Cameron Richards wins the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award

From a collection of works by 38 finalists, Western Australian artist Cameron Richards’ Miss Priya Premkumar has won the 2020 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award.

The acrylic on canvas creation attracted the acclaim of the National Portrait Gallery Director and guest judge, Karen Quinlan AM; who was impressed with the quality of all the 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. 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,’ said Quinlan.

Winner 2020 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award: Cameron Richards, Miss Priya Premkumar

The work explores Richards’ strong first impression of the subject 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. 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.’

One of Australia’s most loved and richest portrait awards, the biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award celebrates realistic portraiture in memory of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s eponymous patron. Hannan, a gifted portraitist, and well known in the Bega Valley as a staunch supporter and generous patron of the arts, funded the John Balmain National Award for Portraits and Figure Drawing from 1993 until she re-established it in her own name in 2002 with a substantially increased first prize of $15,000.

A prerequisite for the award was made that those works selected to hang would depict their subjects accurately and demonstrate a sound skill and knowledge of drawing and painting technique. Today, the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award continues to have a focus on accurate depiction, with a prize purse of $50,000.

The 2020 finalists’ exhibition will be on display at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery from 27 July to 11 September 2020.

‘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,’ said Bega Valley Regional Gallery Director, Iain Dawson. ‘There are wonderful representations of distinguished Australians, alongside local heroes and quiet studies, that allow us to visit personal relationships and private lives.’