Twice her luck – Natasha Bieniek wins Portia Geach Memorial Award

2015 has been a great year for Natasha Bieniek, winner of the Wynne Prize earlier this year and announced as the 50th recipient of the Portia Geach Memorial Award last Thursday, no one would judge if she put her feet up for the rest of the year.

However it this momentum that would be propelling the young artist back into the studio, making the most of the strong interest and excited reception of her highly detailed, and beautifully minute works.

And this is really what the Portia Geach Memorial Award is all about, providing a platform for female artists to project their works to a wide ranging and interested audience. Marking its 50th Anniversary this year, the Award can boast a strong lineage of successful female artists who have greatly benefited from its financial and moral support.

Awarded the prize last Thursday, Bieniek received $30,000 as this year’s winner. And Tamara Dean and Jenny Rodgerson were awarded highly commended each.

Reflecting on the significance of her Award win, Bieniek commented, “I feel incredibly honoured to be awarded such a significant prize. One of the great things about the Portia Geach Memorial Award is its focus on contemporary female portrait painters. In a male dominated industry, I believe it’s important to promote and encourage the work of female artists to facilitate greater equality.”

Acknowledging the importance of the Award for artists financially, Bieniek noted, “Winning this award means a great deal and it will give me the resources to keep surviving as a full-time artist and the opportunity to continue to contribute to our artistic culture.”

The judging panel, which included Samantha Meers, Trustee of Art Gallery of New South Wales, Eleonora Triguboff, Art Publisher & Trustee of Art Gallery of New South Wales and Jane Watters , Director, S.H Ervin Gallery, commented that the list of finalists for the Award demonstrated that contemporary Australian portraiture has a vibrant future.

The judging panel selected Ms Bieniek’s work from 295 entries received from a new generation of female artists.  On Ms Bieniek’s outstanding portrait, they said: “Natasha Bieniek’s work displays exceptional technical skill and virtuosity and conveys powerful emotion through positioning of the figure which appears to merge with the drapery of the setting. The painting possesses an eerie stillness which amplifies the emotion of the sitter and creates a mysterious mood within the work.

The finalists works are all on display at S.H. Ervin Gallery until 25 October.

To read about the historical significance of the Portia Geach Memorial Award click here.

EXHIBITION
Portia Geach Memorial Award
S.H. Ervin Gallery
Until 25 October

Image: Natasha Bieniek, 2014, Sahara, oil on wood, 14 x 19cm

Courtesy the artist and S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney