The British art prize credited with launching the careers of Peter Doig and David Hockney, chose a painting of an artist slashing a canvas as the winner of its 25th award.
Tokyo-born Peter McDonald's "Fontana" beat out more than 3,000 other submissions to win the £25,000 ($45,630) John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize, awarded every two years.
Prize judge Paul Morrison described the piece as "one of the most inventive paintings I've seen."
It will now be the centerpiece of the exhibition of 40 shortlisted works at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool until January 2009.
"Although the prize judged us on the merits of one painting, I hope that visitors to the exhibition can also have an opportunity to think about painting as a practice, carried on over many years through trials and experiments," the 35-year-old McDonald said in a statement.
"Peter's winning painting acts as a tantalizing and provocative glimpse into the way we think," judge Graham Crowley said.
Crowley characterized McDonald's work as an example of painting as a social and personal pursuit offering a fascinating contrast to the work of Damien Hirst. This week Hirst made the headlines after he sold a selection of his work for $203 million.
"This is what's really going on in contemporary art. The Hirst thing is much more about the idea of the super wealthy, the media, and celebrity culture."
This year's four runners up Julian Brain, Geraint Evans, Grant Foster and Neal Jones will each receive £2,500.
"All the prizewinning works are outstanding examples of originality in contemporary painting," said Reyahn King, Director of Art Galleries at the Walker Art Gallery.
"McDonald's first prize-winning painting combines art historical reference with a contemporary light-hearted attitude that cannot fail to engage."
The prize was founded in 1957 by the founder of British retailer Littlewoods, the late Sir John Moores, himself a keen painter. It continues to be supported in a partnership with the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust.