Monday, March 25, 2013

Second Archibald Prize for Del Kathryn Barton

Del Kathryn Barton has won the $75,000  Archibald Prize 2013 with her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.  This is the second time she has won the prize and the fourth time she has been selected for the exhibition.  She also won the 2008 Archibald Prize with a self-portrait with her two children.
hugo by Del Kathryn Barton
watercolour, gouache and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 180 cm
This decision totally reinforces my regard for Australian art competitions!  Here's some of my reasons why
  • It's good to see a major prize being won by a woman who has painted a portrait which reflects contemporary painting
  • In the UK a portrait such as this might well be dismissed as "merely decorative" or "illustrative" by some judges for whom proper portraits should look as if they could have been produced by past masters - preferably male!  My view is a good portrait is one which  (1) reflects the individual and (2) has an aesthetic appeal at some level or other.
  • in the UK a painting which used watercolour and gouache cannot win the UK's premier portrait competition - the BP Portrait Prize.  My personal view is that a review of the acceptable art media for that competition is long overdue
  • it sticks to the rules and awards the prize to somebody who has painted a portrait of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.  Why don't we have a competition like this in the UK? I'd like to see more people creating paintings of distinguished people that don't look like photographs!
Her portrait reflects Hugo Weaving's personality, his background and her preferred style of working.
‘Hugo Weaving is an Australian cultural treasure, an artist in every sense of the word. For many years I have admired his work both on screen and stage. Initially I had considered a very simple pictorial approach for Hugo, a bearded man in a black suit. But when we sat down to discuss the portrait I was enchanted by the rich content in his stories and felt moved to interpret and assemble a kind of personalised symbology within his portrait. More than anything I hoped to portray a sincere, deep, generous and creative soul.’
Del Kathryn Barton
So far as this painting is concerned - I love the overall effect.  The dense patterning reminiscent of aboriginal art in the background provides interest and stimulates the eye but doesn't overpower. The colour palette is quirky and is obviously a signature style for this artist judging by her artwork (e.g. a recent exhibition). Of course the calligraphic mark-making holds an especial appeal for me.

Del Kathryn Barton was born in Sydney in 1972.  She graduated in 1993 with a degree in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts of the University of New South Wales. The College later employed her as a lecturer.  Galleries in Sydney have held regular exhibitions of her work in the last 20 years.  Between 2006 and 2011 she was identified every year as one of '50 of Australia's most collectable artists by the magazine Australian Art Collector.

Note: Hugo Weaving is an acclaimed actor in Australia. He is best known internationally for his roles in The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. He is also well known in Australia for appearances in smaller Australian films, television series and plays for the Sydney Theatre Company.

Links to my previous posts about the Archibald Prize