From the Bega Valley Regional Gallery:

Cameron Richards has beaten out an outstanding collection of 38 finalists to win the 2020 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award.

Quite incredibly, Richards, who is based in Western Australia, has no formal art education and until now has used painting as a creative outlet that contrasts with his qualifications in physiotherapy.

His acrylic on canvas creation entitled ‘Miss Priya Premkumar’ attracted the acclaim of the National Portrait Gallery Director and guest judge, Karen Quinlan AM, who made the announcement tonight that was streamed due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

Ms Quinlan was impressed with the quality of all the finalists but reserved glowing praise for the winner.

“The artist really captured a great portrait, it reflects on two different worlds and the challenge that Priya would have had juggling expectations of her family. I feel like I engaged with her and in a sense could almost talk with her. Everything is working and it’s definitely the winning portrait in the show,” Ms Quinlan said.

Richards, who picks up $50,000 (Australia’s richest prize for realistic portraiture) for his work, said the portrait explores his strong first impression of Priya who he describes as his superior at work and life.

“Three years into our friendship, the creation of this piece has been incredibly positive and admittedly tedious. My understanding of how Priya has come to be has deepened while painting as I have explored the complexities of her life: Australian, Sri Lankan and personal ideations, all intermingled and juxtaposed,” Mr Richards said.

Australians have a particular love of portraits, both as audiences and as artists, and we (Bega Valley Regional Gallery) are proud to be the home of one of the country’s most respected awards,” Mr Dawson said.

“The great esteem this award is held remains clear, with 250 entries being received and all Australian states and territories represented.

“Despite the incredibly challenging year, a fascinating field of works appear in this exhibition, with the strong trend in entries during the Covid-19 lockdown being tow at Bega Valley Regional Gallery