Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM, one of the Australian dance sectors greatest pioneers, is the subject of a painting by Anthea da Silva that has won the visual artist the inaugural $75,000 Darling Portrait Prize.
Founder and first director of Australian Dance Theatre, Dalman is now in her 80s, but her career continues to flourish. As detailed in Dance Australia’s “Dancing at any age” series (August/September 2019), Dalman has recently performed internationally, in Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala and in Perth in, Anything is Valid Dance Theatre’s Dust on the Shortbread. She also directs Canberra-based Mirramu Creative Arts Centre.
Anthea da Silva remarks, “I am inspired by Elizabeth’s constant reinvention as a dancer, choreographer, actor, director and environmental activist. [In my painting, Elizabeth, 2019], she is momentarily resting her feet at Mirramu Creative Arts Centre, near Bungendore, preparing for her next adventure.”
The Darling Portrait Prize is a new national prize for Australian portrait painting honouring the legacy of Mr L Gordon Darling AC CMG (1921-2015), who was instrumental in establishing the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
In choosing da Silva’s painting of Dalman as the winning entry, judges Professor Denise Ferris (Head of the ANU School of Art & Design), Tony Ellwood AM (Director of the National Gallery of Victoria) and National Portrait Gallery Director Karen Quinlan AM noted, “Anthea da Silva’s Elizabeth, 2019, is a gentle, beguiling portrait that reveals the fragile, fluid nature of the human body. Here is a woman who has spent her life moving and while she is captured here sitting, she looks set to leap. We were struck by the deliberate power of the seemingly unfinished elements of the work because, like Elizabeth, the complete picture is yet to be filled in – there is much yet for her to do.”