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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

Byron artist makes the cut for big portrait prize

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New Brighton artist Andrew Hmelnitsky. Photo supplied
New Brighton artist Andrew Hmelnitsky. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

A Byron shire artist has been named as one of the finalists in Australia’s richest portrait prize.

In his first attempt for the coveted award, the New Brighton artist painted a self portrait on a cardboard box, which has impressed judges.

Andrew Hmelnitsky, was this week announced as one of the 136 semi-finalists for its annual Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, which offers $150,000 to the winner

A record number of almost 1,000 artists entered the annual competition, established as part of Australia’s bi-centennial celebrations in 1988.

The prize and exhibition of finalists is now based in Sydney but for more than 10 years after it was established it was shown the then Tweed River Regional Art Gallery.

Andrew, 47, says he’s entered the prestigious Archibald Prize ‘tons of times’ with no luck, so he decided to give the Moran prize a go.

‘The best I did in the Archibald Prize was being hung in the Salon de Refuses [for works which do not make finalists],’ he said.

Andrew Hmelnitsky's self portrait which was named as a semi-finalist in the Moran Portrait  Prize.
Andrew Hmelnitsky’s self portrait which was named as a semi-finalist in the Moran Portrait Prize.

He told Echonetdaily it was ‘great’ and ‘fun’ to be chosen as a Moran prize semi-finalist but said there was ‘still a long way to go’ before winners were announced next month.

The semi-finalists, he said, had to send their works to Sydney for further judging and short-listing to 30 finalists, who each receive $1,000.

Andrew said he decided to paint his work, called ‘Self Portrait of a House Painter’ on a removalist’s carton box to show that ‘you can paint on anything as long as you prepare the surface properly’.

When unfolded, the work measures two metres by 1.4 metres.

‘A friend of mine had a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting on an envelope and it was valued at $60,000,’ he said.

Andrew has lived in the northern rivers area on and off for the past 20 years and has now made New Brighton home for his ‘beautiful children [aged 8-18] and girlfriend’.

A spokesperson for the Moran Arts Foundation said the competition invites entries of original works from Australian artists, capturing Australians from all walks of life, whether a public figure or someone from their own circle of experience.

Images of the 136 semi-finalists’ work, submitted from all corners of the country, are now available for public viewing at http://www.moranprizes.com.au/gallery/portrait

The 30 works selected as finalists will be on display from October 29 to February 15 at Juniper Hall in Paddington, Sydney, with free entry.

The exhibition will also include finalists in Australia’s most valuable contemporary photography award, the Moran Contemporary Photography Prize, offering $50,000 to the winner, and $1,000 to 30 finalists.

Entries to the Photography Prize remain open until September 15, at www.moranprizes.com.au/moran-contemporary

The winners of the 2014 Moran Art Prizes will be announced on October 28.

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