The judges of the 2017 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize; Greta Moran, Wendy Sharp and Daniel Thomas have chosen as their winner the well known and highly regarded artist Tim Storrier with The Lunar Savant, a portrait of fellow artist McLean Edwards. The well regarded artist, Dagmar Cyrulla won the Highly Commended (a first for the Moran Prizes) for a semi-nude self-portrait titled I Am Woman.
The visiting judges are art world insiders, they have a deep knowledge of art making, art history, curatorial excellence and more. They understand methodology, artist rhythm, constraints, creative composition, narration and challenging concepts. The Moran is not sensational or bombastic, it is portraiture at its highest level. The list of finalists as usual is a wonderfully diverse mix of art styles, artists and sitters. But the extraordinary thing about the Moran Prizes is that this group is both known and unknown. Most Art Prizes tend to anoint artists when they’re already well known to the art world. Incredibly the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize wipes away any agendas, political or otherwise to engage with the artwork in and of itself.
There is something incredibly noble in that, dare I say even pure in it altruism, for the Moran's guiding principle is its concern for the welfare of artists. This core aspect is why I believe it is Australia's most prestigious prize and one to be highly respected. To be chosen as a finalist and for those who win it is an honest validation for their work and for those who didn't get in, the Moran Prizes encouragement to keep entering brings hope to many.
In 2016 the judges Greta Moran, Anne Wallace and Doug Hall chose my work 'Scarlett as Colonial Girl'. Their input was invaluable and the validation for my visual voice was immense. Having said that, the work was very different from my usual approach and for a period of time, I became frozen and unsure of which direction I should take. I needed to step back, and luckily for me, the Moran Prize allowed me the valuable time much needed to delve deeper into certain elements of my work through a U.K. residency in research and development. I was able to adapt my ideas to accurately reflect my current practice. Although this was a slow process I have never felt more assured or more excited about the future.
Like many prizes the Moran tours to Regional Centres expanding its reach, bringing greater exposure and newer audiences. This can be a path to prestige and profits for both the winner and the finalists. It is also a way to land exhibitions, make influential contacts, and gain valuable feedback about your work.
The Moran Prize enabled me to create a working studio and buy much needed supplies. Since winning the Moran Prize I have been commissioned to do a number of works both here and in New Zealand and have had two galleries show interest in viewing my work.
The momentum has continued: More recently, I was commissioned by Adderton House & Heart of Mercy Brisbane, to paint four portraits of the founding women for the opening in 2018. I have been invited to put a work into the 2018 Sydney group exhibition 'All We Can't See'; a response to the Nauru files and am a finalist in the Sydney 2017 Mosman Art Prize. This could never have happened without the generous support of the Moran Foundation.
'Scarlett as Colonial Girl' is and always will be very close to my heart. It must be said that it was extremely difficult to let go of the work and there was a moment when I hesitated. My daughters’ generosity in allowing me to paint her, the hours spent analysing her face and personality brought with it a deep emotional connection between us.
I was genuinely surprised at the final work having left it for a few days. When I walked into the studio and turned the painting around I was astonished by the aura and presence of the portrait, somehow my daughter had truly entered the work.
In this instance the act of letting go of something precious has brought and continues to bring an abundance of life affirming moments and opportunities.
So be brave, work hard and keep trying.
© Megan Seres