BEAUTIFUL REPRESENTATION: Rene Bolten (R) overall winner of the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize at the Lismore Regional Gallery with Jenny London (L) and the winning portrait.
BEAUTIFUL REPRESENTATION: Rene Bolten (R) overall winner of the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize at the Lismore Regional Gallery with Jenny London (L) and the winning portrait. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Northern Rivers Portrait Prize rewards labour of 18-months

TIME is of no concern to Northern Rivers Portrait Prize winner Rene Bolten in his search to find depth in his paintings.

The veteran Georgica artist, who originally hails from the Netherlands, took 18 months to deliver his captivating portrait of Lismore icon Jenny London.

The painting was originally planned for last year's competition.

"It took me a year to find the right moment, but for me that is what painting is about; to take your time to find a solution. Sometimes it can take years, but I don't give up," Mr Bolten said.

His patience paid off, because Mr Bolten now has $10,000 prize money to spend on paints and canvas for his next effort.

Ms London, a much-loved pillar of the community who worked with people with disabilities for 37 years, said she was deeply touched by the work.

"I didn't see the finished portrait until yesterday and it was so beautiful I simply burst into tears when I saw it," Ms London said.

Judge Philip Bacon said despite its relatively small size, the Rembrandt-esque work captured the eye even from the far end of the room.

"It's very well executed - to find someone who can paint like that in this day and age is remarkable - but it's also very emotive and quite compelling," Mr Bacon said.

The Brisbane-based judge said the quality of the field was outstanding and he easily could have awarded the top honour to eight or 10 other works.

Honourable mentions were given to several other entries including Jeff Gant's portrait of local Aboriginal artist Digby Moran, and Rhonda Baker's Can't eat coal, can't drink gas painting of anti-CSG protester and Knitting Nanna Against Gas Clare Twomey.

Mr Bacon's announcement that he had purchased the latter work on behalf of the gallery, sure to be of rich historical significance given the long-running protest campaign against CSG, sparked cheers from several Knitting Nannas in the audience.

The Lismore Regional Gallery was abuzz for the announcement on Saturday morning, with more than 150 people cramming the gallery to take in the 58 finalist paintings on show.

Lina Buck's Mother 2013 won the under-30 Armsign award.

The exhibition continues until July 14.



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