The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize is the richest awarded art prize in Australia. The brief is for Australian artists to paint a portrait of someone known or unknown to them and to interpret that person’s look and personality. The thousands of hopeful entries are culled to semi-finalists, then a final 30 (all of whom receive $1000) and a finalist winner, who receives a whopping $150,000.
In quite a career coup, Gold Coast artist Samantha Beau has been selected as a semi-finalist with her portrait ‘Maree Widow of a War Veteran’. We asked Sam to give us an insight into her career and her portrait of Maree, ahead of the approaching finalist announcement.
Why did you choose Maree as the subject?
The reasons were many. She has been a nanny to my kids for 12 years and her husband Johnny was a returned Vietnam veteran. Over the years I have got to know Maree and Johnny. Johnny was quite depressed and negative after the war. Many war casualties are psychological and not physical. My son seemed to help him find the happy switch again and it was wonderful to see. I painted him for the Archibald 6 years ago and then he died later that year at 62 yo. Maree now soldiers on and seemed a perfect representative of a veteran’s widow.
What have you tried to achieve with the portrait?
Maree is indicative of many women her age. She married young and has stuck by her husband through thick and thin. Many soldiers that have returned from war zones, even peace keeping deployment, have unreconciled scars and hurts. The shrapnel of war is not always visible. It can penetrate into one’s soul and stay there, haemorrhaging joy until it is removed, and healing can occur. I think many don’t receive the guidance they need to do this important healing step.
I wanted to capture Maree’s happy disposition but pay tribute to the women she represents. Her silhouette reveals the veteran’s anguish of being alone, against a khaki toned horizon. Loneliness and despair are rife.
What do you hope to achieve with the portrait and message?
Well, winning will be a game changer for me and my three children. I have worked hard for many years and been a single parent has been a juggle. The prize would change our lives for sure. The other message is that I want to convey is one of gratitude. Gratitude for the men and women who have been to war to fight for our democracy and way of life, and for those who are married or partners to them.
The final Doug Moran Portrait Prize winner will be announced on 30 October, 2019 on the portrait prize website. You can follow Sam on her Insta @Samantha_beau_artist or order commissions through her website samanthabeau.com. She also has a solo exhibition at Art Post Uki from 27 Feb to 6 April 2020.
IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography