KZN portrait artist’s big surprise win

2013-08-29 00:00

HILTON artist Heather Gourlay- Conyngham is still in shock after winning the first ever Sanlam Private Investments (SPI) National Portrait Award for her nude male portrait entitled A Young Man.

The oil on canvas work beat 1 783 entries to the top prize of R100 000.

Gourlay-Conyngham was on holiday in Namibia when she got a call asking her to travel to Cape Town for the awards ceremony on Tuesday evening.

“They sort of misled me,” she said, “they encouraged me to come to Cape Town for the awards by telling me I was one of three finalists … but at the ceremony I realised, from what they said, that there were no other finalists and that I was the winner … I just feel very lucky.”

Stefan Hundt, convenor of the SPI National Portrait Award judging panel, said Gourlay-Conyngham’s winning portrait was chosen “for her exceptional skill, the subject choice, the sincerity of the relationship between artist and subject, and the fact that her interpretation challenged convention and pushed beyond the normal and the accepted”.

The judges included Hayden Proud, curator for historical painting and sculptures at the Iziko SA National Gallery in Cape Town, former University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Visual Arts lecturer Vulindlela Nyoni, who is now a lecturer in printmaking at the University of Stellenbosch, and artist and art teacher Susanne du Toit.

Du Toit recently scooped the prestigious 2013 BP Portrait Award in the United Kingdom.

The painting, one of two entered by Gourlay-Conyngham in the competition, will join 39 other entries in a touring exhibition, being staged in collaboration with the Sanlam Art Collection.

The works are on show at the Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery in Durbanville until October 8. Then they will head to the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery from October 24 to November 13.

The exhibition then moves to Stephan Welz & Co at the Alphen Estate in Constantia, Cape Town, from November 26 to January 10, 2014. It will end at the KZNSA Gallery in Bulwer Road, Durban during April 2014.

The SPI National Portrait Award aims to celebrate and showcase the best original portrait artwork in South Africa.

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