‘Precious days’: art prize winner’s moving message

Susan Schmidt winner best in show local contemporary art prize 2024

An artist’s emotion-charged tribute to “precious days of presence and deep love”, created as she cared for her partner in his final moments, has earned the Sunshine Coast’s top art prize.

Susan Schmidt was crowned the Local Contemporary Art Prize ‘Best in Show’ winner and recounts why she felt compelled to create the artwork, Breathe (coming up for air).

“The grey mangrove sends Pneumatophores (breathing roots) vertically through the surface to enable the horizontal roots below to breathe,” Ms Schmidt said.

“Through painting I found a sense of catharsis, in giving space and purpose to grief.

“It was a surrender from control, paint applied and rubbed back in destruction, searching for pattern and connection.  

“A ‘between worlds’ place echoing transience, loss and memory, shards of light promises of life and the edge of land and sea. 

“The mangrove, my muse, is resilient and mirrors the place I found myself in.”

Susan Schmidt – Breathe (coming up for air) Charcoal, acrylic and oil on canvas

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Rosanna Natoli congratulated Susan on her award.

Breathe, is a magnificent work and a welcome addition to Council’s collection.

All works in the exhibition showcase the many talented and varied artists we have in our region,” Mayor Natoli said. 

“The art prizes and exhibition play a key role in supporting our local artists and the arts in our wonderful Sunshine Coast.

“I’d like to pass on our special thanks to the Friends of the Regional Gallery for their partnership for this exceptional exhibition.”

Breathe is one of 40 finalist works on show at Caloundra Regional gallery until May 5, in the Local Contemporary Art Prize 2024: reflections on here & now exhibition.

Best in Show Acquisitive Award: $10,000 prize 

Guest judge, Director of Noosa Regional Gallery, Michael Brennan said of the 40 finalist artworks on display, his formula for choosing the ‘Best in Show’ artwork was simple – it was the one he was compelled to look at the longest.

“When a vast collection of works is brought together in one space, it’s often quite a challenge for quieter works to grab the attention they warrant,” Mr Brennan said.

“The work I kept coming back to didn’t shout, it whispered.

“Even though the subject matter is relatively straight forward, it uses that to tap into something much more personal.

“The gentle gravity of the work is achieved with a restrained pallet. The picture seems to dissolve at the edges, making me think of introspection and solitude, without this becoming too obvious or too graphic.”

The winning artwork will now be acquired into the Sunshine Coast Art Collection, a growing regional collection, developed to encourage enjoyment and awareness of the visual arts.

2D and 3D category winners

The 2D Excellence Award $2500 prize sponsored by Mary Henzell Investments goes to Michael Ciavarella from Eumundi for their work, Cross, while the 3D Excellence Award of $2500 prize sponsored by Localvolts was awarded to Itamar Freed of Buderim for their work Tears and Time I Lost.   

Visitors to the gallery and online viewers are invited to vote for their favourite artwork by April 27 to go into the draw to win a $50 Gallery Store voucher.



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