Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Night at the Gallery- Archibald Prize

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



While it isn't possibly the most warm or comforting family portrait, it is rather mesmerising. The beauty is in the detail:






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
On my second visit to the exhibition the first thing I did was to read the blurb next to the painting. And I discovered that Cassandra Golds is an Australian author (which explains the background being covered in handwritten text) and that the portrait was inspired by a passage from her recent book The Three Loves of Persimmon (and hasn't that just shot up my TBR? I was vaguely aware of it before)

“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

I love the oriental feel of this one.

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

22 comments:

Susan said...

Beautiful pictures of beautiful portraits! Thanks for sharing.

Leslie said...

These are fantastic. I would love to see them up close and in person. I like the one with the budgie... something about that cat shadow!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Wow, these are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing them with us. I could look at them for hours.

Trish said...

What wonderfully original portraits. Yes, the details!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

These were so lovely; thanks for posting.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Wow! I love paintings, and these are phenomenal....thanks for sharing. I love the stories you have for each one.

Here's MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT

Lisa said...

Those are amazing! The exhibit must have been fascinating -- you could spend hours just staring at some of these.

I'm rather surprised they let you take pictures. Normally, I would expect it to be no cameras allowed. We're all very fortunate it was not!

bermudaonion said...

They're all lovely, but I think I like Cassandra Golds the best.

Kaye said...

Wow, these are absolutly amazing. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful shots with us.

Nise' said...

All of them are fantastic. I do like Cassandra Golds too.

Book Savvy Babe said...

owo, that detailing is amazing in the family portrait. Now I want to go visit a museum! Thank you for stopping by my Saturday Snapshot :) Book Savvy Babe

Alyce said...

Those are amazing! I thought the first one was a little creepy looking, but that detail is awesome in the close-up photos. The last one with the use of white canvas is impressive - it must take so much skill to do that well.

Vicki said...

I like them all, but Cassandra Golds is absolutely awesome!!! I think it's my favorite painting of all I've ever seen!!
Here's My Photo

Kath Lockett said...

Wow, they're all so beautiful and detailed in their own way.

The Cate Blanchett one reminds me of Klimt in some vague way....

Eva said...

What great photos. The Cate Blanchett one looks like a picture that will always show you something new every time you step close to it.

Paulita said...

Gorgeous art. Thanks for sharing. Here's Mine

Suko said...

Thank you for sharing this abundance of art! Very nicely done!

Staci said...

Wow! These are amazing and I would love to see them IRL!

Cath said...

Stunning art.

muzette said...

How interesting! Really enjoyed your Saturday Snapshot!

marveloustales said...

That last one is particularly fascinating. I love how different paintings look from different distances.

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

If I just saw the closeup of the mouth I would have no idea what it was supposed to be, but it all makes sense when you see the whole painting. She definitely deserved to win.