Portrait artist Neil Liddel and Lismore Regional Gallery curator Kezia Geddes with the study of Kezia that will form the basis of a bigger portrait for entry in the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize.
Portrait artist Neil Liddel and Lismore Regional Gallery curator Kezia Geddes with the study of Kezia that will form the basis of a bigger portrait for entry in the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize.

Artists face off in portrait prize

When portrait artist Neil Liddel heard the announcement of the new Northern Rivers Portrait Prize at the Lismore Regional Gallery last year, he decided that very night who would be his subject.

Kezia Geddes, gallery curator, was standing across the room, and Neil noticed she had a quirky way of standing as she gazed at a painting. Friend and fellow painter Jude Shannon, who was standing beside him, said “it’s a great stance isn’t it” and Neil suddenly realised that’s what his entry for the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize would be – Kezia standing in her unique way, curating her very own portrait in the gallery.

“I just thought that was such a wonderful idea for a portrait – I was inspired,” Neil said. “And I love that the idea came to me on that evening.”

In preparation for his large portrait and entry into the prize, Neil has now completed a study of Kezia’s face, which he is sending to the Face Off exhibition in Sydney, the annual theme show organised by Portrait Artists Australia, of which he is a member.

The theme this year was about how big portraiture isn’t always better, so Portrait Artists Australia (the national association of professional portrait artists) invited 30 members to submit two 40cm x 40cm portraits of people who work or are involved in the art world.

After the exhibition in Sydney in March they will be sent to Perth, where they will form a feature wall in the entrance hall to the Black Swan Portrait Prize.

Neil, who is solely a portrait artist, said he’s thrilled to hear of the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize, a concept dreamed up between the Lismore Regional Gallery, The Northern Rivers Echo and Walters Solicitors. Each believed bringing back a portrait-based art prize was a great way to give local artists a chance to create new works and also to celebrate the many characters the make up our community. As is often the case with portrait prizes, they also hoped it would create excitement, local pride, controversy and talk around town.

Neil said the acquisitive first prize of $7500 made it worthwhile for local artists to take up their brushes and commit paint to canvas.

“I had often spoken out about how portraiture was neglected in a region that seems to concentrate on conceptual art, and I find more often than not I don’t exhibit here – I exhibit in national and international capital cities,” he said. “I’m really happy this has come about so I’m entering to encourage the art prize and encourage the art of portraiture.

“Most decent portraits that would win a prize would usually sell between the five to ten thousand dollar mark, minimum, so seven-and-a-half grand for an emerging artist could very well mean the difference between surviving and continuing their art or not.”

The Northern Rivers Portrait Prize includes three awards:

The $7,500 Northern Rivers Echo and Walters Solicitors Overall Winner.

The $1,000 Andrew and Jeni Binns Emerging Artist Award.

$500 Lismore Regional Gallery People’s Choice Award.

Artist entry forms are currently available from Lismore Regional Gallery, online at www.lismoregallery.org or at selected galleries, cafes, and shops in the Northern Rivers.

Entries close on February 26, 2010, and a panel of judges will select the finalist artworks in March. The exhibition of finalists will be held at the Lismore Regional Gallery from April 23 to May 29 with the winners announced on opening night on Friday, April 23.

For more information, phone the gallery on 6622 2209.


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