Marcus Callum wins the 2018 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award

We congratulate Marcus Callum as the winner of one of Australia’s most loved portrait awards, the 2018 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award for his oil on linen painting titled Meg. Callum is a British Australian portrait artist who works in Sydney and London.

Marcus Callum with his work Meg, winner of the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award 2018. Photograph: David Rogers. Courtesy the artist and Bega Valley Regional Gallery, New South Wales

Callum was selected to receive the $50,000 prize from an outstanding group of finalists for this years prize, with his work attracting the attention of Guardian Australia art critic and guest judge, Dr Andrew Frost who said ‘Marcus Callum’s painting has an arresting luminosity that matches the sensitivity of the treatment of his subject. It’s also a virtuosic demonstration of contemporary realist portrait painting.’

The work reflects on growing up in a complicated and unstable world. ‘The transition to adulthood can simultaneously be full of joy and fraught with danger. My subject, Meg, stares at the viewer with an uneasy confidence. Despite an uncertain future, she emerges from the darkness as an all-knowing and omnipotent being,’ said the artist.

Meg, oil on linen. Photograph: David Rogers. Courtesy the artist and Bega Valley Regional Gallery, New South Wales

The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award celebrates realistic portraiture in memory of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s eponymous patron, Shirley Hannan. 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 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 to this day. Before her death in 2005, Hannan doubled the prize purse to $30,000 and it was decided to discard the figure drawing component of the prize, concentrating on portraiture alone.

Hannan’s husband, Brian Settle, established the Shirley Hannan Trust to perpetuate the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award as a biennial, national portrait prize with a focus on accurate depiction.

In 2012, Hannan’s son Peter, himself a talented photographer, paid further tribute to his mother’s memory with a generous personal donation of an additional $20,000 bringing the prize purse for subsequent awards to $50,000.

The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award exhibition is on display at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery until 8 December 2018, while the Hinterland exhibition can be viewed until 16 November 2018 in the lower level of the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre.