Raumati artist Marcus Ebbett has been given a highly commended award at the prestigious 2020 Adam Portraiture Award.

Marcus received one of five highly commended awards after being announced as one of 50 finalists from a record 373 entries nationwide.

Receiving the award at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata last week, Marcus also received a $500 cash prize for his work Marcus.

"I was very surprised and honoured to receive the highly commended award.

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"It means a lot and this type of award keeps me confident I'm heading in the right direction with my career.

"The awards ceremony and exhibition opening was packed full of people and I arrived just in time, after escaping some Wellington traffic, to receive my award."

In his portrait, Marcus features the use of more than one figure, depicting fractured states of time, movement and multiple emotions — the conscious and subconscious mind.

Painted in a time of self-reflection and in support of men's mental health, Marcus sees exercise and keeping active as key to keeping great mental health.

"This year I decided to do a self-portrait reflecting on the last year for me and challenges I have overcome.

"A year ago I became a father for the second time and I now have two incredible sons.

"It took some time to adjust to a family of four and over the last six months we have slowly worked on getting back to a good balance with work, life and family.

"The past year has been a big one in so many ways, whether it was personal challenges or work challenges.

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"Not enough sleep, exercise or even sunlight can all have an effect on my health.

"For me the key to keeping my physical and mental health strong is by keeping active."

The judges saw his depiction of mental health as an extremely provocative representation of today's issues.

"This is an absorbing representation of issues related to men's health.

"It is a highly competent depiction of sequential motion showing the artist on his bicycle, and using light on the clothing and an averted gaze to underscore the theme of self-reflection."

"In the portrait I wanted to capture motion and a sense of more then one point in time," Marcus said.

"It can represent change and growth or it can simply be a creative image of a man on a bike.

"I try to think about how I can stretch the idea of what is essentially a static 2D image into something viewers will perceive as much more.

"I left in some of the original pencil outlines and paint layers revealing a structure of how the portrait mediums have been applied.

"This really relates to me being a painter and plays with the structure itself and shows a timeline within the painting and within the person.

"There are many techniques and meanings within the painting, however I like viewers to look at my work and take away their own thoughts and ideas.

"I like the painting to speak to them as it can be different for each person."

Sacha Lees from Lower Hutt was announced as the winner receiving a $20,000 cash prize for her work Sometimes an outline coloured in.

For the first time in the competition's history the gallery invited a New Zealand judge to join an international judge to examine the entries and decide on the finalists and winner.

University of Auckland Art History and Museums and Cultural Heritage associate professor Dr Linda Tyler worked alongside international judge and National Portrait Gallery of Australia director Karen Quinlan to select the shortlist over the period of several weeks.

The runner-up and winner of the $2,500 second prize was awarded to Vivienne Still from Foxton for her work Engage, and the four other highly commended awards went to Stephen Lawrie for Friday after work with Emma, Duncan Pepe Long for David, Lisa Munnelly for Stephen, and Todd Simpson for Screwed Up-A Self-Portrait.

Marcus's Studio Gallery is open weekends 10am-3pm or during the week by appointment at 120 Rosetta Road, Raumati South.