More Than Just a Pretty Face at Noosa Regional Gallery

Image source: Contributed

Michael Brennan faces up to the power of a portrait.

Faces. We’ve all got them. I’ve even encountered a few people who seemed to have two.

It’s quite remarkable how much information we take on about others simply through this bulbous bag of flesh and bone that sits atop our torsos. 

Not to mention the way we manipulate it to try to tell others something about ourselves – smiles, frowns, make up, hair styles, hats, glasses, Botox, piercings, full facial tattoos. Well, maybe not so much of that last one. And when you extend that to how we adorn our bodies, it seems, perhaps, there’s barely a need to even utter a sentence about ourselves before we’ve made assumptions about someone’s identity or tried to put across something about our own. 

We all look in the mirror and make adjustments before we face the day.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize comes to Noosa in April, having toured the country from its home in Canberra over the previous six months. 

This captivating exhibition brings us face-to-face with artists and their subjects from throughout Australia, allowing us a momentary glimpse into their diverse inner worlds and the realities they each individually face.

At face value, it would be easy to just enjoy these works for their fantastic visual arrangements and dramatic use of colour and space. 

But take a bit more time and it’s quickly revealed that this collection of work is not just about faces, but a series of windows into inner worlds. 

In every photo we can recognise something of ourselves, but more importantly, a whole lot more about someone else.

This year’s winner, Silent Strength by Wayne Quilliam, is a depiction of courage and defiance and culture, as the sitter faces off with an audience whose ancestry has often been responsible for the oppression of his own. 

Meanwhile, four-year-old Mia puts on a brave face in Andrew Rovenko’s, The Shuttle – alone in her homemade space suit, her imagination allowing a momentary escape from the dangerous and unfamiliar world the pandemic has created.

The exhibition gives us 50 such images, shortlisted from a staggering 2,400 entries. 

This being the 15th iteration of the prize, the collection gives us a snapshot of an extraordinary diversity of Australian identity captured across highly unusual times. 

These are important projects as well as beautiful works of art. 

They promote understanding and empathy and ultimately humanity. Together, they fly in the face of the divisiveness that seems to have become amplified in our communities over recent years.

Let’s face it, taking the time to understand each other makes its less likely that we’ll end up with egg on our face.

About the Author /

Director of Noosa Regional Gallery and described as an ‘accidental curator’ this prize-winning painter and sculptor has moved from creating works to curating them. It all began when he opened The Trocadero Art Space in Footscray in an effort to build an arts community in the area and 14 years later it is still standing we are lucky to have him taking the arts to a whole new level in our region.

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