HE’s been a premiership player, Brownlow Medallist, club captain and board member, even a reality TV star, and now Gavin Wanganeen could be an award-winning artist.
Wanganeen is an AFL Hall of Famer for his feats on the field, including his 1993 Brownlow Medal, 300 AFL games and two premierships.
Currently a director on the board of the Port Adelaide Football Club, the 48-year-old enjoyed a short stint on reality television show Survivor in 2021 and he continues to involve himself with the club’s community programs.
But every time he sits in the boardroom at Alberton Oval, he is reminded of his passion of the past decade – his painting – with a huge work he created sitting proudly on the wall.
For the first time his work has been recognised in the art world, as a finalist in the inaugural National Capital Art Prize.
The annual prize is a competition for paintings of any subject, aiming to showcase and celebrate the diversity and skill of Australian artists.
Wanganeen’s painting Start Dreaming ‘Milky Way’ is a finalist in both the People’s Choice Award and the First Nations category.
For the former Port Adelaide captain, art is an escape and while he admits it would be nice to have his work recognised, he is just excited to have it displayed alongside the work of some other incredible artists.
“It would be nice to get that recognition but as artists, we paint because it’s our time away to take focus away from everything that’s around you and to look after yourself,” Wanganeen told portadelaidefc.com.au.
“It would definitely give me a huge boost of confidence knowing people have voted for it and experts have given it the nod, but it is not really why I paint.
“More than anything it is awesome to be a finalist among some really talented artists. There are some incredible pieces amongst the finalists and I’m lucky to have my work considered with them.”
A panel of experienced art critics and experts will judge the First Nations category, which carries a $15,000 cash prize and the opportunity for a solo or joint exhibition but members of the public are able to vote on the People’s Choice Award.
There are also prizes on offer in the Open, Landscape and Student categories.
Wanganeen’s work is among six South Australian finalists in the awards including five in the First Nations category.
His art is a unique take on traditional First Nations work, and Start Dreaming tells a personal story.
“I really wanted to have my own style. I didn’t want to copy anyone or any style,” Wanganeen said.
“I refer to this one as Star dreaming but it is really Start Dreaming because I want to inspire others to dream and follow their dreams.
“Imagine an aerial view of the universe looking down from above through the stars. The white dots represent stars and those blobs of rose petal looking things represent the Milky Way. So, I’m looking down through the stars, through the Milky Way on country, on my Mum’s country and my Grandfather’s country on the state’s West Coast.
“And all the stories and journeys of my Mum, my Grandfather and their people along the way, I’m always reminded of some of those special stories I’ve been told as a kid growing up until this day.”
People wishing to cast their votes can do so here, and you can vote as many times as you like, limited to one vote per day.
Whether he wins or not, Wanganeen will continue to paint.
“I love what I do in terms of my creativity and I know people appreciate all different forms of art,” he said.
“As a general rule I like to think people wouldn’t sit there and say ‘oh that’s no good’ and I think all that matters is that you have that enjoyment and creative outlet.
“Anyone can paint and feel the release. It’s so therapeutic.”