On August 23, Brisbane artist Michael Zavros was announced the winner of the Mosman Art Prize, an annual award for painting given by the Mosman Art Gallery in New South Wales, Australia. Granted AUD 30,000 (USD 23,000) for his achievement, Zavros’s winning work, Flora (2016), is an intimately sized portrait depicting the artist’s 11-year-old daughter Phoebe with her face obscured by a floral print Gucci scarf designed in the 1960s. The photorealist painting, which plays with ideas of portraiture and still life, has been praised by Susi Muddiman, the Prize’s 2016 judge and the director of the Tweed River Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, for transcending the conventional constraints of portraiture while providing commentary on Phoebe’s navigation of puberty and womanhood.
Flora is part of the artist’s ongoing painting series of his daughter, who has been a subject in his works from an early age. In 2010, Zavros’s Phoebe is Dead/McQueen (2010) won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. The work depicts Phoebe, then aged five, playing dead while covered in a skeleton-patterned scarf designed by Alexander McQueen who committed suicide that year. Zavros often imbues the personal, or autobiographical, with universal themes of life and death, resulting in arresting images inspired by the clean aesthetics of high fashion photography.
In addition to the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Zavros has been a finalist of the nation’s prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture five times, and has also won the 2012 Bulgari Art award. As the top-prize winner, the Mosman Art Gallery will acquire Flora for its collection, which comprises paintings and works on paper by modern and contemporary Australian artists.
Established in 1947, the Mosman Art Prize is one of the oldest local government art awards in Australia. Past recipients include Margaret Olley, Elisabeth Cummings, Lloyd Rees and Guan Wei.