A photo of urine samples could prove to be a controversial choice as the $5000 supreme winner of this year's Arts Gold awards.
The art excellence award, chosen from more than 200 entries, was won by Elton Irvine, of Wellington.
The decision was announced at a ceremony last night in Alexandra and Irvine's photo was described by judges as ''unusually beautiful''.
The awards are held every second year by the Central Otago District Arts Trust and attract entries from throughout the country.
This year's judges were Dunedin Public Art Gallery director Cam McCracken, Real Art Roadshow director Fiona Campbell, of Wanaka, and Wellington art curator and writer Brian Wood.
The judges were impressed by the quality and diversity of the entries and said the photographs entered were particularly strong. The winning shot ''shone through'', Mr Wood said.
''We think it's a very contemporary work using everyday banal objects and elevating them into something unusually beautiful ... disturbingly beautiful,'' Mr McCracken said.
''The closer you look, the more you see in it.
''Yet there's also a quality of abstraction about it.''
The decision was unanimous.
''We certainly stand behind our decision: it's a very good work,'' Mr McCracken said.
Trust arts co-ordinator Maxine Williams said it could be seen as a controversial decision ''but I am very happy with all their choices, and the winner's work is exceptional''.
All the finalists' work was available to buy, with the winning photograph priced at $450.
Four of the five awards on offer were won by photographs.
In his artist statement which accompanied his entry, Irvine said making art out of the unexpected was exciting for him.
''Things often overlooked, their hierarchy shifted. From the banal (perhaps even offensive) to the surprising and aesthetic.''
Alexandra photographer Eric Schusser won the $3000 Central Otago Artist award and Luggate photographer Brent Hollow and Dunedin photographer Justin Spiers each won a $1000 merit award.
The only award left to determine is the viewer's choice, which is decided by public vote.
The award finalists' exhibition, in Central Stories' Russell Henderson Art Gallery, is open to the public from today and runs until November 29.
The judges will host a ''floor talk'' at the exhibition today, starting at 2pm.