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Five Wellington finalists for the prestigious Adam Portraiture Award

Five Wellingtonians have been shortlisted as finalists for the Adam Prize for Portraiture.

Sacha Lees, Sam Balzer, Kate MacIntyre, Clark Roworth and Erica Gray have been announced as five of 45 finalists from New Zealand. prestigious and popular portrait award. The prize is a biennial portrait painting competition held at the National Portrait Gallery in Wellington since 2000.

The contest is open to all residents and citizens of Kiwi, and finalists are selected anonymously. Portraits must be painted, with subjects also having to be Kiwi residents or citizens. The idea is to give Kiwi painters at all stages of their career the opportunity to showcase their talents on a national scale, while recording the changing face of Aotearoa. This year’s competition attracted 351 entries.

Lees, a fine and commercial Wellington-based artist who won the Adam Portraiture Award in 2020, was shortlisted again this year for her work See Me, which depicts her 9-year-old daughter.

See Me by Sacha Lees is a finalist painting for this year's awards.  Lees won the award in 2020.

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See Me by Sacha Lees is a finalist painting for this year’s awards. Lees won the award in 2020.

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“We are mere voyeurs of a superficial reflection, rarely looking beyond the surface – everyone looks but few see,” Lees said of his work. “To capture that fleeting moment before it was grabbed by the swiftness of time, I had to dedicate myself to really seeing myself allow myself to embody the fervent spirit of my 9-year-old daughter.”

A self-taught painter and trained historian, MacIntyre was nominated for her portrait Hapimana Gilbert Whareāhuru (Ngāti Tara, Ngāti Maringi, Ngāti Uenuku).

Hapimana Gilbert Whareāhuru (Ngāti Tara, Ngāti Maringi, Ngāti Uenuku) by Kate MacIntyre.

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Hapimana Gilbert Whareāhuru (Ngāti Tara, Ngāti Maringi, Ngāti Uenuku) by Kate MacIntyre.

Through her work as a historian, MacIntyre enjoyed the “extraordinary privilege” of spending time in te ao Māori, and some people she had met and befriended agreed to sit for her brush.

“Hapimana ‘Aiden’ holds firmly to the legacy left by his tūpuna, dedicating himself to improving the welfare of his tribe and his community. He is patient, humble and dignified, and in the brief moments when he stops to move, he can often be found at his office in Raetihi offering visitors fresh carrot juice,” MacIntyre said of his subject.

Gray lives and works on the Gold Coast in Australia as a professional artist, but was born in Ōtaki on the Kāpiti coast. Gray had 13 garments selected to be part of World of WearableArt’s landmark shows, and because of this decided to capture her sense of respect and admiration for the show and the woman behind it, its founder. Dame Suzie Moncrieff, for his portrait.

Dame Suzie Moncrieff by Erica Gray.

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Dame Suzie Moncrieff by Erica Gray.

Roworth was selected as a finalist for his Sad Cowboy. For his portrait, he said he wanted to convey a sense of a place and character lost in time.

“Depicting the subject as a cowboy and using a single light source gives it a feel of royal pause and allows the viewer to imagine what they may be crying or pondering,” he said.

“I strive for character in my paintings and built the frame to complement the gothic aesthetic and feel. I tried to bring this painting to life by putting color in unexpected places and patinating the frame to show a life he may have lived.

Sad Cowboy by Clark Roworth.

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Sad Cowboy by Clark Roworth.

Film designer and painter Balzer was nominated for his Doomscrolling, which depicts his roommate.

“In painting [my flatmate] James, I wanted to capture a snapshot of life, a relatable moment in which everyone can see a reflection of themselves. … It was an authentic portrayal of James, at some point, happening all the time,” Balzer said.

Some notable Kiwis featured in other finalist portraits for this year’s awards include Peter Yealands, Judy Darragh and Steve Chadwick.

Doomscrolling, by Sam Balzer, features the artist's roommate.

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Doomscrolling, by Sam Balzer, features the artist’s roommate.

The prize is endowed with a prize of $20,000 and its winner will be selected by judges before the start of the exhibition which presents all the works of the finalists at the Portrait Gallery. The Second Prize and People’s Choice winners will each receive $2,500.

The awards are sponsored by the Adam Foundation.

  • The finalist exhibition runs from 27 May to 14 August at NZ Portrait Gallery, Shed 11, Wellington waterfront. Selection of paintings to tour the country afterwards.