Winners of the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize announced

A stunning oil painting painted by Julie Kent has won the 2021 John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize.

Dozens viewed the tough competition at the official Opening of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival on Friday, with more than 50 fantastic entries on display.

Ms Kent's piece Undressed was inspired by the poem As Far As My Heart Can Go and depicts the private sanctuary of one's own room.

Judge Leigh Robb, who is the Curator of Modern Art at the AGSA described the piece as "beautifully nuanced."

"Julies work struck me from across the room and it kept calling me back to it," she said.

"It is so beautifully created. It very elegantly captures the sentiments of the poem.

"Julie Kent's gestural brushwork captures the tonal shifts of light and shadow, a moment of enlightenment of the sun spilling through a window, creating a very moving painting about longing and time passing.

"Thinking of 2020 and the time so many spent indoors and continue to, it also feels a very contemporary work of this time, as well contains within it portraiture and the vanitas of a still life painting."

Bordertown artist Rose Milton won the Local Prize with her her piece, Once Upon A Time was inspired by the poem 'From A Coffin'.

The retired art teacher spent many decades teaching at Bordertown High School but it was only after she retired that she found the time to paint.

"10 years ago i retired and so I have been painting a lot more than I ever had when I was teaching," she said.

"The poem I was inspired by was From A Coffin and it talks about not being judgmental about his life.

"There is a line 'I had the heart to laugh' and that really got to me.

"I had a photo that I had taken, and to me it optimized the whole mood - he just looks so amazingly sad and vulnerable and there was something about him that drew me like a magnet."

Despite being a prize winner, the work was one of the quickest painting Mrs Milton had done.

"In art school, we did great big paintings, and because of the size you'd labour a lot and to me, it didn't seem right if you were too quick with it.

"So to have painted this so quickly, I was so happy with it, I thought 'that's it, I don't need any more', which is a weird sensation - normally I keep wanting to do more."

Ms Robb described the portrait as a "local standout."

"We thought it was just marvelous," she said.

"It was an incredibly detailed and textured portrait of an aging farmer in an equally rough bark frame, which is exceptional, and it feels like a wonderful mediation on aging and labor and a compelling portrait painted with great sensitivity."

Mrs Milton received a $1000 prize which was sponsored Lois Hodge.

The Highly Commended Prize, sponsored by Penola High School was awarded to David W Braun for his piece When Are The Angels Nearest inspired by the poem 'When Are The Angels Nearest.

The Design prize winner was $1000 sponsored by Bendigo Bank and was awarded to Olivia Balk.

The Packers prize, sponsored by ROAK was won by Colin Tenney.