Page last updated at 22:11 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 23:11 UK

Naked portrait wins 25,000 prize

Sheila Wallis's self-portrait
Sheila Wallis says her work "conveys the vulnerability of exposure"

The artist from Northern Ireland who won a prestigious prize for a naked self-portrait intends to spend the money on a room of her own.

Sheila Wallis, 36, who was born in Londonderry, said she felt "gobsmacked" to have won the Threadneedle Prize.

It is the largest art prize awarded by public vote and was presented in London on Monday.

Ms Wallis said she'd like to spend her prize on a studio and would also like to show her work in Northern Ireland.


"It was a big surprise. I was delighted, but pretty gobsmacked," she said.

"I'm very proud of where I come from and what it has taught me about life. Northern Ireland is a big influence - my family and also, I had a great art teacher at my school.

"My dad always worked with his hands and I used to watch him for hours," she said.

"I am thinking of coming home soon and I'd love to show in Belfast and Derry."

Her prize will go towards a studio to continue her work.

Over the last two weeks, thousands of Mall Galleries' visitors voted on work by seven shortlisted artists.

Sheila Wallis said her work was partly inspired by themes of "internal and external conflicts and the vulnerability and exposure of the existential human condition".

She chooses to express those themes by painting the naked body.

"There is a degree of exposure that the work does deal with," she said.

"They are painted in such a way - I've heard people say - as to be quite discreet. The painting that won is very small. It is only 20 cm by 20 cm."

The Threadneedle Prize is exclusively open to artists living or working in the UK.

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