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Portrait Gallery Unveils Speaker's Portrait

NZ Portrait Gallery: unveiling of the Speaker's portrait in Wellington

Speaker Set In Stone

A portrait of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, created with thousands of pebble stones, is undoubtedly one of the most original portraits yet commissioned in New Zealand. Unveiled by Denis Adam in the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington today, the portrait was created by an Auckland artist Ryuzo Nishida, the winner of the Adam Portraiture Award 2004.

Photographer: Ivor Earp Jones

Portrait of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt by an Auckland artist Ryuzo Nishida, the Adam Portraiture Award 2004 winner.

'Self-portrait' by Ryuzo Nishida, the winning portrait of the Adam Portraiture Award 2004.

Nishida was awarded first prize out of 200 entries submitted in the Award, a biennial portrait competition staged by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in February this year.

In making the Award, the competition judge, Marc Pachter, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. said: "The startling and accomplished self-portrait by New Zealand's Ryuzo Nishida gives us all hope that the 21st century will provide a brilliant new chapter in the history of portraiture."

The artist received a $10,000 prize package, which included a $5,000 commission to paint a portrait of the Speaker.

The portrait of the Speaker recognised the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the New Zealand Parliament and Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt's interest in the arts and support for the Portrait Gallery.

The artist's Self-portrait, which won the portrait competition, was made of 12,000-acrylic painted nails. When creating portraits, Nishida tends to use materials that would epitomize his subject's image, convey a characteristic feature or capture the randomness of an association that people have with the subject. If he was to portray Health Minister, Annette King, he would use cigarette butts, and Justice Minister, Phil Goff, would be made of dice. But as the Speaker is known as "the father of the house", Nishida decided to immortalize him in stone.

"I went to a garden centre and bought heaps of packs with pebble stones. Everybody was asking me what I needed them for. I didn't tell them I was to make a portrait of the Speaker of the House of Representatives," said Nishida. "I chose stones, because I wanted to create a vernacular heroic image."

"The stones render the Speaker's portrait an epitome of stability, permanence and steadiness," said Hugh Templeton, former National Party MP and chairperson of the Portrait Gallery's management committee. "The unique technique as well as the artist's journey towards the completion of a portrait challenges the traditional notion of portraiture. Nishida's works blend instinct with new technology in order to achieve a true likeness," Templeton said.

The Adam Portraiture Award is a biennial portrait competition sponsored by the Adam Foundation. The competition is open to all New Zealand residents and citizens. Selected portraits from this year's Award will be exhibited at the Wallace Trust Gallery in Auckland from 3 - 21 August 2004.

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