Bell’s reflection one of this year’s Kilgour Prize finalists

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Michael Bell says he is thrilled to have been chosen as one of the finalists in the Newcastle Art Gallery’s Kilgour Prize 2020.

The shy Newcastle painter used this year’s competition as the inspiration needed to take a very good look at himself.

His work ‘Starting the After Party – Two Self-Portraits’ is a reflective piece comparing two different eras of his life.

“The first is of me at seven years-old at a school fete,” he said.

“The second is recent, it’s me 54 years later.”

Bell, a teacher at Newcastle Art School, said the person in the painting had changed much over the years.

“The most recent looks anxious I think,” he said.

“It was over Covid so maybe that’s why, whereas the little figure is so young and so carefree, no worries in the world.”

Bell’s painting took four weeks to create.

“I did refer to a photograph but a lot of it was from memory,” he said.

“It’s expressionist rather than realist.”

The canvas, created in his self-confessed “chaotic” studio, joins 29 other entries in the running to win $50,000.

The Kilgour Prize also includes a $5,000 People’s Choice award for the painting voted most popular by the general public.

This year the 30 finalists were selected from more than 350 entries received from artists across the country, including artists from the ACT, NSW, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia.

Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said all of this year’s entries were unique.

“Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian arts sector, the Kilgour Prize has been an incredible opportunity to encourage and support artists to continue producing and creating works of art,” she said.

“This year’s selected artists present diverse interpretations of the brief, resulting in a very dynamic exhibition.”

The annual arts prize which originated in 2006, is funded by a bequest from artist Jack Noel Kilgour. The winner will be announced on Friday 31 July with entries on display 1 August – 15 November.

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