National Portrait Gallery

HER Magazine - An 'emotional wallop': The Canberra Symphony Orchestra's Australian Series

Jolene Laverty

War has changed immeasurably during the last century, and whilst some of changes are easily observed (like the advances in technology for example) others are more discreet.

The ways in which war is portrayed through art has undergone subtle yet significant changes; some of which will be heard and seen during the second performance of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Series, which is held in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

Moving ahead 100 years, several of the finalists in the National Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 show that the artist’s attention has moved from the steady focus on the soldier’s experience to include indirect participants of war who are equally affected by its consequences. For example, Kellie Leczinska’s portrait of young mother and refugee Kuei shows us a striking image of a woman whose life has been profoundly impacted by war. In her artist statement, Leczinska writes

Artists and musicians have long used war as the subject of their creations, but contemporary artistic expressions such as we see in the Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 show that the narrative has broadened from the experience of the soldier to include the stories of people who would otherwise remain hidden.

This Australian Series also features a newly commissioned work from composer Alice Humphries. In order to help shape the work, Humphries spent some time looking for themes that link the images on display in the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017. She describes her piece ‘About Light’ as being inspired by an element which is essential in photography.

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Photographer art prize finalist

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A SUDANESE born woman who was “left for dead” in a refugee camp is the subject of a remarkable portrait by Mosman photographer Kellie Leczinska.

Kellie Leczinska’s stunning portrait of Kuei.

The portrait of Kuei has been named as a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize now on show at the National Gallery in Canberra.

“I couldn’t believe such an elegant, beautiful woman had survived so much adversity,” said Leczinska.

She first met Kuei, who has built a new life in Australia with her Australian partner and their young son, on another photo shoot.

“I asked her about her life and her story emerged,” said Leczinska.

Kuie was born in northwestern South Sudan which has been afflicted by civil war for decades.

She survived famine, and outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and ebola in her village, and at age eight, was separated from her mother.

Kuei spent eight years in a refugee camp and says at one stage she was “left for dead”, before eventually emigrating to Australia.

The portrait was selected from more than 3000 portrait entries in the National Photographic Portrait Prize.

“I am so happy that this portrait has ignited interest in the subject of immigration and cultural l diversity in Australia, as do many of the portraits on show this year,” Leczinska said.

“Immigration stories are the DNA of Australia.”

The National Photographic Portrait Prize is on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery until June 1.

The winner, announced last week, was Gary Grealy’s portrait of Richard Morecroft and artist Alison Mackay. An exhibition of Grealy’s portraits was staged at the Mosman Art Gallery in 2015.

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