ about lockdowns in Melbourne amid the pandemic, the judges praised the painter’s fine attention to detail, intensity of the gaze and provocative symbolism of hands clasped over the mouth.

Jaq Grantford, 2020

Judges Karen Quinlan AM, Director of the NPG, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London and Clothilde Bullen, Head of Indigenous Programs at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Chair of the National Association for the Visual Art felt the use of the hands in the image was impactful and could ‘reveal a sense of emotional conflict, and could certainly be read as a reference to the recent experiences of mask wearing and so becomes a gentle but clear nod to the global Covid phenomenon.’ Grantford mused that the work is a document of the past in more ways the one, as since it was painted she has undergone treatment for cancer.

We hope you go along and enjoy the works in person, taking note of the High Commendations awarded to Hong Fu who paints novelist Alex Miller, also with deft use of the symbolism of the hand, and Nicholas Hopwood’s portrait of his daughter Josephine, the artist was formerly a mechanic and as he turned to his practice more seriously is delighted to be included as a finalist in the exhibition. The inaugural ‘Art Handlers’ Award’ went to Jane Allan for Weight of the Mind’s Periapt, 2021.

Jane Allan, The Weight of the Mind’s Periapt

As we’ve linked clues to above, we suggest you to enhance your experience of the stories and artists on show by clicking through to these short but engaging videos of the artists speaking alongside their works and subjects! And, for more information about the two exhibitions check out this video where Bruce and Ray introduce the photography award, and speak about the new painting prize in an extended discussion here.