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This award, initiated by Sanlam Private Investments in collaboration with the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville in 2012, attracted 1783 entries by 1200 artists for the final adjudication earlier in 2013.

A prize of R 100 000 was awarded to Heather Gourlay-Conyngham. Born in Durban in 1956, Gourlay-Conyngham now lives in Hilton in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. She has worked as an art teacher and painter since graduating with a BA Fine Arts from the University of Natal in 1978 and a Higher Education Diploma in 1980 from the University of South Africa. Her paintings focus primarily on the human form.

Modelled on the London-based National Portrait Gallery, BP Portrait Award, the competition invited entries in any medium with the exclusion of lens based media such photography, television and film.

There has been enough common understanding of the principle of what a 'portrait' entails that made for an exciting and animated process of selecting the 40 works for exhibition and to adjudicate which work was worthy of the award.

The independent panel of three adjudicators consisted of Hayden Proud, curator for Historical Painting and Sculptures at the Iziko SA National Gallery in Cape Town; Vulindlela Nyoni, a lecturer in printmaking at the University of Stellenbosch; and artist and art teacher Susanne du Toit. Du Toit recently scooped the prestigious 2013 BP Portrait Award in the United Kingdom. All the adjudicators have had extensive experience in making art, teaching and serving as adjudicators on other competitions. This, combined with their personal experiences and current active practice provided for a suitable combination of insights that undoubtedly contributed to the selection of a deserving award winner.

The convener of the panel, Stefan Hundt, curator of the Sanlam Art Collection and head: Sanlam Private Investments Art Advisory Service commended the judges for their “exceptional dedication in making a very difficult decision, given the large number of entries received”.

The national touring exhibition can be seen at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery from Wednesday, 23 October to Wednesday, 13 November, and at Stephan Welz & Co at the Alphen Estate in Constantia, Cape Town, from Tuesday, 26 November to Friday, 10 January 2014. It will be hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts during April 2014.

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