Self portrait wins artist Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship

Natasha Walsh in Brett Whiteley's studio.

Photo: Christopher Pearce

Three times Archibald Prize finalist, Natasha Walsh, has been awarded the prestigious Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship.

Awarded annually to a young Australian painter aged between 20 and 30 years,  the Sydney artist received the prize for a body of work that former winner and guest judge Ben Quilty said had ''a quiet yet very self-assured sophistication'' belying her youth. The National Art School graduate is 24 years old.

Walsh's series of intricately detailed miniature self-portraits painted on copper shows her in various poses.

In her hung work at the Brett Whiteley Studio, titled Dear Frida, she sits in a red flowing dress in a chair as if a ''broken doll'' on stage.

''It's not me as an individual, I see it like a performance,'' she said. ''It's about the different masks we present to the world, the different ways we construct our identity. What was I exploring in that was identity, to do with being a woman.

''It was actually responding to a work I'd seen of Frida Kahlo which is at the Museum of Old and New Art where basically she has all her hair cut off on the floor and she is sitting in the chair, slightly off centre, in a suit.  I see this work as doing the opposite. The hair's grown back and it's restrictive.''

Walsh completed her Masters of Fine Art in 2017. Last year her work was selected as a finalist for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and the Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition in Edinburgh.

Walsh said she had wanted to be an artist since she was four but it wasn't until she left Loreto Kirribilli and attended the National Art School that she accepted it was ''part of whom I am and it was something I had to do''. Her earlier work immersed older faces within painted bodies of wax, wood and resin.

Walsh said she would relish the freedom the scholarship offered to extend her practice while not having to justify the expense.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the scholarship, now in its 20th year, served to bridge the gap between established and emerging artists, introducing Quilty to Margaret Olley.

The prize augers well for Walsh. Three previous scholarship winners have gone on to win the Archibald Prize; Quilty, Mitch Cairns and Marcus Wills.

Walsh was selected from 154 scholarship applicants and a shortlist including Otis Hope Carey, Martin Claydon, Danica Firulovic, Holly Greenwood, India Mark, Jason Phu, Jordon Richardson, Monica Rohan, Nick Santoro, Adrian Smith and Myles Young.

The prize includes a three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and $40,000  to further recipients' art education while in Europe.

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