Melbourne artist Natasha Bieniek has claimed Australia‚Äôs richest award for emerging artists after being named the winner of the 10th¬†annual Metro Art Award ¬†- with a miniature portrait measuring just 10x15cm.
Awarded the $50,000 prize by Award Chairman and former Victorian Premier, the Honourable Jeff Kennett AC, who led a judging panel that included Archibald Prize winner, Ben Quilty and 2011 Metro Art Award winner, Vincent Fantauzzo.
The hypnotic effect of Natasha‚Äôs somber moods and remarkable technical prowess is rapidly drawing the 28 year old a national following.
Twice shortlisted for the Archibald Prize, Natasha creates seductive and distinctive miniature portraits that strongly recall the stark colouring and tonality of 17th¬†century Dutch painting.
‚ÄúNatasha Bieniek‚Äòs work is an extraordinarily precise piece of artwork and whilst small in size, is extremely vibrant in colour and detail. It is a work that requires close scrutiny but the more you delve into the work the more you are impressed about the composition, the time, focus and discipline that it would have taken to complete.‚Äù Jeff Kennett said.
The ancient art of miniature portraiture disappeared with the advent of photography however the time was right for the Metro Art Award winner to make the dramatic shift away from large scale work.
‚ÄúI wanted to take representational painting to an extreme and find a new way to engage with the audience on a more intimate level ‚Äì so they feel as though they‚Äôre witnessing events through a key hole. In contemporary culture so much of the imagery we see is miniaturised, through iPhones and tablets, that I felt it was time to bring this ancient art into a modern context.‚Äù
Since its inception, Metro Gallery has awarded almost $500,000 to support and nurture the talents of young Australian artists. 25 artists from across Australia were selected as finalists with their work to be exhibited at the gallery until July 28.
Natasha Bieniek graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2006, the same year she won the Nino Sanciolo Arts Prize ‚Äì an ancient painting scholarship in Florence, Italy. Her short-listed prizes include the 2008 and 2009 Metro Art Award, the 2009 National Youth Self Portrait Prize and the 2010 Royal Bank of Scotland Art Award. In 2011 and again in 2012 she was a finalist in both the Archibald Prize and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.