Blak Douglas wins $50,000 Kilgour Prize

02 Aug 2019

A social justice metaphor couched in a striking graphic design has taken out the prestigious 2019 Kilgour Prize.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes announced Sydney-based artist Blak Douglas as the winner of the annual award for figurative and portrait painting during the launch of the exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery tonight.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton with the winning Kilgour Prize artwork by Sydney-based artist Blak Douglas.

The Kilgour Prize is one of Australia’s most lucrative art prizes and includes $50,000 for the winning artist, as well as a $5,000 People's Choice Award.

It is administered by Newcastle Art Gallery and funded via a bequest from Australian artist Jack Noel Kilgour, administered by The Trust Company, Part of Perpetual.

The Lord Mayor said the City of Newcastle was honoured to be the home of such an esteemed national prize.

“Now in its ninth year, the reputation of the Kilgour Prize continues to grow, attracting a large number of entrants and a significant audience to the gallery,” she said.

“The breadth and depth of artistic talent on show in this year’s Prize is truly impressive, with the diversity and quality of the entries reaching new heights each year.

“I congratulate Blak Douglas on joining a prestigious list of accomplished artists to have taken out the Kilgour Prize.”

Chosen from among hundreds of entries and 30 finalists, the compelling 1.5m square portrait of Australian actress and singer Ursula Yovich – ‘Queen of her own stage’ - impressed the panel of three judges with its powerful composition and striking style.

The 2019 prize was judged by Lauretta Morton, Director, Newcastle Art Gallery, Jon Cattapan, Artist and Director of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) at University of Melbourne and Michael Dagostino, Director Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Ms Morton said the Kilgour Prize encourages Australian artists to pursue - and push the boundaries of - portraiture and figurative painting.
The judges noted a striking range of subject matter and styles within this year's entries.

The selected works came from every State and Territory of Australia, with the artists ranging in age from 22 to 70 years. Four local artists (Nigel Milsom, Peter Gardiner, Michael Bell and Leeroy Chapman) were among those who made the final cut.

“This year’s 30 finalists are perhaps the strongest and most interesting entries we’ve had in the history of the Kilgour Prize,” Ms Morton said.

Born in Blacktown, Western Sydney in 1970, Douglas originally trained in illustration and photography before becoming a self–taught painter with a social justice-inspired style influenced by the study of graphic design.

He said he had always wanted to paint a portrait of his friend Yovich, a proud Larrakia woman from Darwin who is currently performing her Helpmann Award-winning show Barbara and the Camp Dogs at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney.

“My dear friend Ursula Yovich, actress and songstress dynamo, has always been on my list of subjects to paint,” Douglas said.

“This painting is all about her and is a metaphor for the female black voice. I asked Ursula to stand upon a chair for the pose because I saw it as a metaphor for Aboriginal voices to be heard.”

The KILGOUR PRIZE 2019 exhibition showcases the 30 finalists and is on at Newcastle Art Gallery from 3 August to 13 October 2019.

People's Choice Award
In addition to the overall prize, the KILGOUR PRIZE 2019 competition includes a People’s Choice Award of $5,000. Visitors can vote for the People’s Choice Award at the Gallery until 5pm Wednesday 18 September 2019. The winner will be announced Monday 23 September 2019.

More information on the current year's exhibition:

Kilgour Prize FAQs, history and information about Jack Noel Kilgour:

Kilgour Prize 2019 finalists:
Peter Barker, Anthony Bartok, Michael Bell, Eva Beltran, Karen Black, Leeroy Chapman, Tamara Dean, Blak Douglas, David Fairbairn, Sebastian Galloway, Peter Gardiner, Ben Gavin, Craig Handley, Jacqueline Hennessy, Tom Keukenmeester, Richard Lewer, Michael Lindeman, Robert Malherbe, Marie Mansfield, Siân McNabney, Joshua McPherson, Nigel Milsom, Lori Pensini, Stephen Pleban, Jordan Richardson, Melissa Ritchie, Jenny Rodgerson, Paul Ryan, Nick Santoro.