Controversial artist to judge prestigious local prize – Northern Star

SYDNEY artist Abdul Abdullah has been confirmed as the judge at this year’s prestigious Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize.

Speaking from Sydney, the artist said he was looking forward to coming back to Lismore.

“I have been fortunate enough to have been a judge for the Young Archies at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2017 and 2018, and previous to that I was the judge for the Shirl Portrait Prize at the Bega Regional Gallery,” he said.

“I’ve visited Lismore to work with young people at the Lismore Gallery as part of the Beyond Empathy youth outreach program (2019).

“I hopefully will be able to judge the prizes in person now that restrictions have eased.

“It’s hard for me to say what I’m going to be looking for when I judge the prize, but generally I look for skill, concept and chutzpah.”

One of the most successful contemporary young Australian artists of the last decade, Abdul Abdullah is a multidisciplinary artist.

He is a self-described “outsider among outsiders”, and many of his projects have engaged with different marginalised minority groups.


Archibald Prize (2011) finalist, Abdul Abdullah is the recipient of the inaugural $15,000 Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize 2019. Pictured with his work “You can call me troublesome”. Islamic Museum Australia Thornbury


The Perth-born artist identifies as a Muslim with both Malay/Indonesian and convict/settler Australian heritage.

In 2011 he won the 2011 Blake Prize for Human Justice with his photographic self-portrait featuring his tattoo of the Southern Cross surrounding an Islamic crescent moon and star, a work called Them and Us.

Last December, the artist whose grandfathers both fought in the Second World War in New Guinea had his work All Let Us Rejoice and For We Are Young and Free (out of the touring exhibition Violent Salt) criticised by Nationals MP George Christensen and Mackay local councillor Martin Bell.

In 2016, he painted Craig Campbell, who left the police force with PTSD after defending two Middle Eastern men during the Cronulla Riots, a painting that made him an Archibald Prize finalist for the third time.

In 2013, he was a finalist again with a painting of Anthony Mundine.


Winner of The Hurford Hardwood Prize is announced at the opening of the exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery.

The prize

Formerly known as the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize, the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize is a biennial prize open to artists Australia wide and is now in its seventh year.

The prize was originally open to paintings and drawings but has now expanded to include portraits of any subject in any medium.

In 2018, Dr Michael Brand selected Nicole Kelly’s Jumaadi + Clouds + Rain as winner of the prize, with Zom Osborne’s Who will Protect Us named as a highly commended entry.

This year’s winner will receive $10,000 as an acquisitive prize.

Entries close at 10pm on Thursday, August 27.

The exhibition will be on display from November 7, 2020 until January 31, 2021 at the Lismore Regional Gallery.