Rosie's life lines reel in Olive Cotton people's choice prize

Michael Cook's close-up portrait Memories has been voted the public's favourite in the Olive Cotton Award People's Choice Award, with visitors describing it as a "profound" and "powerful" image.


The well-known Sunshine Coast photographer was thrilled with the news and indicated he would be giving the $250 winner's prize to Rosie, the subject of his black and white portrait.

Visitors to the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre said the detailed portrait effectively captured Rosie's character by starkly depicting what a number of voters described as her "life lines".

Cook described Rosie as a beautiful person who kindly introduced him to bush tucker and is everyone's favourite grandmother in her community.

"I wanted to capture her beauty physically and within. I think the photograph allows the viewer to not only see a lifetime of memories but to actually feel who she is beyond appearance," he said.

The People's Choice Award, funded by the Friends of the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre Inc, helped wrap up this year's Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture.

Hundreds of visitors to the exhibition took the opportunity to vote for their favourite work from the 72 finalists, which were on display at the Tweed Regional Gallery until 8 October.

Voting was close, with the portrait Trevor Jamieson by Brett Canet-Gibson of WA just 30 votes behind.

The biennial competition reinforced its claim as Australia's top photographic portraiture prize by attracting record entries this year. Entrants ranged from many high-profile photographers to a strong field of emerging artists, including the Olive Cotton Award's youngest finalist, 12-year-old local Ari Messina.

The end of this year's exhibition also brought to a close a 'selfie' competition to promote the new social media pages for the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre.

Sherry Mackay won a Tweed Regional Gallery prize pack, featuring Margaret Olley merchandise, for snapping herself with her favourite portrait, featuring actor and comedian Bill Bailey.

Sarah K8 @cloudcatcher15 chose Anita Modok's portrait, in absentia: Judy Cassab's bedroom, for her selfie on Instagram and won a $100 food and drinks voucher from the Gallery Cafe. She said the colours, composition and texture are "absolutely divine".

"I could totally move in and make it my own room!!" she said.

2017 Olive Cotton Award Finalists on display

The 72 finalists in this year's Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraits, opening at Tweed Regional Gallery today, are a "snapshot of our times", according to Award Coordinator Anouk Beck.

James Brickwood,  British Comedian

James Brickwood, British Comedian

Ms Beck said the 2017 judge, Shaune Lakin, chose a shortlist of finalists that examined many contemporary issues and reflected the ideas, techniques and styles of the overall record pool of entries.

"Entrants have explored themes of masculinity, cultural diversity and immigration, transgender transformation, family and mortality," she said.

"The portraits range from theatrically-posed tableaux to moments advantageously snatched."

A total of 492 entries were received for the 2017 award, continuing a steady increase in submissions for the Gallery's biennial competition. All 72 finalists will be on exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery until Sunday 8 October.

Twelve-year-old Tweed Shire resident Ari Messina is among the finalists, along with a number of well-known photographers including Michael Cook, Polixeni Papapetrou, Stephen Dupont, Anne Zahalka and Julie Rrap.

They are vying for a $20,000 prize for the overall winner, to be announced at the opening function and awards announcement on Saturday from 5pm.

Stephen DuPont,  Up in the Sky

Stephen DuPont, Up in the Sky

This year's Olive Cotton Award has again attracted a wide spectrum of photographic styles. Some have embraced an historic wet plate printing technique, while others challenge the whole concept of a portrait - at a time when technology is transforming photographic portraiture.

Dr Lakin, the National Gallery of Australia's Senior Curator Photography, said "we shared about 24 billion selfies in 2015, and who knows how many photographs of friends sitting opposite the dinner table or of children doing this or that are among the more than one trillion photographs we will take and share this year."

"All of this has had a huge impact, not just on the social practice of photographic portraiture but on its form. Think, for example, about the way that the digital selfie phenomenon has produced a new portrait pose, one that views the face from above and highlights forehead, raised eyebrow and pouty lips."

