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A little car, a feminine approach and $25,000

John Gallagher with Natalya Hughes


A little car, a feminine approach and $25,000

In a difficult year the Sunshine Coast Art Prize was a beacon of light for artists.

Her vibrant artwork is already wrapped around a MINI art car and roving the streets, but  the laurels kept coming with the announcement of Natalya Hughes taking out the top gong at the Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2020.

As the major Art Prize winner, Natalya Hughes walks away with $25,000 sponsored by Argon Law and Sunshine Coast Council for her work Gestural Body Painting.

Eminent judge of this year’s Sunshine Coast Art Prize, Tracy Cooper-Lavery says in Gestural Body Painting (2020) Hughes took the male dominated history of abstract expressionism and turned it on its head.

“This piece was painted in a response to Willem de Kooning’s famed Woman series, the thick, gestural brushstrokes of those original works are replaced with intricate pattern, executed in painstaking detail,” Ms Cooper-Lavery says.

“The result is a painting that reclaims the female form, capturing it with a new kind of energy and vibrancy. It is an energy that draws from a decorative aesthetic, reminiscent of retro interior design, redeployed in a critical, contemporary way. Hughes has created a clear framework to investigate the history of figurative art that yields fantastic results.

“Natalya says of this painting, ‘Maybe I was painting the woman in me’, I can’t help but feel she was painting the woman in many of us. Where de Kooning spoke to the joy of the grotesque in beauty, Hughes’ curves and colours are the joy of self-representation – something to celebrate indeed.”

Natalya Hughes says like the other paintings in her ‘Maybe I was painting the woman in me’ series, Gestural Body Painting looks to pattern and decoration to say something that couldn’t be said otherwise.

“It’s a joyous work for me. It’s playful, and that’s not something I always get to do,” Ms Hughes says.

“I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that 2020 was a difficult year. And artists, like many other people, have seen considerable challenges to their industry. It feels really wonderful to be sent the message that my work is worth pursuing, even at the most difficult of times. I’m so very grateful.”

The announcement was made at Coastline BMW, where four new winners were inducted into the Art Prize hall of fame.

Major winners

Major Winner: Natalya Hughes with Gestural Body Painting
Acquisitive prize of $25,000 cash sponsored by Argon Law and Sunshine Coast Council. The artwork will be acquired into the Sunshine Coast Art Collection.

Highly Commended: Bundit Puanthong with Feel Free
$5000 non-acquisitive prize sponsored by the De Deyne Family.

Artist Residency: Kent Morris with Barkindji Blue Sky-Ancestral Connections #1
Sponsored by Montville Country Cabins and Caloundra Regional Gallery.

People’s Choice: Christine Druitt-Preston with Olley Land – Take a place at the table.
$2500 non-acquisitive prize sponsored by Caloundra Chamber of Commerce.


Did you know?

The 40 finalist works, by established and emerging Australian artists is on show at the Caloundra Regional Gallery until December 6, 2020. The Caloundra Regional Gallery is open to all. Entry is free and as well as the impressive range of art on display, visitors will find unique pieces in the gallery store and plenty of kids’ activities. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday. Visit


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