Shannon Smiley wins the John Leslie Art Prize

Melbourne-based artist Shannon Smiley has been announced as this year’s winner of the John Leslie Art Prize for his romantic depiction of an urban landscape painting Untitled, Burnley.


The annual prize at Gippsland Art Gallery is one of Australia’s premier non-acquisitive prizes for landscape painting, with first place receiving $20 000. This year the Gallery received a record 416 entries from all states of Australia, with the shortlist of 34 artists on show in an exhibition until 23 November 2014.

Untitled, Burnley finds beauty in the everyday. Depicting an overgrown patch of weeds in front of a graffiti-sprayed metal fence, Shannon’s work is a highly enchanting view of the urban with the meticulous paint work and intricate detail.

Smiley looks to the Australian suburban environment for inspiration, finding pockets of unnoticed and undefined spaces that are characterised and overgrown with a wild urge to live.

Selected by three judges; Tony Lloyd, artist and immediate past winner of the John Leslie Art Prize; Jane Devery, Curator of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria; and Dr Gerard Vaughan, Australian Institute of Art History and immediate past Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, they were struck by Smiley’s eye-catching work.

On the selection process the judges remarked that Untitled, Burnley “emerges more and more as you look at it”. They praised the urban setting, and felt that Smiley had produced “a very beautiful image out of something you wouldn’t look at twice”. The judges also commended the “little colour surprises” and “incredible detail”, and felt that the contrast between nature and the manmade elements had been handled very well.

Artist Frank Mesaric was awarded Best Gippsland Work, for his painting Figure and Cypress Pines, Denison, whilst two works were awarded as Highly Commended; Weir by Alice Wormald and Cosmic Cutting by Laura Skerlj. The winner of the Packer’s Room Prize was Ebb by Hobart-based artist Catherine Woo.

The John Leslie Art Prize
Until 23 November 2014
Gippsland Art Gallery

Image: Shannon Smiley, Untitled, Burnley, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 95cm
Courtesy the artist and Gippsland Art Gallery

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