Blak Douglas wins $50,000 Kilgour Portrait Prize

Sydney-based artist Blak Douglas has won the 2019 Kilgour Portrait Prize, Newcastle Art Gallery’s annual award for figurative and portrait painting.

Chosen from among hundreds of entries and 30 finalists, the compelling 1.5m-square portrait of Australian actress and singer Ursula Yovich – Queen of her own stage – with its powerful composition and striking style, impressed the panel of three judges: Lauretta Morton, Director of Newcastle Art Gallery, Jon Cattapan, Artist and Director of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) at University of Melbourne, and Michael Dagostino, Director Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Blak Douglas, Queen of her own stage (Ms Ursula Yovich). Winner 2019 Kilgour Portrait Prize. Courtesy the artist and Newcastle Art Gallery

Born in Blacktown, Western Sydney in 1970, Douglas originally trained in illustration and photography before becoming a self–taught painter with a social justice-inspired style influenced by the study of graphic design.

He said he had always wanted to paint a portrait of his friend Yovich, a proud Larrakia woman from Darwin who is currently performing her Helpmann Award-winning show Barbara and the Camp Dogs at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney.

‘My dear friend Ursula Yovich, actress and songstress dynamo, has always been on my list of subjects to paint,’ Douglas said.

‘This painting is all about her and is a metaphor for the female black voice. I asked Ursula to stand upon a chair for the pose because I saw it as a metaphor for Aboriginal voices to be heard.’

The Kilgour Prize 2019 exhibition showcases the 30 finalists and is on at Newcastle Art Gallery from 3 August to 13 October 2019. Finalists include: Peter Barker, Anthony Bartok, Michael Bell, Eva Beltran, Karen Black, Leeroy Chapman, Tamara Dean, Blak Douglas, David Fairbairn, Sebastian Galloway, Peter Gardiner, Ben Gavin, Craig Handley, Jacqueline Hennessy, Tom Keukenmeester, Richard Lewer, Michael Lindeman, Robert Malherbe, Marie Mansfield, Siân McNabney, Joshua McPherson, Nigel Milsom, Lori Pensini, Stephen Pleban, Jordan Richardson, Melissa Ritchie, Jenny Rodgerson, Paul Ryan, and Nick Santoro.

In addition to the overall prize, the Kilgour Prize 2019 includes a People’s Choice Award of $5,000. Visitors can vote for the favourite work until 5pm, Wednesday 18 September 2019. The winner will be announced Monday 23 September 2019.