The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize encourages the development of the portraiture skills of Australian artists and increases the awareness and appreciation of Australian visual arts. It seeks the best artistic skills that artists have in the promotion of Australian arts at a given point in time.
The Prize is Australia’s richest art prize capturing Australians from all walks of life, whether public figures or not. The competition is open to Australian citizens or residents of at least 12 months.
2021 Finalist Gallery
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Jack of all trades
Oil, 11cm x 16cm
Painting Eric allowed me to reflect on a life that embraced challenges and loved little more than a problem to solve. Painting on board and scratching back, gave me the wiry effect that suited his face. The portrait is assembled in an old tobacco tin chosen from the multitude that still crowd his shed -all full of bits whose future usefulness only he could imagine. Fragments selected for the portrait are tiny anchors to Eric’s maritime and terrestrial journeys. He ran out of time before he ran out of parts and projects.
Janet in the lockdown
Oil, 46cm x 40.5cm
Janet has been a great influence on my practice. She isn't only my mentor, but a great friend as well. When the lockdowns hit, we moved on to having long discussions about art and life over the phone. During one of the conversations, Janet mentioned her early printmaking experience in France and showed me the example of one of her works that is still hanging on her wall. I was taken by its simple geometry and wanted to incorporate it into the portrait. This work is a connection between the past and present and a memento of our lockdown chats.
Oil, 100cm x 100cm
This portrait is of one of the most remarkable men we have ever met, Yolngu senior elder and immensely distinguished artist Wukun Wanambi. As a living tradition, Yolngu culture has not turned its back on the incursions of the outside world but engaged with them. The portrait is a tribute to a remarkable man who impressed himself deeply upon us in our conversations with him and to whom we felt deeply grateful.
We took a large number of photographs and made sketches from memory, including of Wukun. Afterwards we sifted through all our memories and gradually abstracted from them the idea for this painting. When we realised the Moran Portrait Prize was to be held, it seemed to all instantly fit together, that we should show this image of a great Australian.
Assurance in disorder
Oil, 41cm x 57cm
A portrait of my son, who is an elite sportsman who performs at festivals and the like. He spends some of his time upside down but he has not performed for some time now due to the current crisis. I decided to show him that way for the situation he finds himself in but that he is still very optimistic.
I am James
Oil, 152cm x 122cm
James’ facial tattoos tell us who he is and where he is from – a proud Nuer man from Central South Sudan. The parallel lines on his forehead were cut in by tribal elders and marked his passage from boy to man. The thousands of dots were made using a small pin-sized hook and razor blade. Yes, it hurt but it tells his story and connects him forever to an epic African landscape. A war refugee with sad memories who is forever grateful for his new home in Australia but had to leave his family behind. One man two worlds.
The photographer and self
Mixed Media, 1260cm x 1080cm
This portrait of my great friend the photographer Jacqui Way with her own self portrait is more than just a portrayal of her beauty and strong character. It is about the duality in all of us, something so powerful and integral to the human spirit and mind. The face we show others - our public persona, can be in absolute contrast with our mental interior, a world sometimes of struggle, fragility and suffering. A mirror to my own grappling with the light and the dark, and the inner truth which others cannot see.
Portrait of Murray Walker
Oil, 40cm x 35cm
Murray Walker is an artist who I am sure is happy to be called an outsider. Into his 80's now he has had a long life packed with many incredible experiences, as I discovered while I painted him during a single sitting earlier this year. He has created an enormous body of work that spans across the disciplines of painting, printmaking and sculpture, work that is at once inventive, provocative, often humorous, but also exhibiting a kind of unguarded grittiness.
Mixed Media, 137cm x 137cm
Masato is a friend of mine. We used to teach together in the Critical and Theoretical Studies department at the Victorian College of the Arts. Masato is a kind person with a tender disposition. I enjoy his intelligence and developed sense of the absurd and his skilful ability to go beyond sarcasm and pure disdain. I’m not entirely convinced I have succeeded in capturing this, but I’m glad that I gave it a go.
