Mangere artist Andy Leleisi'uao is the paramount winner at New Zealand's longest running and largest contemporary art awards.

Leleisi'uao says his win at the 26th annual Wallace Art Awards wasn't just a victory for him, but for all Pasifika artists.

"It's nice to get an award like this, but it's for all contemporary Pacific Island artists," he says. "It's about being seen to contribute to our society and one of the ways to do so is through art and entering awards like this."

Leleisi'uao, who has had a studio at his south Auckland since he started painting in the early-1990s, thanked his family and friends for support although his family was waiting for him at home. He says he didn't invite his mother, Pepe, and father, Tino, or his two adult children because he has entered the Wallace Art Awards before but never won.

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But this was his year, with his acrylic on canvas work called Harmonic People earning him a six-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York. Judges Linda Tyler, Richard Molloy and Russ Flatt say it shows his skill at creating complex compositions and his ingenuity lies in the ability to transform everyday artefacts and objects into a symbolic order.

Other winners were: Fulbright-Wallace Arts Trust Award, Rebecca Swan; Kaipara Wallace Arts Trust Award, Shannon Novak; Wallace Arts Trust Vermont Award, Matt Arbuckle; first runner-up, Christina Read; second runner-up, Matthew Couper; jury award, James Oram and the British School at Rome Wallace NZ Residence Award, Deborah Rundle.

This year, the Wallace Arts Trust received 428 entries from which 83 were selected as finalists. From the finalists, 55 have been chosen for the Award Winners & Travelling Finalists exhibition and the balance is represented in the Salon des Refuses. The exhibition is on at the Pah Homestead until November 12 before travelling to Morrinsville and Wellington.