Dunedin-based artist Ayesha Green has won the prestigious $25,000 National Contemporary Art Award for 2019 for a painting entitled Nana's Birthday (A Big Breath).

In announcing the award at Hamilton's Waikato Museum last weekend, judge Fiona Pardington, said: "A lightness and love glows in this quotidien [everyday] scene of mokopuna [grandchildren] surrounding a tuupuna wahine [grandmother] on her birthday."

Ms Pardington said the sensitivity of the work was reinforced by the artist's description which called it 'an exhale of generations', referencing the 'infinity of whakapapa' [genealogy] and the creation legend of Tāne breathing life into the first woman.

The work was selected by a blind-judging process from 52 finalists, all of which are now on display at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until November 10.

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Ayesha Green, who is formerly from Hamilton and attended Wintec, graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam in 2013 and a Graduate Diploma in Museums and Cultural Heritage in 2016.

She has exhibited in a number of galleries around the country and at the Melbourne Art Fair, and has built a reputation for a practice based on the relationship between peoples, especially Māori and Pākehaa, and how they inform one another.

Ms Pardington said the exhibition reflected a great diversity of contemporary work, and all the works showed strength in the media and techniques used.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meechan said: "The National Contemporary Art Award has become a focal point for contemporary artists around the country. To win it is a major achievement. It gives emerging and established artists an equal chance, and many of the winners have gone on to develop international careers."

Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, the award attracted more than 300 entries from around New Zealand and overseas. Tompkins Wake, one of New Zealand's leading law firms, and nationally-renowned architects Chow:Hill, have been its co-sponsors since 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The awards presented were:
• 2019 National Contemporary Art Award for $25,000 co-sponsored by Tompkins Wake and Chow:Hill: Dunedin-based artist Ayesha Green (Kaai Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunui), for Nana's Birthday (A Big Breath), acrylic on plywood
• 2019 Runner-up and winner of the $5,000 Hugo Charitable Trust Award: Wellington-based artist Gina Matchitt (Ngāti Rangitihi Te Arawa, Ngāti Nahere, Whakatoohea), for He Tohutono (Commanding Sign), in textile
• 2019 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner: Auckland-based artist Matthew Browne for Anecdoche (acrylic on canvas)
• 2019 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner: Whangarei-based artist Cathy Tuato'o Ross for Reason: Shame, a hand-painted photograph (gouache on pigment print)

The Campbell Smith Memorial People's Choice Award, sponsored by the family of the late Campbell Smith, will be presented to the winner of the most votes by the visiting public just before the award exhibition closes in November.

Details of the exhibition, which runs until 10 November, are available on the Waikato Museum website www.waikatomuseum.co.nz.

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All artworks in the exhibition are available for sale.