I was very excited to attend the opening of the travelling Archibald Prize at my local gallery a few weeks ago. The Archibald Prize is perhaps Australia's most famous prize for portraiture. First awarded in 1921, this 2011 exhibition marked the 90th year. It always makes an interesting outing, and I've often seen the full exhibition in The Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney. Each year a number of works are selected to tour the regional galleries of NSW- on show are the finalists of the 2011 Prize. And the people are grateful- the opening was packed! Some were Truly Awful, but I've not chosen to feature those here. I've chosen the paintings that I liked most.
I think this one is possibly my favourite. Del Kathryn Barton's portrait of Cate Blanchett and her three boys, Mother (a portrait of Cate).
|It's really big, and I could never get it without light reflections
This one drew me in from across the room. It has a beautiful burnished glow. I love the budgie cage thorax and the cat shadow. Not that I'm sure what it means.
|Cassandra Golds by Sonia Kretschmar
“Persimmon gazed at him. For a moment she had the strangest feeling that there was a bird trapped inside her ribcage, as if her bones were its prison and it was flapping frantically against them, trying to get out. She opened her mouth, but could find no words.”
An interesting portrait of our Governer General Quentin Bryce. She is always so immaculately turned out. If you look closely you can see that there are three canvases here. The outer layers are rough and drippy, the central one is refined and precise to portray her as she is now. It's a very clever technique and makes a great painting.
|Quentin Bryce by Barbara Tyson
|Cheryl Barker by Apple Xiu Yin
This one won the People's Choice Award from the Sydney exhibition. Again, it draws you toward it from across the room.
|John Coetzee (known as JM Coetzee to readers) by Adam Chang,
winner of the People's Choice Award
This one is particularly striking, and more so when you realise that it's a "portrait" without a face. Tim Storrier's self portrait Moon Boy.
|I did have to cheat and copy this one from the website,
it has a gold frame and my shots were awful
The winning portrait of Margaret Olley by Ben Quilty. It resides in pride of place as you enter the exhibition. The technique is pretty amazing. The white of the skin on her face is actually blank canvas, and the paint is slathered on. Up close it looks like a child splopped thick paint on a canvas, but step back a few paces and Margaret's face takes shape. It's very clever. A deserved winner I think.
|Margaret's mouth up close
|Textures of paint
Thankfully Margaret got to see Ben Quilty win the Archibald Prize in April 2011, beating over 800 other entries. Margaret was one of Australia's most loved and praised artists herself, she sadly died a few months later.
I got to go to the exhibition three times. Once on the super crowded opening night. Once on a quiet day time visit. The third time a school group was visiting and it was interesting to see the kids reactions to particular paintings.
Saturday Snapshot, is a wonderful weekly meme from at home with books