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Maunga Might: New Zealand skier Simon Wi Rutene before his maunga Ruapehu. The painting by Gisborne artist Michael Crowley is a finalist in the Adam Portraiture Award. Picture supplied

Gisborne artist Michael Crowley is a finalist in the prestigious Adam Portraiture Award for his portrait Whakapapa, of New Zealand Olympic skier Simon Wi Rutene.

Crowley’s painting is one of 45 finalists, chosen from 351 entries in the biennial award sponsored by The Adam Foundation and presented by The New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata.

Crowley was born in Gisborne.

He grew up on the East Coast, and has Ngāti Porou, Kahungunu with Tūhoe roots.

“As a dyslexic boy I instinctively drew as a way to discover and understand my world.

“I just drew what I saw, with no formal training.

“I spent the first 50 years of my life living, working and raising a family until, on the passing of my mother Parekura, I was driven to paint and through art honour the truth and beauty of my family and roots.

“This is where I am today, using realistic impressionism to paint who I am.”

Wi Rutene is a New Zealand four-time Winter Olympic Games skier and a UNICEF director. He calls himself a patriot, “and much more”.

“He is also my nephew,” said Crowley.

“In the painting I tried to capture the silent respect, the harmonious unity and spiritual kinship between Simon and his maunga.”

Of Ruapehu, Simon said:

“I revere Ruapehu Maunga

“As a part of my identity, my spiritual home

“Ko wai au, how do we relate to Ruapehu Maunga

“As kin of Ani Paki of Rotoaira

“As kin of Hine Korako he tipu he taniwha

“As kin of Hine Kumikumi, survivor of Te Porere, of Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, and Rongomaiwahine.”

The winner and runner-up will be announced on May 26.

The work of the finalists will be showcased in the NZ Portrait Gallery in Wellington from May 27 to August 14.

A selection of finalists’ paintings will tour the country in multiple venues across the North and South Island.

The full list of finalists can be found at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery or online at https://tinyurl.com/yu72dzcu

The award carries prize money of $20,000 for first place.

■ Other Gisborne artists who have made it to the finals of the Adam Portraiture Award include Jess Jacobs, who was a finalist for the 2004 award, and Carol Montgomery, in 2008. Jacobs’ portrait was of Tariti Te Ao Maraka (nee Hiroki), while Montgomery’s was a self-portrait.