Calleen People's Choice winner hopes to spark conversation

Cowra-based artist, Peter Larsen, has been named the Calleen Art Award's People's Choice winner for his watercolour work "Hopeless Despair".
Cowra-based artist, Peter Larsen, has been named the Calleen Art Award's People's Choice winner for his watercolour work "Hopeless Despair".

He's the first local to win the Calleen Art Exhibition's People's Choice Award but Cowra artist Peter Larsen says he hopes to spark a greater conversation about men's mental health in rural areas.

Mr Larsen's watercolour work "Hopeless Despair", depicts the emotional toll the drought has placed on farmers but he says more general awareness and mental health support is needed for men in the country.

"I don't know what to do to fix it but there's 45 men in Australia a week commit suicide," he said.

"It's an issue where we need to bring more awareness to the community."

Mr Larsen's painting shows three different portraits among a sea of reds, yellows and browns - colours that can represent or be associated with dry conditions.

Each face shows the agony of pain, isolation and desperation.

"It's that feeling and the destitute of drought but it's not only farmers, look at the town, shops are closing," he said.

"Picasso said the sharpness of the line depicts pain and so, that's pain, that's the loneliness and that's the desperation cry, that's really the three things that I painted with those portraits.

"Guys out on their farms... they live, they breathe the farm, they never get off," he said.

"This is one of the things I'd like to tell farmers... You can do things."

As a farmer facing the drought himself, Mr Larsen said while he doesn't have a solution to the issue, he believes his work has the power to help fellow people who live off the land.

"It's something I would love to be able to... I can't fix it but [I can] at least bring the community's awareness to it."

"We're all affected by it and that's why I wanted to do that painting.

"These are the issues that I think are all associated with it and how we can get talking about it... that's why I painted that painting."

Mr Larsen said the $1000 prize, sponsored by the Friends of the Gallery, was a surprise but simply icing on the cake.

"I'm pretty chuffed, I hadn't even expected it and I forgotten all about it," he said.

"I'm humbled by it."