Eden ‘old boy’ takes up Bega gallery post

The Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s newly appointed curator has reminded artists that there is still time to enter the prestigious Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award, which carries a $50,000 first prize.

Iain Dawson said artists from around Australia have until Friday, May 2 to enter what is now one of Australia’s most loved and richest portrait prizes, eclipsed only by the Doug Moran and the Archibald.

A graduate of the Eden Marine High School class of 1992, Mr Dawson only took on the new role last Thursday, and told the Magnet on Tuesday that he is thrilled to be back in the local area after several years away.

His impressive and lengthy resume includes establishing and running the Iain Dawson Gallery in Sydney from 2008-2012, and more recently taking on high-profile consultancy work under the banner of ID Projects.

“I grew up in this area and have been away for a number of years, but I looked at this and thought it was a really good opportunity and a good fit with where I’m at right now,” he said.

“I’m officially here for 12 months, but obviously I would love to extend that."

Mr Dawson said the Shirley Hannan is the gallery’s most-attended exhibition, and was one of the major drawcards in taking on the role.

He described the gallery as its “spiritual home”, saying its success is a major achievement for a gallery outside the major capital cities.

“I’m really excited to hit the ground running and be working on something this big straight away,” he said.

“It’s becoming more and more well-known and is a very interesting prize in that it really stresses realistic portraiture and stays true to Shirley Hannan and her style.

“Prizes like the Moran and the Archibald are a bit more open and abstract, but this is really the biggest of its kind.”

The total prize pool consists of $50,000 for the first prize, $3000 for the People’s Choice award, and $500 for the Mailroom Prize, and Mr Dawson says high-quality entries are pouring in from artists across the country.

He said the gallery’s new public programs officer, Helena Bezinna, had also secured the services of Sarah Engeldon, senior curator of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, to judge this year’s event.

“The entries include a strong local presence, and these entries will be exhibited alongside works from some of Australia’s most established portrait artists,” Mr Dawson said.

“Entries close on Friday, May 2 and I encourage all artists who try their luck in the Moran or Archibald portrait prizes to enter the Shirley Hannan; it’s the highlight of our gallery program and the most attended exhibition in the gallery’s calendar.

“My predecessor, Megan Bottari, brought in a number of renowned artists during her time, and I’m looking to build on those strong foundations while bringing a fresh new outlook and exciting exhibition program to the gallery in 2014 and beyond."

For more details and information on how to enter, visit http://www.begavalley.nsw.gov.au/cp_themes/default/page.asp?p=DOC-DTW-20-14-85

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