Sanlam Portrait Award 2019

The Sanlam Portrait Award, now in its fourth iteration, once again culminates in the highly anticipated Top 40 exhibition – opening at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, and the Portrait 100 exhibition at the AVA gallery in Cape Town respectively on the 23rd and 24th of August.

This was the inaugural year of the digital entry process and the panel of judges, already familiar with this process,  adapted their approach accordingly.

The 2019 adjudicating panel consisted of Dr Charlotte Mullins (UK-based art critic, writer, broadcaster and 2009 BP Portrait Award judge). Dr Elfriede Dreyer (Researcher, writer, academic, curator, visual artist and esteemed lecturer at Unisa) and Pfunzo Sidogi (Art historian, founding member of Ithuteng Art, Chair of the De Arte journal editorial board and lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology). A video conference with the judges was hosted by Sanlam in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London to finalize the digital selection process, leaving a manageable number of works to be delivered to Rust-en-Vrede Gallery, for final on-site adjudication.

During the on-site selection round, the judges whittled down the entries to 100 portraits. From these, the Top 40 portraits were selected and the remaining 60 works make up the Portrait 100 exhibition.

Each year, 5 portraits are distinguished with special mention. This year the fifth-place honour went to Aimee by Ruan Huisamen, fourth place to Champion by Willem Pretorius, third place to Oliver by André Serfontein and in second place, Dr Charles Niehaus by Annette Pretorius.

Ultimately, lucidity and the acute awareness of lighting reigned supreme, resulting in the selection of Craig Cameron-Mackintosh’s Lesala in Silhouette as the 2019 overall winning portrait.

Craig Cameron-Mackintosh’s Lesala in Silhouette

Craig Cameron-Mackintosh, an artist, writer and director hailing from White River, and currently residing in Cape Town obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Motion Picture Medium from AFDA in 2009. His background in filmmaking has been fundamental in the production of Billy Monk – Shot in the Dark, a short documentary that he directed about the legendary and enigmatic South African photographer Billy Monk. Craig is also the custodian of Monk’s photographic archive.

Drawing from his knowledge on cinematography, Craig showcased great sensitivity and a remarkable understanding of lighting in the creation of Lesala in Silhouette. Taking visual cues and references from photography, Cameron-Mackintosh reworks the traditional silhouette motif to highlight the importance of light in capturing the beauty of the human form. The figure is backlit, creating an effect almost like a photo negative, distorting some detail in the process and rendering certain features of the subject ambiguous.

Lesala in Silhouette also explores contemporary notions of beauty, ‘blackness’ and masculinity. The painting references the modern-day Adonis, gracing the covers of fitness magazines, whilst giving a nod to the art historical tradition of depicting the ideal male figure in Classical Greece.

As the beauty industry welcomes an era of inclusivity, men worldwide are redefining the standards of ‘male beauty’. According to writer David Yi, this has resulted in a new generation of men taking a stand against conservative visions of masculinity, ultimately reclaiming control over their own image.  Cameron-Mackintosh’s chosen subject represents this new ideal and the strongly silhouetted figure exudes vigour, confidence and yet, an aura of gentleness.

Cameron-Mackintosh ultimately succeeded in creating a painting that is not only unique in its technical approach, but presents the embedded narratives in a fresh and inspiring way. Lesala in Silhouette, along with the rest of the Top 40 portraits will be on display at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery from 23 August until 23 October during gallery hours. / 021 976 4691 /

The Portrait 100 exhibition will be on display at the AVA Gallery from Saturday 24 August until 21 September.     021 424 74

2nd Place Annette Pretorius | Dr Charles Niehaus


3d Place_Andre Serfontein | Oliver


4th Place Willem Pretorius | Champion


5th Place Ruan Huisamen | Aimee