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A Blank Canvas of Opportunity - Local artists to enter the 2023 Portrait Award 
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A Blank Canvas of Opportunity - Local artists to enter the 2023 Portrait Award

Posted on 18 May 2023

A Blank Canvas of Opportunity - Local artists to enter the 2023 Portrait Award

The capabilities of artificial intelligence to generate original artwork has made for captivating conversation over the past year. But AI isn't about to replace its human counterparts any time soon, as entrants to the 2023 Portrait Award will undoubtedly prove. The competition, hosted by the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, Cape Town, calls on all art hobbyists and professionals to put their best portrait forward for a chance to win the grand prize.

Speaking on behalf of Rust-en-Vrede Gallery is curator, Hamlin Jansen van Vuuren, who explains that the biennial Portrait Award competition has become a flagship event on the gallery's calendar. "Every event sees entrants from all over the country. Our judging panel has the honour of assessing the handiwork of both amateurs and seasoned, creative veterans. Every approach to the task is unique - a fine testament to the fact that there is still much to celebrate about the visceral act of putting paint, or pencil, to paper. We look forward to seeing the 2023 entries," she adds.

The structure of the competition

The competition is modelled after the BP Portrait Award - an annual event hosted by the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. Each competition sees a fresh panel of judges being appointed to undertake an anonymous adjudication process that levels the playing field and allows the artworks to 'speak for themselves.'

This year will see the competition host its sixth installment since its inauguration in 2013. 100 Portraits will be selected by three judges during the competition process. What is deemed the Top 40 will be exhibited at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery + Clay Museum in Durbanville from Friday 1 September - 2 November 2023. (These 40 portraits will also then become part of a traveling exhibition.) The remaining 60 works of the initially selected 100, will be exhibited from 2 September at the Spier Arts Trust Union House in Cape Town, in an exhibition titled, 'Portrait 100'.

A new panel of adjudicators has accepted the challenge of this year's selection. The panel consists of Paul Emsley, Prof. Elizabeth Gunter and Dr. Rose Kirumira. All three judges are inspiring educators and remarkable artists in their own right. The adjudication process is completely anonymous, giving all South African residents, 18 years and older an equal chance.

Prizes and accolades up for grabs

A coveted curation of art-related prizes lies in wait for the artists: First prize is a cash amount of R150 000. The second prize will be awarded R30 000 and the artist claiming the third prize will walk away with R20 000.

Additional prizes granted to the finalists include an artist residency in Spain, six Zoom tutoring sessions by Andrew James; master portrait artist, former vice-president and member of the Royal Portrait Society. Further prizes will include oil- and watercolour hampers sponsored by The Italian Art Shop, an acrylic hamper by Prime Art and a drawing hamper sponsored by The PenCafe in Durbanville.

The Ryno Swart Drawing Medal, which makes its first appearance this year will be awarded to the portrait artist who is deemed best in a drawing medium.

Online entries to open soon

Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to enter at a cost of R250 per entry, and artists are allowed to submit an unlimited number of entries. The competition will be opened for entries on 01 June and will close on 10 June 2023.

As Van Vuuren concludes: "Portraiture has an extraordinary ability to bring the human experience to life in a way that captures not only the physical image but what lies beyond that. We encourage all artists, regardless of their level of experience, to try their hand at winning the Portrait Award and the opportunity to add this prestigious title to their portfolio."

For more information visit: www.rust-en-vrede.com/portrait-award/

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