What started as clay and photos has become an artwork you will not believe is a painting.
Ben Howe is the 2023 recipient of the Eureka Art Award, a biannual prize from the Ballarat Arts Foundation (BAF).
Howe's oil painting is photorealistic and depicts a group of people in the style of ancient statues.
Di Bresciani selected the winner, and said the pieces had been on her mind for days.
Howe said he likes his paintings to be ambiguous, as while they are loaded with meaning, he likes people to be able to discover it for themselves.
With Rapture he wanted to capture a time during a disaster or a moment when change is about to happen.
Dr Bresciani said the oil painting conveyed themes of tension and hopelessness.
"I interpret it as Rapture in discovering yourself and knowing that one day you might be a part of the rapture as a whole," she said.
"For me, it tells me it has discovered itself."
"One of the most important things you do is to discover yourself and your voice."
Howe came to Ballarat a year ago, looking for a tree change.
"I was looking for a place for about four years and I just wanted to have a bit of greenery," he said.
"I was just about to give up and it was going to be a flip of the coin, turning left [to Ballarat] or turning right to Warburton."
He ended up finding a home in Ballarat along with a new arts community to share his knowledge with.
Howe has been an artist all his life, and has combined his talents for sculpting and painting together into his practice.
Howe's art starts with a piece of clay - he has been using the same piece for decades.
He uses the clay to sculpt the forms he wants to capture.
The clay is then destroyed or reconfigured to be used in the next piece.
"There's a story there of life going on ... and then I leave the paintings behind," Howe said.
His winning piece, Rapture, involves a number of different sculptures.
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"Because there are so many figures, I usually make a few sculptures then reposition them and collage them together," he said.
Once the sculptures are together the painting starts.
Howe said this usually takes as long as the sculpture, but tries not to count the hours - "I would get terribly depressed," he said.
"They can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to more than a month."
"I spent six months on a painting once, so who knows?"
While Howe has been able to sustain himself with his art sales, recently he has gone back to teaching in Melbourne three days a week.
He said there has been some uncertainty in the art world and teaching provides more of a stable income.
"I couldn't live if it was not for overseas attention, I feel like I'm virtually unknown in Australia," he said.
"We don't really support the arts as a society here, like we do sports for example."
Howe's work, along with pieces from other BAF alumni, can be seen at the Fairbanks Eye Gallery on 917 Sturt Street until December 9.
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