Oil, 44cm x 64cm
Muse: A person who causes someone else to have ideas about creating a work of art.
Throughout history artists, painters, writers and film makers often referred to their muse as a source of inspiration. I never quite understood. I do now. I found my muse.
Two lives one soul
Oil, 78cm x 88cm
At 94 years old Annetta Able and the late Stephanie Heller were the oldest living identical twin survivors of Auschwitz when I painted them. They endured the inhumane experiments of the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, documented in Fiona Harari’s book “We Are Here”.
In my other work as a surgeon of the face, I am very much aware of people’s stories and lives told through their faces and am always fascinated by them. My hope is that my painting can possibly make a worthwhile connection with the audience and remind us of the truly personal face to the memories of the Holocaust that are at risk of fading away. Depicted in the painting is a family photo taken when the sisters were 17, just before their mother and younger sister were taken away to a camp and a year before they themselves were interned in Auschwitz, fragmenting as a touch of symbolic magic realism.
Oil, 87cm x 66cm
This is a portrait of Tamara Dean, award-winning photographer and installation artist. The concept for the painting emerged over the course of several visits with her at her home on the south coast of NSW. The pose reveals her strength and determination and the resilience needed to pursue an artistic career. The colours chosen reference Tamara’s work and its connection to the natural world and the Australian landscape.
John Wolseley old master
Mixed Media, 60cm x 40cm
I wanted to capture John in the spirit of the old masters. The work references an old master drawing found in an artist sketchbook. I have used egg tempera and watercolour and sewn the work into an old hardcover book which was then embalmed in encaustic wax, sealing the incunabula for posterity.
Oil, 195cm x 160cm
Floating? Flying? Drowning? Ophelia? Success? Failure? Strength? Weak? Light? Dark?
Prolific Australian Actress Leeanna Walsman and I spoke for hours and knowing a few of her friends, they helped form a picture of her in my mind. After doing a live two hour study I produced this painting. One of the ideas was floating, inspired by a script she wrote while living in a warehouse in Sydney - which led me to John Everett Millais’ 'Ophelia' floating in the river. We both felt however that she was not drowning in any sense - despite struggling with creative motivation for her own ceramic practice during lockdown. I particularly wanted to emphasise the raw strength that radiates from Leeanna. She is the antithesis of Millais’ 'Ophelia'.
Listening to us (Hugh Mackay AO)
Oil, 92cm x 76cm
Hugh Mackay AO is often described as the man who explains us to ourselves. He is a social psychologist, researcher, and the bestselling author of 20 books including his most recent work, The Kindness Revolution.
I have been painting and drawing Hugh during this past year. My submitted work is one of a number of paintings I have made of him, engaged as he often is, interviewing Australians about their lives - their thoughts, their dreams, their place in contemporary Australia.
Oil, 122cm x 107cm
Richard Manning is a painter. I have known him for about 10 years. He has a studio in the same complex as myself at Vale Street in St Kilda. We discussed how I would need many/multiple sittings over a prolonged period as I do not work from photos or any digital images. The portrait started with a small head and shoulders oil study, a more structured drawing and then the final format. I felt that the picture had more of a chance if I knew and liked my subject and having him nearby and 'on hand' so to speak was a bonus.
Self portrait in lockdown
Oil, 90.5cm x 89cm
This self portrait was painted during the winter of 2021 when Sydney was plunged back into lockdown. Ironically, the isolation we were forced into didn't feel so different to everyday life for an artist who spends many hours alone in front of an easel.
Oil, 122cm x 198cm
‘Wintering’ is a self-portrait about how nature heals us and about wintering through the difficult seasons in life. This painting is part of a continuing theme in my work of our relationship with the rest of nature; of nature as our true home; and of finding the way home.
Dad and his cat
Charcoals/Pastels, 67cm x 50cm
In this portrait, I wanted to capture the impressive bond between my Dad and his indomitable grey haired cat. According to human laws he technically owns the cat but in every other way she has ownership over him, as he carries her around the house on his shoulder at her request and promptly provides her with food when her meow reaches a certain crescendo. Dad is wearing his standard uniform of a crumpled white shirt and black jeans, while the cat wears her standard expression of supremacy and disdain for everyone but her favoured human.
