This year’s rendition of the national Portrait Award competition culminated in the much-anticipated winner’s announcement event at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery on Friday 1 September 2023.
850 digital entries interpreting the theme of portraiture in various ways were received from creatives all over South Africa. From these entries, 250 were selected to come to the gallery for on-site adjudication.
The panel, consisting of well-respected artists and educators, Elizabeth Gunter, Paul Emsley and Rose Kirumira, made their final selection of 100 portraits via an anonymous adjudication process and after much deliberation, the winning portraits became apparent. These inspiring artworks were created by Themba Mkhangeli (Ryno Swarts Drawing Medal), Juria le Roux (Fifth Place), Marié Stander (Fourth Place), Leanne Olivier (Third Prize), Willem Pretorius (Second Prize) and André Serfontein (First Prize).
Traditionally, portraiture exists not only to portray a physical likeness of the sitter, but naturally convey a sense of who the sitter is – capturing an essence of the subject’s identity or life story – be it photorealistic, illustrative, painterly, or even abstract.
It is a common misconception that portraiture should always be of a photorealistic nature. Although the final selection contains several strong portraits in this style, the overall winning piece ultimately captured the judges’ attention through the masterful application of various painting techniques and visual storytelling. The unusual and highly successful distortion and elongation of the face and figure placed the painting in a category of its own. These distortions, almost reminiscent (albeit stylistically different) of artworks by Egon Schiele, are rendered anatomically believable, showing that the painter has a deep understanding of the human form. ‘The Prince and Princess of Prince Street (Johan & Bongi)’ showed more than enough skill and charm to earn its creator – André Serfontein – the coveted first prize.
Serfontein is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Cape Town. He graduated with a National Diploma in Graphic Design from Cape Technikon in 1983 and worked in various advertising agencies as a designer and illustrator before turning to his art full-time. He has been exhibiting in numerous exhibitions in spaces across South Africa since 1995. André states that his intention is not to capture an ideal or present the pinnacle of beauty. He often distorts and exaggerates certain physical features to capture, amplify and accentuate the essence of his subjects. He looks for interesting faces, for details that he can interpret, for ways to heighten what he sees. He is drawn to a bold, resilient beauty that’s imperfect and asymmetrical – the rare magnetism of men and women who are truly comfortable in their skin.
The winning works, along with the other Top 40 portraits, will be on display at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, Cape Town, from 2 September until 2 November 2023 during gallery hours. www.rust-en-vrede.com / 068 457 8589 / email@example.com / Rust-en-Vrede Gallery + Clay Museum, 10 Wellington Road, Durbanville, 7550.
See 60 more of the Top 100 selected portraits at the Spier Arts Trust Union House Exhibition Space in Cape Town CBD, in an exhibition titled PORTRAIT 100. This exhibition will run from 4 September until 13 October 2023. www.spierartstrust.co.za / firstname.lastname@example.org / 021 461 2679 / Union House, 25 Commercial Street, Cape Town, 8001