Online vote crowns People's Choice for Kilgour Prize

10 Oct 2021

A first-time entrant has taken out the People's Choice award in this year's Kilgour Prize after attracting 19 per cent of the total votes, which were cast online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tinonee artist Nathan Paddison picked up the $5000 prize for his colourful self-portrait Flour Sailwhich reflects on one of the tougher periods in his life.The People's Choice award is usually decided by votes cast by members of the public when they visit the annual Kilgour Prize exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery.

However, with the gallery closed due to the COVID lockdown, the exhibition was forced to go completely digital for the first time in its 16-year history, with an online voting system used to determine the most popular entry from among the 30 finalists.

Despite the challenges, it was a milestone year for the Kilgour Prize, which attracted 476 entries from across every state and territory in Australia, an increase of more than 100 entries from 2020 and the highest number overall since it was established in 2006.

Almost 2900 works overall have been entered into what has become one of Australia's major art competitions, which presents some of the finest examples of contemporary Australian portrait and figurative painting.

The Kilgour Prize is administered by Newcastle Art Gallery and funded by a bequest from artist Jack Noel Kilgour, providing $50,000 to the winner each year and an additional $5,000 for the painting voted most popular by the general public.

According to Nathan's artist statement, Flour Sail is a "self portrait of harder times, the flowers representing anything I could find to make a quick buck even a droopy flower".

"Everyone has hard times in life and is always searching for who they are and where they belong in the world. Spelling the words wrong is a way to make the viewer take a second look and to understand better rather than just to read words. Figuring out meanings brings a new understanding that would otherwise be left to be forgotten."

The People's Choice award ithe first prize won by the Mid North Coast artist, who only started painting four years ago.

Nathan said it was unbelievable to win this award in such a prestigious prize and against such talented finalists, noting it was the "greatest validation" for the "endless hours days, weeks and years" he put into his art.


Jack Noel Kilgour (1900–1987) was an Australian artist well-known for his academic approach to landscape and portrait painting. In 1987 Kilgour bequeathed funds for the creation of a major figurative and portrait art competition to be run in perpetuity. As one of Australia’s major art prizes, Newcastle Art Gallery is proud to be the home of the KILGOUR PRIZE.

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