LONDONDERRY artist, Sheila Wallis, has won the 2009 Threadneedle Prize, the largest art prize awarded by the public in the UK.
Sheila received a cheque for 25,000 from Simon Davies, Executive Chairman of Threadneedle Investments, at a special Awards dinner at the Mall Galleries last night
Each of the six runners-up received 1,000.
Sheila's current work explores the human body, with an emphasis placed on communicating a sense of the 'creatureliness' of the human condition. It makes enquiry into the material, physical qualities of the medium, allowing room for the viewer to experience a degree of freedom to feel as well as think about the visual experience.
Last week Sheila, who hails from the Pennyburn area, asked local people to support her by voting for her painting online.
The former St Cecilia's College pupil now lives in Epsom, England where she works for the NHS as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities.
It was five years ago that she started a degree course in fine art, but Sheila is also a graduate from the University For The Creative Arts at Farnham, North East Surrey College and the Sutton College of Liberal Arts.
Sheila's painting is called 'Self Portrait - oil on canvas', but it is not a classic nude.
"All objects and paraphernalia other than the body, and the surface it rests upon, are removed, presenting a small, naked creature, not the classic 'nude'," she said.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan has paid tribute to Ms Wallis, saying: "I would like to congratulate Sheila on winning this prestigious award.
"She is testament to the fact that Derry continues to produce incredible artistic talent and that individuals and groups in the arts community in our city are up with the very best.
"I'm sure that many people throughout this city are very proud of her today.
"She should rightly take pride in this great achievement."