BATHURST artist Rachel Ellis has been announced as the winner of the 10th annual NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize.
The $20,000 landscape prize is awarded each year to the best en plein air painting of a NSW subject with the winner announced in state parliament last Wednesday.
Ms Ellis’ entry – titled Bentinck St, Bathurst – was selected as the winner by this year’s judge, S.H. Ervin Gallery director Jane Watters.
The subject of Ms Ellis’ painting was a majestic elm tree which stands on Bentinck Street “arching heavenward” outside a two-storey terrace.
“I have painted this subject before on a large scale indoors, spending way more time on it than I would’ve liked, so it was cathartic to paint in situ, responding very directly on an intimate scale, before the tree lost any more of its beautiful yellow autumn leaves,” Ms Ellis said.
The painting is that it reminds her of Psalm 96, where it talks of trees singing for joy at the coming of the Lord.
Ms Ellis was shortlisted with fellow Central West artists Joanna Logue, Jane Canfield and Anne Smith, whose work is also on display at Sydney’s parliament house.
While competing against locals, Ms Ellis was also up against 44 other finalist in this year’s plein air prize.
Plein air refers to painting entirely in the open air, the direct engagement with nature meaning that the immediate effects of light can be observed and responded to in the present moment.
“While I find it very challenging, painting this way makes me feel most alive,” she said.
Ms Ellis first entered the competition when it was established 10 years ago and has done so on and off since, feeling encouraged that the NSW Parliament was initiating a prize to foster plein air painting.
“I entered the NSW Parliament Plein Air Prize because I like to support this great prize for this specific type of painting for which I feel passionate about,” she said.
Bentick St, Bathurst will now become apart of the permanent collection at the NSW Parliament.
It will be hung alongside previous winners of the prize, including Robert Malherbe, Isabel Gomez and Noel McKenna.
“I’m incredibly grateful to be the recipient of this award and feel spurred on to do more painting in the open air,” she said.
To view Ms Ellis’ painting the free exhibition will run at Sydney’s Parliament House until Friday, October 27.