Lockdown self portrait
Oil, 91.5cm x 121.5cm
My painting is a self portrait of me in lockdown. The extended lockdowns have been long and dreary. Outside the window, life is full of colour and light. But inside is the monotonous chaos of life in isolation. I have used the colour palette and what is happening in the painting to convey my state of mind. Being torn many different ways with responsibilities pilling up and getting out of control.
Eternity – self portrait with Ivana
Oil, 102cm x 122cm
I would not be who I am today without my partner Ivana. We wanted the portrait to reflect my art practice, Ivana symbolising the figurative and showing the close connection as we hold each other. The use of mixed geometrical shapes particularly the triangles our arms make, mirroring ourselves in reality and thoughts.
With her arm on my shoulder, we create the infinity symbol, guiding the eye to move in a flowing figure eight. In algebraic geometry, this figure is called a lemniscate and holds deep meaning for spirituality, love, beauty and power…a simple balance of eternity.
Eloise da Silva as a fallen heroine (after Manet)
Oil, 122cm x 244cm
Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s work, which makes a dazzling case for the disobedience of all limits on time, curiosity and desire, this portrait of Eloise da Silva evokes a sense of timelessness, curiosity as to a life lived, and a latent sensuousness. While replacing a classic male heroic figure with that of a heroine, the angle of Eloise’s body and her isolation in the setting emulates Edouard Manet’s Dead Toreador, thus echoing Woolf’s memorable notion that ‘words belong to each other.’ There is an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, a lineage of art. Ultimately art defies time.
A Prince’s family
Oil, 153cm x 153cm
Fu Jie is a handyman who helped me to install my 130 square metre mural onto my studio’s wall. Fu is Jie’s family name, which is from a prince in the Qing dynasty 200 years ago. Is Jie still a prince? Only the insignia on his t-shirt could prove it, but this t-shirt was bought from a shop in Beijing. Jie’s wife Linda is learning painting from me. Their son, Roy is a uni student in UTS. This is a normal and happy family living on the North Shore of Sydney.
Trompe-l’oeil self portrait with old door
Oil, 100cm x 75cm
During the COVID 19 Pandemic, restrictions forced many of us to be confined to our homes and studios and I began a painting to represent this time, showing myself through a window, locked in the studio.
After starting the work, I noticed that the edge of the canvas looked like the edge of a door and I thought, by painting it as such, it would give the work a “trompe-l’oeil” effect (trompe-l’oeil, French, 'to deceive the eye' ... illusionary)
Our ghostly crew (Michael Vale and Donna McRae with others)
Oil, 183cm x 152cm
This is a portrait of myself with my wife, the film-maker Donna McRae. We are both interested in gothic narratives, hence the imaginary 'Ghostly crew'.
Self portrait floating in a sea of paint
Oil, 130cm x 120cm
This work is part of an ongoing series of self portraits painted throughout the pandemic. Imagining places that I could no longer be, I found my head floating in the ocean, a sea of paint! My head is bobbing up and down and I'm comforted by my favourite travel hat, covered in red cherries. Travelling in my dreams and in the dreamy nature of painting I find both comfort and a strange uncertainty of what is to come.
Oil, 53.5cm x 43.5cm
This double portrait of myself and my husband came about after mulling over how difficult it has been to get out of bed each morning of Sydney's lockdown over the last few months. Early winter mornings didn't help and here nuzzled up together seemed the safest place to be in the world.
Solitude (self portrait)
Oil, 50cm x 100cm
I find myself deeply appreciating the sanctuary of home in these unprecedented times. As an artist, I feel fortunate that I have been able to immerse myself in the studio throughout the pandemic. It’s been a time of deeper focus and introspection. The increased solitude has allowed more time to create with fewer distractions. My paintings have become more ordered, perhaps a subconscious reaction to the chaos of these dark times. The world news has been startling, disturbing and a cause for anxiety.