For further information, visit the Tweed Regional Gallery website or phone the Gallery on (02) 6670 2790.

Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

Pudding face: New Margaret Olley portraits at Tweed Regional Gallery

Margaret Olley once joked that people liked to paint her portrait because she had "a face like a pudding and it's easy to draw."

Her humorous response came after friend and biographer Christine France asked why Olley thought she was such a popular portrait subject for fellow artists. A new portraits collection at the Tweed Regional Gallery assembles many influential artists who painted her.

Margaret Olley is the most painted face in Australian art history and many of the best examples are included in a new exhibition, Portraits: Margaret Olley, featured at the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre from this Friday (12 May) to 10 September.

As a fledgling artist aged 25, Olley sat for friend and fellow artist William Dobell, hurtling the shy young woman into a media frenzy when the portrait won the 1948 Archibald Prize. More than six decades later, Olley was again the subject of an Archibald Prize winning portrait; this time by Ben Quilty in 2011. Olley's remarkable career is bookended by these iconic portraits.

The new exhibition includes a number of self-portraits, alongside works by 13 Australian artists considered to be among the most significant figures in Australian art: William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Margaret Cilento, Ian Fairweather, Judy Cassab, Ray Crooke, Jeffrey Smart, Robert Barnes, Nicholas Harding, Danelle Bergstrom, Adam Knott, Greg Weight and Ben Quilty.

"However, their importance to the exhibition also stems from their enduring friendships with Olley, so audiences don't just see artist portraying subject, but also friend portraying friend," Margarget Olley Art Centre Curator and Collections Manager, Ingrid Hedgcock, said.

"Much has been said about the potential of the connection between artist and sitter to take a portrait beyond mere likeness. There are many things we 'know' about Olley - garnered from her intimate biography by Meg Stewart, Margaret Olley: Far from a still life, her work and the extraordinary home studio re-creation.

"In this exhibition, we see snatches of Olley - her character, her capacity for friendship, her dedication to art and artists and her obsession with objects - through her own eyes and through those of her artist friends. In this sense, Portraits: Margaret Olley can be seen as an expressive, painterly photo album of an extraordinary life and individual."

The exhibition is complemented by supporting events:
Gallery Up Late, Friday 9 June.
After-hours access to the Gallery and Cafe from 5pm.
6.15pm (for 6.30pm) - 7.30pm: Panel Discussion: Reflections of Olley: Art Gallery of South Australia Director Nick Mitzevich hosts a panel discussion about much-loved artist, mentor and muse Margaret Olley.
Entry: $10 / $7 Friends of the Gallery and students. Bookings essential by 4 June. (02) 6670 2790 Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm or book and pay through PayPal at

Art in the Pub, Monday 10 July 6pm for 6.30pm, The Courthouse Hotel, Burringbar Street, Mullumbimby
Award-winning photographer Greg Weight discusses his artistic practice, including portraits of some of Australia's most celebrated artists. A collaborative event between Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, Contemporary Art Space and Education lnc. and Byron School of Art. Free. No bookings required.

Artist Jeska Valk’s new exhibition delves Beneath the Surface

An exploration of the human connection with the ocean in a series of paintings entitled Beneath the Surface will open at Byron Bay’s Lume Art Gallery on the 22nd of April, 2017. The second show in Jeska Valk’s Earth Warriors series promises to enthrall with meticulously painted portraits delving into the issues faced by our oceans.

“Human activity is putting enormous pressure on our oceans” says Jeska, “there is so much we can do, both personally and collectively to enact real change ... I wanted to not only explore the harm that we are doing, but tell the story of actions being taken by individuals and organisations, on all scales, to repair the damage”

Jeska Valk’s Beneath The Surface runs from 22nd April until the 22nd of May – with a public opening to be held at 6pm on Saturday the 22nd of April at Lume Gallery, Byron Bay.

For more information, visit or find her on Facebook and Instagram.