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Canberra Today 7°/10° | Sunday, August 14, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Self portrait in covid times wins art prize

Winning work, “2020, 2021,” by Jaq Grantford.

THE unanimous choice of judges for the 2022 Darling Portrait Prize is a self-portrait that reflects the covid experience of Melbourne artist Jaq Grantford, it was announced this evening (June 24), at the National Portrait Gallery.

It is a year seemingly dominated by the self-portrait, with finalists Yvette Coppersmith, Cynthia Breusch, Effie Mandalos, Glenn Morgan, Jenny Rodgerson, Paul Newton, Rachael Robb, Robert Hannaford and Wendy Sharpe also choosing that form of self-expression.

Jaq Grantford with Marilyn Darling looking on.

Grantford receives a $75,000 cash prize for her work, “2020, 2021”, which shows her using her hands in a mask-like gesture, perhaps to ward off the virus, while her hair is adorned with the tools of her trade, her paintbrushes.

She told the assembled media this morning that the painting encapsulated how it was being an artist during covid, with her feelings complicated by the mixture of grief at not being able to visit her daughter and mother and “a guilty relief that the chaos of life could simply stop”.

“I had a lot of hair when I painted it,” she said, but much of that had gone during subsequent treatment for cancer.

She described the paintbrushes behind her ears as “a bit of an exaggeration, but symbolic of an artist during lockdown“.

The announcement of Grantford as winner was made by Marilyn Darling who, together with her late husband, L. Gordon Darling, had been instrumental in establishing the National Portrait Gallery.

Highly commended: Hong Fu, “Alex Miller.”

Darling was flanked by the director of the Portrait Gallery, Karen Quinlan, who announced that from the 577 entries and the 39 short listees, two had been selected for highly commended awards: Hong Fu’s portrait of Alex Miller, novelist; and Kathie Mason’s “Becoming (The Artist’s Daughter)”, 2020.

Quinlan noted that the Jane Allan’s colourful work, “Weight of the Mind’s Periapt”, 2021, had been previously announced as winner of the 2022 Art Handlers’ Award.

Still to come later in the year, she added, would be the $10,000 People’s Choice Award, supported by the Liangis family.

Kathie Mason’s “Becoming (The Artist’s Daughter),” 2020

Quinlan said this was only the second iteration of the Darling Portrait Prize, the first one having been announced in March 2020 just before lockdown. In her view, many of the paintings this year had captured the artists’ selves during the pandemic that followed.

Darling Portrait Prize, National Portrait Gallery, until October 9. 



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