Victorian artist Graeme Drendel has won Australia’s richest portrait prize, the $150,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2022 (DMNPP), for his painting of fellow artist Lewis Miller.
The Moran Arts Foundation announced the winner at a prize-giving ceremony for the 30 finalists in Sydney today, 30/11/2022. Both the winning artist and sitter attended along with many of the 30 finalists which ironically included a submission by Lewis Miller of his own portrait of Graeme Drendel.
Graeme Drendel was a DMNPP finalist in 2021 and 2017 and an Archibald Prize finalist in 2018. He is known for his figurative work, his subjects often portrayed in solitude and introspection. He has exhibited since 1990 and his work features in many private and gallery collections including the National Gallery of Australia.
The 2022 Prize was judged by Gerard Vaughan AM, Australian art historian and museum administrator, Lucy Culliton, one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists and Peter Moran, representing the Moran Arts Foundation. Peter’s parents Doug and Greta Moran AO established the Moran Arts Foundation in 1988 to fulfill their dream of helping Australian artists along the path to excellence.
Judge Lucy Culliton said the winner was a unanimous decision:
“I was drawn to Graeme Drendel’s painting of Lewis Miller in the first round of judging. The portrait has everything I was looking for. A freshness of paint. A likeness of the subject. The eyes meet the viewer. The palette of colours used is subtle but mixed in good skin colours. Interestingly when we viewed the paintings in real life, although I knew the painting was small, I was surprised at how small the portrait was. I am very happy with our winner. A beautifully painted painting.”
Judge Gerard Vaughan AM said:
“Graeme Drendel’s portrait of his friend and fellow artist Lewis Miller stood out right from the start of the judging process, within a very strong field. It is a quietly powerful portrayal of a familiar face, a character study both reflective and demanding attention on account of its emotional strength and credibility.
Drendel’s painterly technique is superb, skilled and subtle with faultless lighting and tonality, and it demands close looking. The viewer needs to get close because, perhaps surprisingly, it is one of the smaller entries in the 2022 Moran Prize, which overall offers a very strong and varied group of works that represent the quality of the portraiture genre in Australia today.”
He said the particular strength of Drendel’s portrait lies precisely in its smaller dimension.
“One characteristic of contemporary portraiture is large size, presenting images of faces that are full-on, ranging from big to gargantuan. In this case, the converse applies, and it is worth reflecting that in the long history of portraiture, many of the most admired and enduring works are small rather than large (the big ones tend to be official pictures for official places). A smaller scale can provide opportunities for the artist to represent a clearer sense of reality, intimacy and authenticity, a picture which is also portable and can easily move around.”
“It is an intriguing coincidence that Lewis Miller’s excellent portrait of Drendel was also selected to be amongst the final group of 30 works” Gerard Vaughan noted.
For more about Graeme Drendel visit his website.View online gallery here
(Please note there will be no physical exhibition of finalists for 2022)