Sydney based artist Janelle Thomas is the recipient of the 2015 Kilgour Prize, Newcastle Art Gallery’s prestigious annual award for figurative and portrait painting. The highly competitive award, and one of Australia's most lucrative, includes a $50,000 cash prize for the winning artist funded by the bequest of artist Jack Noel Kilgour.
Thomas was awarded the 2015 prize for her portrait Helen Ross, 94 with Kirsty. Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes made the announcement during the launch of the 2015 Kilgour Prize exhibition, which will be open to the public from 13 November 2015 to 7 February 2016.
Kilgour Prize entries were assessed and the winning portrait selected by two independent judges - Angus Trumble, Director National Portrait Gallery and Professor Ross Woodrow, Director Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research, University of Queensland, as well as Lauretta Morton, Manager of Newcastle Art Gallery.
"It was a difficult selection process for the judges," said Lauretta Morton. "The quality of this year's submissions was top notch and our first challenge was to choose 30 finalists from a field of over 140 entries from across the country."
"We found choosing the winner even more challenging however upon assessing the entries up close all three judges separately selected Janelle Thomas’s sensitive portrait Helen Ross, 94 with Kirsty in their top three. The judges agreed that her very personal portrait was deftly executed and encapsulated the strong bond and personality of the subjects. It is our pleasure to award this year's prize to Janelle."
Thomas takes a versatile approach in her contemporary painting practice which is underpinned by classical principles. She is interested in a formal treatment of aesthetics complemented by a deeper appreciation of human sensitivities. Her artworks often centre on an ambiguous representation of the absurdities that punctuate the everyday.
In recent months she was selected for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize Semi Finals, the Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, the Hunters Hill Art Exhibition and the Jenny Birt Award. Janelle was awarded the 2013 Henry Bucks Commendation Prize in the Mosman Art Prize.
Of her winning painting, Thomas said. "At 94, Mrs Helen Ross brims with vitality and dignity. I admire Helen's spirit and contribution to her community as she tirelessly organises and assists local groups. Helen also published her first novel at age 88. Her latest book, Short Stories, 2014, captures some of her rich life experiences."
"I minimised the background to focus the portrait on the strong relationship between Helen and her dog Kirsty. Helen credits Kirsty with saving her life after Archie, her beloved husband of 66 years, passed away. Helen and Kirsty were ideal portrait subjects as they both sat graciously and held a steady pose."
People's Choice Award
In addition to the prize awarded by the judging panel, the Kilgour Prize competition also includes a People’s Choice Award of $5,000 chosen by visitors to the Gallery and readers of the Newcastle Herald.
Visit the Gallery or view the finalists' entries online to choose your favourite entry! People's Choice Award voting will be open at the Gallery and online at www.theherald.com.au until Wednesday 13 January 2016 and the winner will be announced Saturday 16 January 2016.
The 2015 Kilgour Prize exhibition is on at Newcastle Art Gallery from 13 November 2015 to 7 February 2016. Entry is free and photography is permitted.
"We invite the community to visit the Gallery to see this fantastic exhibition of contemporary portraiture, vote for the People's Choice Award and participate in some of our fun public programs," said Liz Burcham, Cultural Director for Newcastle City Council.
"While the Kilgour Prize enhances and elevates Newcastle Art Gallery's reputation on a national level, our first priority is to bring art to Newcastle that sparks the interest of the community and provides ways for everyone to interact and be involved. We have taken the opportunity to hang alongside the Kilgour Prize shortlisted entries a showcase of portraits from the Newcastle Art Gallery Collection including works of art by William Dobell, Brett Whiteley and Judy Cassab."
Kilgour Prize 2015 Exhibition
Related public programs
School Holiday workshops: PAINT PEN PORTRAITS
Tuesday 12 to Friday 15 January
Cost: $25 per child, includes all materials. Bookings and payment required call 4974 5100
Discover the work of the Kilgour Prize 2015 artists in this workshop for young creatives - using fun paint pens, pastels and charcoal to create an impressive portrait on canvas.
5 – 8 years | 10.30am – 12.30pm, 8 – 12+ years | 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Drawn To Music
Sunday 17 January, from 2pm
Free event, for all ages and abilities. All easels and materials supplied. No booking required - just drop in! Join us for life drawing activities while listening to music played on our Stuart & Sons Piano.
Saturday 16 January, 11am – 3pm
$55 per person, includes lunch and all materials. Bookings required, call 4974 5100. Treat yourself to an artist-led painting master class inspired by the Kilgour Prize 2015.
Drop-In Free Guided Tour
Available every Saturday and Sunday, 11am - 12noon
Free event. No bookings required - drop in, meet at the Gallery Shop and join a Gallery guide for a free tour of current exhibitions.
Draw your own portrait at our pop-up Portrait Bar, take a photo, and hashtag it #newcastleartgalleryregram to win great prizes. Like us on Instagram @newcastleartgalleryaustralia Free activity. No need to book, just drop in!