2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize Winner Announced

Antoinette O'Brien announced as Winner of the 2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize

Lismore-based artist Antoinette O’Brien was named as the winner of the 2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize with their portrait of a Helen Deravenchecko.

The winning work, titled, Lacuna, was selected by Sydney-based visual artist Abdul Abdullah, and announced in an online event. When considering his selection, Abdullah said:

‘As I walked around the show, I kept coming back to this work. The combination of the ceramic bust and the reef it sits on drew me into a story about memory, and how moments attach themselves to our experience. Beyond likeness the carefully sculpted head of Antoinette’s sitter Helen Deravenchecko expressed to me so much about her character. The two objects that make the work synergised for me into an idea that was even greater the sum of its already excellent parts.

The artist, Antoinette O’Brien says of this work:

This is a portrait imbued with my love and appreciation for Helen Deravencheko. I am indebted to Helen in many ways. My mother was unwell and incapacitated all my life and Helen helped by washing clothes, ironing and cleaning, but more importantly for me, she sat and drank tea with Mum and me. Drinking tea and chatting with them both was nurturing and formative. Helen was quietly present, but remains loud and vibrant in my memory. In this work Helen sits upon the Blue Hole, a support which references a connection between geological deep time and mined memory. The Blue Hole is a seascape in which my brother and I swam 40 metres below the surface, drifting around an ancient stalagmite. Love, Helen, and the infinite depths of the Blue Hole are linked in my memory and find their expression in this portrait.’

Lismore Regional Gallery Director, Brett Adlington, thanked Abdul Abdullah for his selection, and for the considered approach he took in reaching his conclusion, stating:

‘As this award continues to grow, it is exciting to see artists of the Northern Rivers region share the walls with artists from across the country. While this prize is very much about the experience of viewing all the finalists, it is vitally important that we also consider the way in which the prize supports the development of the permanent collection. What is so exciting this year, is that for the first time this award has gone to sculptural work, which indicates how important it has been to broaden the parameters around this award.’

Abdullah also gave a Highly Commended award to Bangalow-based artist Michelle Dawson for her work, Vera. On this work, Abdul stated: The subject Vera Wasowski is a holocaust survivor who passed away in 2019. The composition felt very natural, the brushwork felt causal but very precise, and it told me so much about who this person was.

Brett Adlington also thanked the sponsors of the award, Hurford Hardwood, saying: ‘Their ongoing commitment to the cultural life of the Northern Rivers is to be congratulated, and I thank them for supporting this prize, and the development of our permanent collection’.

Members of the public will have their chance to vote their winner through the People’s Choice Award, with the winning artist receiving $1,000 from the Friends of Lismore Regional Gallery.

The next Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize will be held towards the end of 2022.