Northern Rivers Portrait Prize finalist Ildiko Hammond with her subject Mayor Jenny Dowell.
Northern Rivers Portrait Prize finalist Ildiko Hammond with her subject Mayor Jenny Dowell.

A new look at familiar faces

When Mayor Jenny Dowell walked into the Lismore Regional Gallery to pose with her portrait on Monday, the sheer size and detail of the work stopped her in her tracks.

“I didn’t want to see the portrait until the event but I had a photo of it on my email as an attachment and I’m such a sticky beak I had to open it,” Jenny laughed. “It really blew me away – it was lucky I was sitting down because I was just overwhelmed.

“When I walked around the corner (of the gallery) today and saw the size of it I was even more shocked. I had no idea it was that big!”

Two of the 54 finalists in the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize are paintings of Jenny, who felt it was a great privilege to be a subject. She had to choke back emotion when she saw the painting up close and personal.

“I just love it, it’s wonderful … it’s got all my wrinkles and my veiny hands,” Jenny laughed as she peered at the portrait. “I don’t mean that as a criticism – it just looks so much like me! It’s very humbling. It’s amazing.”

The portrait was painted by Lismore artist Ildiko Hammond, who will find out on Friday if she is $7500 richer when the winner is announced at the exhibition opening.

Ildiko said the traditional portrait is a massive departure from her usual style of art, which is very textural and experimental, often incorporating thick layers of oil paint and found objects.

“This is the hardest painting I’ve ever done – I ended up being very meticulous with it and it took a long time; I normally create work a lot quicker,” she said. “I spent time in the studio every day for about seven weeks. It just had such a life of its own.”

Ildiko said she chose to depict Jenny not only because of her work in the community as Mayor, but also because Jenny had always supported her as a painter.

“I am so proud of her, it’s so good having a woman in office, but it was also really important for me to paint someone I had a connection with,” Ildiko said. “Jenny really blew me away some time ago when she came to one of my exhibition openings. She had just been elected Mayor and had surgery for breast cancer and was undergoing treatment… I knew she probably felt like crap but she still made the effort. She had come to my exhibition openings before but that really surprised me – it was a beautiful gesture.”

Ildiko did a faithful representation of Jenny in her Mayoral robes, right down to the artworks hanging on her office wall by Digby Moran and Eltham Public School students, much to Jenny’s delight.

The only addition was a saucer of daffodils to represent Jenny’s journey with breast cancer as the daffodil is the symbol of hope for those affected by the disease.

The Northern River Portrait Prize will be officially opened and the winner will be announced by judge Michael Zavros this Friday, April 23, at the Lismore Regional Gallery.

He will announce the $7,500 acquisitive first prize and the $1000 Andrew and Jeni Binns Emerging Artist Award and people will then have the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice Award over the next month.

The opening begins at 5.30pm and everyone is welcome.

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