WITH a deep meaning, an emotive brush style and hundreds of hours of research put into it, there is no wonder that Sacha Pola's Having Reached Utopia, It Was Then Time has won the 46th Muswellbrook Art Prize.
He picked up the prestigious award and the $50,000 that comes with it for the Painting category on Saturday night, and was in attendance to accept the accolade.
The Canberra based artist received a rock star's reception when his name was read out, as his entourage of friends and family struggled to hide their joy.
"I was genuinely shocked, after seeing the quality of work on display throughout the night I just couldn't believe it when I won," he said.
It was obvious to the adjudicator though who said she was constantly drawn back to his piece, because of the way in blended early narrative traditions with early 20th century modernist painting.
The work itself illustrates a Garden of Eden style setting with emphasis on utopian qualities, as a shadowy figure prepares to throw a lit match.
He said that his study helped him understand what makes great art and explained his inspiration for creating what he did.
"I think it's really about the fact the we don't know when we've reached our utopia, people will always want more and get in the way of ideas so I just wanted to display that in my work," he said.
His parents were there on the night too, and were arguably more excited than Pola himself.
"It's amazing, he's been through some tough times over the past couple of years and really needed this so it's fantastic," said his mother, Gina Jeffrey.
His father Peter revealed that his son had been creating art for as long as he could remember, even making pictures with food and drawing artwork on the skirting of their house as a youngster.
As far as the money goes, the winner said he would probably use it to place a deposit on a house and go travelling, although highlighted the title of having won the award was the most rewarding aspect.
Organiser Elissa Emerson said the night ran smoothly, and thanked major sponsors Bengalla for their support.
In the other awards, Martin King won the Works on Paper category while Merran Esson's Trees of the Monaro picked up best Ceramic piece.