Prize-winning portrait of twin survivors
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Three artists share honours

Prize-winning portrait of twin survivors

In an unprecedented decision, judges of Australia's richest art prize have named three winners.

Winner Andrew Greensmith with his painting Two lives one soul, featuring Holocaust survivors Annetta Able and Stephanie Heller.
Winner Andrew Greensmith with his painting Two lives one soul, featuring Holocaust survivors Annetta Able and Stephanie Heller.

The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize – Australia’s richest art prize – this week revealed three joint winners in a first for the annual competition.

Vincent Fantauzzo, Andrew Greensmith and Michael Vale will each receive $100,000 prize money for their entries.

The three Victorian-based artists were at a special announcement ceremony at Sydney’s historic Juniper Hall.

Greensmith, who is a renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon and a previous Archibald finalist, won with his painting, Two lives one soul, featuring twins Annette Able and Stephanie Heller, identical twin survivors of Auschwitz.

In his moving tribute to the sisters, Greensmith said, “It struck me that portraiture is a wonderful and very permanent way of not letting people or events be forgotten.”

Annetta Able, 97, and Stephanie Heller, who died in 2019, were the oldest identical twin survivors of Auschwitz. Their experience through the Holocaust and being subjected to inhumane experiments by Dr Josef Mengele have been documented in Fiona Harari’s book, We Are Here.

Greensmith said, “In my other work as a surgeon of the face, I am very much aware of people’s stories and lives told through their faces and am always fascinated by them.

“My hope is that my painting can possibly make a worthwhile connection with the audience and remind us of the truly personal face to the memories of the Holocaust that are at risk of fading away,.

“Depicted in the painting is a family photo taken when the sisters were 17, just before their mother and younger sister were taken away to a camp and a year before they themselves were interned in Auschwitz, fragmenting as a touch of symbolic magic realism.”

Melbournian Mica Pillemer was a finalist with his painting, Lockdown self-portrait.

“The extended lockdowns have been long and dreary. Outside the window, life is full of colour and light, but inside is the monotonous chaos of life in isolation,” Pillemer explains on the art prize website.

“I have used the colour palette and what is happening in the painting to convey my state of mind. Being torn many different ways with responsibilities pilling up and getting out of control.”

To view the exhibition online, visit moranarts.org.au/2021-portrait-prize

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