The Hum of Human Energy

on Wednesday, 13 February 2013. Posted in Blog

The Hum of Human Energy

Left Image:  Stephen Martyn Welch, 3 Nights, A Mirror & Loads of Coffee (self portrait) (2012).  Winner of the 2012 Adam Portraiture Awards.  Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Wellington.

Everybody has a happy place and I found mine last weekend at the Adam Portrait Exhibition. Each and every work is deserving of its place. The Adam Portrait touring exhibition, currently showing at the Suter Art Gallery in Nelson is well worth a visit. With only a couple of other viewers in the gallery I was able to get up close to each work and revel in a room of paintings humming with human energy.


Stand out works for me… there were six of them.


  • Piera McArthur’s portrait of a Woman Watching Chekhov captured with greens, red, pinks and black. I love the bold simplicity of this work. McArthur’s style is immediately recognisable.
  • Susan Wilson Dr. Lawrence Hogben DSO D-Day Weather Forecaster. This work is packed full of emotion. The watery red rimmed eyes of the sitter juxtaposed against a background of vibrant electric blue. I am a fan of Wilson’s work. She has the ability to engender so much raw emotion into her portraits. Her use of colour and brushwork is sublime.
  • Harriet Bright Getting Closer. Bright won the last Adam Portrait Award in 2010. Getting Closer is a confident portrayal of self by Bright. I like the “in your face” composition, solid strong figure and great brush marks.
  • John Badcock Self Portrait. A fabulous self portrait confidently executed. Thick and shiny like melting butter the paint curls out from the support drawing you in. Texturally this is a very inviting work.
  • Justin Pearson portrait of Tony Williams, Film Director. The artist has captured the sitter in a sensitive and thoughtful way. This work makes me want to know more about Tony Williams. I am intrigued.
  • Richard McWhannell Tonal Study for a large Portrait (Self). This portrait is haunting, fabulous in its simplicity. McWhannell is a master of the self-portrait and it shows. If I could buy only one work this would be the one for me. Although, I couldn’t possibly leave Susan Wilson’s work behind so I would buy two.



I picked six works that stood out to me. Other paintings will appeal to you more than the ones I have talked about. I would love to hear your standouts from the exhibition. If you can’t make it to the exhibition you can view the touring exhibition online.

The Adam Portrait Award is at the Suter Gallery in Nelson until 24 March. Included on the tour are portraits by Nelson-based award finalists: Bill Burke, Phillipa Dawson, Fiona Lees, Emma Panting, Catherine Russ (me) and Michele Surcouf.