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Pam Hallandal poses with Tsunami, winner of the 2009 Dobell Prize for Drawing, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney on Friday. ((Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images))

A large-scale, apocalyptic artwork inspired by the devastating 2004 Asian Tsunami has won Australia's $25,000 Dobell Prize for Drawing.

Melbourne artist Pam Hallandal won the 17th edition of the prize on Friday for her ink, charcoal and pastel piece Tsunami.

"There was a time when perhaps drawing was challenged as an art process and now it's healthy and wonderful ,and it's good to be here and I like it," she said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The 80-year-old, who previously received the honour for a self-portrait in 1996 and served as a judge in 1999, has also become the Dobell's oldest winner.

Tsunami is a dark, circular work that depicts swirling images of people, buildings and other forms that reflect the natural disaster.

The approximately two-metre-wide piece triumphed among 649 entries this year — the highest number ever submitted for the annual competition.

"A lot of contemporary artists might find subjects like that a bit daunting, but she does actually take them on," said Hendrick Colenberg, senior curator of the Australian prints and drawings collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Sydney gallery exhibiting the finalists.

With a host of floods, hurricanes and other catastrophes since 2004, the tsunami has remained a source of inspiration for Hallandal, who has created 16 works on the theme.

"It's an attempt to find a way of talking about the power of nature," she said.