The Percivals Return

Barbara Cheshire with the subject of her winning portrait in 2016, Loma Thompson. IMAGE: Supplied

Entries are now open for the sixth biennial Percival Portrait Painting Prize, with applications closing on 12 February.

The competition began in 2007 with a $3,000 prize pool and has grown over the years to welcome artwork from across Australia and offer $40,000 in winnings. 2016 winner Barbara Cheshire has entered the Percivals five times, and said it was about much more than merely painting.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to paint someone’s portrait as you see into the very soul of the sitter, and this has always fascinated me,” Barbara said.

“Fabric, needle and thread were the early tools of my creation, but in my 40s fine art became my passion. My approach to painting is always enjoyable and meditative, as I try to capture the sensory and spiritual perceptions of the subject. With this method the work takes on a personal inner cadence of expression.

“For me, a portrait should enable us to see an image of the ‘real’ person. This is the characteristic essence of the person that makes them who they are; a feeling of the living person and not simply a posed exterior. Therefore, talking with the sitter in their environment, along with their stories, influences and becomes part of how, as well as what, I paint.”

While the Percivals attract national attention touted as ‘North Queensland’s own portrait competition’, there is a lingering debate on whether they have lost that local title.

“I’m sure all the artists in the region feel the Percivals were and are something special for Townsville putting the cultural element of our city on the map. Although, with the loss of the entry criteria ‘that entrants must have visited or have a connection to Townsville’, many artists now believe it has lost the regional element it once had, and now seems simply another national portrait competition with entrants no longer interested in the region, only the money.

“Regardless, I do believe this exhibition, along with our galleries, are very important to Townsville and how we are perceived culturally by a national and international audience.”

Applications for the 2017 Percival Painting and Photography Portrait Prizes close on 12 February, with entry forms available from Catch the Percival Portrait Painting exhibition at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery from 27 April – 15 July.


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