Winners of the 2020 Maritime Art Prize have been announced to an international audience via an online streaming event at the Mission to Seafarers Victoria, Docklands.

The Maritime Art Prize and Exhibition has been hosted at the heritage-listed Mission building in Melbourne’s Docklands for eighteen years.

Due to covid-19 restrictions in Victoria, this year’s exhibition is being hosted online.

More than 200 entries were received and 107 were shortlisted from a highly competitive field – including a greater number of emerging artists than previous years – all of whom responded to the theme The Relationship of Humanity to the Sea.

Melbourne Mission CEO Sue Dight said the COVID-19 pandemic had thrown up some interesting challenges for the event.

“This year the Art Awards and Exhibition have thrown up some interesting challenges due to COVID-19. Taking the exhibition online provides us with a global audience for the artists that have supported the Mission for so many years,” Ms Dight said.

“Our role in supporting the seafarers is highlighted by providing the public with an understanding of the harsh and dangerous conditions that seafarers live in daily.

“Our immediate concern is for the 400,000 crew members globally who are stuck on board without shore leave and, for some, a way home. Isolation harms us all and seafarers are suffering more than ever,” she said.

“Art inspires us to remember those who are working solidly to deliver our everyday items.”


Maritime Art Award 2020 – $10,000
Rodney Forbes ‘A submariner dreams of home.’
Oil on Canvas
Judges’ Comments: Chair of Judges Dr. Graeme H. Williams OAM

This year’s judging resulted in the main award going to an established artist, however it was far from clear cut due to the high standard of entries and their different approaches to the theme. The winner, Rodney Forbes, first submitted for the Award in 2016 and his works have always demanded attention. It was felt that his work not only captured the essence of the theme ‘The Relationship of Humanity to the Sea’ but was particularly pertinent that it was based on the lot of a submariner considering the whole of Melbourne is in lockdown with a pandemic, similarly without contact with loved ones. Forbes is a master of irony and there are many layers embedded in this work, making it a worthy response to the theme.

Forbes’ approach is well described on his profile on the Australian Galleries website, reproduced below with the permission of its director, Stuart Purves: Rodney Forbes is fascinated by how people tell stories. His vibrant paintings address deeply poignant subject matter through dreamlike and surreal imagery. Figures and objects float against his trademark palette of bright, luminous colours, drawing the viewer in to explore a rich narrative. Drawing on both autobiographical and historical events, Forbes has the masterful ability to portray sometimes dark and challenging subject matter through vibrant, cartoon-like imagery, resulting in deeply engaging works that invite extended contemplation.

‘Gulf Agency’ Best Traditional Maritime Art Award – $5,000
John Woodland ‘Tooronga and Changte’
Watercolour on Paper

John Woodland is a Fellow of The Royal Art Society of NSW, Fellow of Australian Society of Marine Artists, Member of the Australian Watercolour Institute and Professional Member International Society of Marine Painters

‘Nevile & Co’ Runners Up Award – $2,000
Joint Winners:
Orlando Durades Valdor ‘Get lost to find yourself’
Acrylic on Linen

Originally from Cuba, Melbourne visual artist Orlando Durades Valdor has been honing his skills in geometric abstraction for the past twelve years, presenting a unique and vibrant style.

Mark Seabrook ‘The Catch (1938)’
Oil on Canvas

Mark Seabrook is a Melbourne-based painter and designer. His Art History degree informs much of his work, along with liberal doses of pop culture, absurdism and humour.

Emerging Artist Award – $1,000
Benedict Sibley ‘All Men will be Sailors’
Willow Charcoal on Arches Paper

Benedict Sibley recently completed a Master of Contemporary Art in 2018 at VCA. Based in Melbourne, Sibley works mainly in charcoal and explores themes surrounding migration, the environment and inclusivity.

‘VICT’ People’s Choice Award – $2000 will be announced on Sunday 15th November. Votes can be cast at

This year’s judges:

  • Dr Graeme H. Williams OAM; art collector, Board Member of the Lorne Sculpture Biennale 2020 and past curator of Melbourne Savage Club Art Prize
  • Catherine De Boer; Artist, Designer & Educator.
  • John Lines AM; Patron of the Mission to Seafarers Art Awards

The exhibition can be viewed online.