Sydney artist wins top prize

Sydney artist Max Miller last night was named winner of Australia’s richest watercolour prize.

The biennial James Kiwi Watercolour Prize began at Wollongong City Gallery in 1994 as a way to highlight watercolour painting in the region.

This year was the 10th time the prize had been awarded so, to mark the occasion, the gallery decided to raise the winner’s prize money to $10,000 and allow entries from all over Australia - making it the largest art prize of its kind in the country.

President of the Australian Watercolour Institute and judge David van Nunen said Wollongong City Gallery had built a strong reputation in the field of watercolour painting over the past 18 years.

‘‘I think this is the pre-eminent watercolour award in Australia because there is nowhere else that is making watercolour so central,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it will bring a lot of people to the gallery and to the region.’’

He said the record field of 128 entries had made it difficult to judge a winner.

‘‘[The prize has] always been full of wonderful painters from the Illawarra region but this year the gallery has pushed it out to be a national award so ... this year’s standard was really high.’’

He said the choice of Max Miller as the winner was unanimous between the prize’s three judges because of his ‘‘attention to detail and fine rendering and draughtsmanship’’.

His painting, Chiaroscuro, depicts objects associated with the seashore, such as shells and driftwood, and is painted on delicate handmade paper.

Illawarra entrant Lara Seresin was named winner of the $2000 Local Prize for her painting Near the Finke Gorge, and highly commended awards were given to Suzanne Archer (Physiognomy), Jutta Chalk (Poppy Fields), Helen Poyser (Treelines) and Diana Wood Conroy (Chronologies).

The James Kiwi Watercolour Prize exhibition will be on at Wollongong City Gallery until June 10.

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