The SPI National Portrait Award: The SPI (Sanlam Private Investments) National Portrait Award was initiated in collaboration with the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville in 2012. Modeled on the London based National Portrait Gallery, BP Portrait Award the competition invited entries in any medium with the exclusion of lens based media such photography, television and film.
The Winner: A prize of R 100 000.00 was awarded to Heather Gourlay-Conyngham. Born in Durban in 1956, Gourlay-Conyngham now lives in Hilton in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. She has worked as an art teacher and painter since graduating with a BA Fine Arts from the University of Natal in 1978 and a Higher Education Diploma in 1980 from the University of South Africa. Her paintings focus primarily on the human form.
The Judges / Adjudicators: The SPI National Portrait award is unique in that it invites entries in almost all media with the exception of photography and other lens-based mediums. This openness to diversity will no doubt elicit much praise and much criticism, as each medium has distinct qualities which make comparisons and evaluation difficult, but not impossible. One cannot make provision for every subtlety of expression, yet given that the subject of this competition is the “portrait”, there has been enough common understanding that made for an exciting and animated process of selecting the 40 works for exhibition and to adjudicate which work was worthy of the award. Mindful of this a panel of three suitable adjudicators, with the necessary training and experience, was appointed. All the adjudicators have had extensive experience in making art, teaching and serving as adjudicators on other competitions. This, combined with their personal experiences and current active practice provided for a suitable combination of insights that undoubtedly contributed to the selection of a deserving award winner. An unanticipated 1783 entries by 1200 artists were adjudicated. The convener of the panel was Stefan Hundt, curator of the Sanlam Art Collection.
Susanne Du Toit is an accomplished painter, winning the 2013 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London. After graduating from the University of Pretoria she furthered her studies in United States, specializing in lithography before settling in the United Kingdom where she paints and teaches professionally.
Hayden Proud is curator for the Michaelis Collection and for Historical Painting and Sculpture at the Iziko South African National Gallery. He studied Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, following which he continued in the History of Art at the University of South Africa and finally obtaining Master Degree from Courtauld Institute in London. He is an accomplished portrait painter with a number of significant commissions to his name. He continues to publish and lecture extensively on South African and European art history.
Vulindlela Nyoni presently lectures in printmaking at the University of Stellenbosch. He completed his Fine Art studies with a Master Degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Besides teaching, he continues to exhibit extensively in South Africa and abroad. He is a sought after adjudicator and has served on several national competition judging panels over the past few years.