An artwork depicting how Alzheimer's Disease has confined one of her relatives has earned Bendigo artist Prue Wilkinson the people's choice award at the 2020 Top Arts exhibition.
Prue, who graduated from Girton Grammar School in 2019, painted the work as part of her VCE assessment.
It was then included in the Top Arts exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria at the start of last year. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the exhibition extended until this year, when Prue was recognised with her award.
Titled Cage of Confusion, the portrait is of the father of Prue's aunt who has Alzheimer's Disease.
Prue said the work took her three weeks and is part of a series of works.
"There are three paintings on the same scale, each work took three weeks," she said. "Part of the theme was confinement. This was the confinement one of my relatives who had Alzheimer's. I spent a fair amount of time at Bupa where he is staying, speaking with his wife and people who affected by (the disease) as well as him.
"I could see how he was confined in body, his expression of being scared and lost confronting but it's something we need to talk about."
Prue said while the image can be confronting to people, it also connected with people.
"I think a lot of people in some way can connect to it," she said. "The painting itself is really confronting. You can't say visually pleasing but it's something you have to read into. Once (you do), you can understand why it looks the way it does.
"The NGV did story with me and the painting last year and a lot of people commented how much affected them. That realness is what connects people and helps people empathise with it."
Now 19 and studying fine arts at RMIT, Prue said she has enjoyed painting since she was young but stressed it was not a natural talent.
"The moment I realised (painting) was something I really love to work hard at was when I was in primary school," she said. "I have still got drawings and paintings my family have kept that shows how much dedication and work I wanted to put in to art. It's not necessarily a talent. If you enjoy something and really love something, of course you will do it all the time and get better at it.
"I love how it puts me in my own little bubble, I can stay in my studio space for days on end."
Her passion for art meant Prue was always going to pursue it.
"I started (my RMIT) course because I knew it was something I loved and I would regret doing anything else," she said, "In that sense, I want to keep learning about art as long as can and see what path it takes me down.
"For people going into VCE or trying to decide on what they want to study, the message I want to reiterate is to do what you enjoy doing.
"There might be a stigma doing something in arts because it's not considered financially stable. I had a lot of people say 'what's my plan B". But it's a matter of how you measure success. If you spend every day of your life doing what you love, that's success."