An intricately detailed watercolour depicting thousands of bowing Muslims at the annual Mecca pilgrimage has won its Melbourne-based creator Australia's richest art prize for young people.
Jackson Slattery, 26, of North Fitzroy, will now have more time to devote to his passion after winning the $40,000 judges' prize in the 2009 Metro Gallery Art Award, presented in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Slattery, who won the award's $10,000 People's Choice Prize last year, used the finest of paint brushes, some with just a couple of hairs, to produce the tiny figures bowed in prayer.
The painting, called `Our Plastic Everything is Broken', was inspired by an image Slattery found in an old National Geographic magazine.
He said the prize was especially welcome at a time when artists were struggling more than ever because of the economic downturn.
"It's an incredibly generous prize and this is the kind of money that can buy an artist a whole lot of freedom," Slattery told AAP.
Judge Sam Leach, the winner of the 2006 prize, had an apt description for Slattery's painstaking work, likening it to the art of calligraphy.
"When you look at this painting, apart from being very realistic on detailed inspection you'll see that there's marvellous mark making, it's almost calligraphic in some areas," he said as he announced the winner.
A 30-year-old artist from Mudgeeraba in the Gold Coast hinterland, Victoria Reichelt, took out the People's Choice Prize with an original take on her self portrait.
But rather than the traditional face, it shows her bookshelf, stuffed with a whole range of books about everything from snow domes to French cookbooks and art.
"I think you can tell a lot more about a person by what's on their bookshelf," she said.
The "self portrait" follows an exhibition she created last year, featuring bookshelves of eight Australian artists.
The judges highly commended a large oil on canvas self portrait by 24 year-old Melbourne artist Dane Lovett.
The Metro Gallery Art Award was established in 2003 and is awarded to artists under the age of 35.
Announcing the awards, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett paid tribute to the small Armadale gallery in Melbourne's inner southeast for supporting young talent.
"It's a wonderful thing when a small gallery makes such a footprint and such a commitment to the youth of today as they go about their work," he said.
Over 120 entries were submitted to this year's competition.
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