Artist's touching tribute to Mum wins prestigious portrait prize

Published 12:00pm 7 October 2022

Artist's touching tribute to Mum wins prestigious portrait prize
Words by Jodie Powell

The tender portrayal of a Burpengary aged care resident has won this year’s prestigious Brisbane Portrait Prize.

Darren McDonald took home the $50,000 Lord Mayor’s Prize for his artwork Like A Bridge, which depicts his mum, Violet, as a floating figure dressed in yellow and playing a banjo.

McDonald says he was overwhelmed to take out first place and paid tribute to his mother in his acceptance speech.

“Mum brought me up in an artist’s life,” he says.

“ I remember when I got into art school she said, ‘I got a little gift for you.’

“It was a drawing of me at two days old. She’s a beautiful woman.”

Passion for music

McDonald brought Violet to Burpengary to live two years ago due to her poor health after an accident.

“It was a hard time on our family,” he says.

“Mum is a loving person with a love of music and the arts.

“I bought her a banjo to play.

|“The title of my work came from the song Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water that mum and I love.”|

Love at first sight

Artist's touching tribute to Mum wins prestigious portrait prize
Darren McDonald's Like A Bridge has won the 2022 Brisbane Portrait Prize. Main image above: Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner with artist Darren McDonald and Darren's mother, Violet. Picture: Cassidy Cloupet.

This year’s Brisbane Portrait Prize chief judge Lisa Slade says the winner captured her interest at first sight.

“This artwork spoke to me immediately. There was a sense to which there was no looking back once I saw this work,” Dr Slade says.

“This is a work that was made in one sitting, it’s a one hit work in the sense that you can’t mess it up – you have to get it right from the get-go.

“The thing about great portraits is they have to be both timeless and of the time, and I believe this portrait was just that.”

Dr Slade says the painting has a very heartfelt tale.

“It speaks to the moment in which the artist had to confront something difficult and support his mother going into care and in that very act, as a loving son, negotiate that emotional bridge.

|“It's a brave work and it might well be a brave choice, but I would say to everyone that art should always court controversy.|

“Some may think this particular artwork looks easy but pulling something like this off is very sophisticated,” she says.

Artistic achievement

Brisbane Portrait Prize director Anna Reynolds says this year’s winning works reflect the times.

“These works serve as a visual recording of the ups and downs, and the complexities of the world we live in,” she says.

|“There’s a respect for elders, a commentary about our colonial past, a celebration of family, love and music. What more could we ask for in 2022?|

“I’m proud of all the works here at the finalist exhibition, we have seen some serious intellectual artistic achievement.”

Bribie Island photographer Wayne Budge’s stunning image of country music legend Troy Cassar-Daley was a finalist in this year’s Prize, as were Messiah, The Liberator by Deception Bay’s Craig Rohse and Redcliffe artist James Congdon’s The Flatemate.

See the work of all the finalists in the Finalists Gallery exhibition at The Brisbane Powerhouse until October 30.

Entry is free, but visitor numbers are capped and booking online here is recommended.

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