Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Archibald Prize 2017 - Selected Artists and the winner

I love seeing the portraits for Australia's Archibald Prize - because they're so very different from the ones which get entered for art competitions in the UK.

Is it a hemisphere thing - or a cultural discontinuity about portraiture? Whatever - this post covers
  • the winner and the controversy!
  • selected artists
The prize (is) awarded, in the terms of the will of the late JF Archibald dated 15 March 1916, to
the best portrait ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia during the 12 months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees for sending in the pictures’.
This year, The 2017 Archibald Prize had
  • 822 entries this year 
  • 43 portraits selected for the exhibition.  (ie 5% success rate)
  • 14 of the 43 finalists are women – a third.
  • Of those selected almost half chose artists as sitters - 19 painted artists including a double portrait of an artist couple, James Drinkwater and Lottie Consalvo.

At the end of this post there's a review which compares the Archibald to the BP Portrait Prize - and it's a  recommended read!

Winner of the Archibald Prize 2017


"The Archibald Prize chronicles the changing face of Australia"
Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Archibald Prize 2017 winner
Agatha Gothe-Snape by Mitch Cairns

© the artist

Mitch Cairns won with his Matisse-styled portrait of his artist-partner, Agatha Gothe-Snape.
  • Bio: born 1984, Camden, Australia
  • Education: BFA with Honours, National Art School, Sydney (2003-2006)
  • Previous Archibald: 2013, 2014 amd 2015 - he was highly commended in 2014 and 2015
Every portrait is usually of a significant Australian and artists painting each other is almost an Archibald tradition . Gothe-Snape is a significant contemporary artist exhibiting widely both in Australia and overseas.  So the couple have achieved a major win - of  prize money and major marketing for both their artistic practices!

Below you can read about the controversy triggered by this choice.

The Winner of the Packing Room Prize 2017 is Peter Smeeth's painting of Lisa Wilkinson AM
Other finalists are listed below. You can see images of the all artwork in the exhibition on the website. These are made much more accessible due to a voiceover of the narrative of each painting. It's a pity we don't see these more on exhibition websites for those whose eyesight finds text difficult.

There seems to be rather less preference given to the eminent Australians this year compared to previous years - but that's just an impression, I've not been counting!
Two sunny boys (Peter Oxley and Jeremy Oxley) by Jon Campbellenamel on plywood
Ray Hughes by Jun Chen
oil on canvas, 276.5 x 173 cm
Finished packing by Lucy Culliton
oil on canvas, 70 x 145 cm
After 34 years working at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Steve Peters, the legendary head of the packing room, retired in March. However, he returned to oversee the 2017 Archibald Prize and adjudicate his 26th and final Packing Room Prize.
‘A mutual friend suggested I paint Steve Peters. He and I had a great chat on the phone. He was happy to travel to Bibbenluke in NSW, where I live and work, and sit for me,’ says Lucy Culliton.
‘We both like pink so Steve brought six polo shirts – all different shades of pink. I enjoyed our conversation while I was painting. Steve talked about his job as head storeman at the Gallery, which was an insight. I think it was good for Steve to see the process of making a painting too.’
  • Jonathan Dalton - Lottie and James (Portrait of Lottie Consalvo and James Drinkwater) - this one reminds me of a portrait in the BP in recent years - it's not a copy - but it does emphasise how two people sitting together seems to hold one's attention
  • Anh Do (beware music!) - JC (Portrait of Jack Charles)
  • Marc Etherington - Paul (Paul Williams in his studio)

  • Prudence Flint - The meal (Portrait of Athena Bellas)
  • Ashley Frost - Janet Dawson at the doorway to her studio (an Australian artist who won the Archibald Prize in 1973)
  • Andrew Lloyd Greensmith - The inner stillness of Eileen Kramer
  • David Griggs - Twisting Cain with a brown eye while lacking a constitution for darkness (Self-portrait)
  • Robert Hannaford - Michael Chaney - an Australian businessman and current Chancellor of the University of Western Australia - and it's a classic Chancellor of the University post and portrait!
  • Tsering Hannaford - Self-portrait - daughter of the abovementioned Robert. Her work was hung in the Archibald in 2016 and 2016
  • Nicholas Harding - John Olsen AO, OBE (an Australian artist and winner of the 2005 Archibald Prize) This is an Archibald double whammy! Both painter and subject have previously won the Archibald! Harding is an Australian artist who 
John Olsen AO, OBE by Nicholas Harding
oil on linen 198 x 138 cm
Untitled (Richard Bell) by Sophie Hewson
oil on board, 200 x 200 cm
  • Sophia Hewson - Untitled (Richard Bell) - this is rather unusual and has the added value of also providing a gripping short read! This one was talked about as a possible winner - but maybe left some doubt as to whether it was a serious comment on the competition or a "look at me" exercise.  Either way it's a very different kind of portraiture.
  • Tjungkara Ken - Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters dreaming), a self-portrait Tjungkara Ken is an Australian Aboriginal artist from Amata, South Australia.
‘My painting is a self-portrait through Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa, the Seven Sisters dreaming – a self-portrait of my country. For Anangu, they are one and the same.’
Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters dreaming), a self-portrait by Tjungkara Ken
acrylic on linen, 240 x 200 cm
  • Julius Killerby (aka kickasso_1) - Paul Little - an Australian businessman
    A post shared by Julius Killerby (@kickasso_1) on

  • Kim Leutwyler - Heyman (Portrait of Michelle Heyman - a female Australian soccer player) - her approach is contemporary and her paintings are interesting - and bright!
she most frequently displays paintings that focus on progressive ideas of gender and beauty, as well as women who identify as queer (Wikipedia).

  • Vincent Namatjira - Self-portrait on Friday
  • Paul Newton - Portrait of Rupert Myer AO - an Australian retailer and philanthropist. He has twice won the Archibald Prize Packing Room Prize, in 1996 and 2001, and also won the People's Choice Award in 2001. He's also a portrait artist for Parliament House, Canberra
  • Jordan Richardson - John (Portrait of John Bell - an Australian actor)
  • Dee Smart - The mayor of Bondi (Portrait of John Macarthur) Wikipedia descrobes the artist as "an Australian actress, model, singer, dancer and painter" which made me feel tired. I gather her private life is also hectic. How does she fit it all in? However I rather liked her portrait
The mayor of Bondi by Dee Smart
oil and acrylic on canvas, 77 x 77 cm
  • Gerard Smith - Elizabeth St over Hyde Park (Portrait of Helen Littleton - head of non-fiction at HarperCollins Australia.) Gerard is a self taught artist who wrote The Weekend Artist
  • Loribelle Spirovski - John Bell at home
  • Vanessa Stockard - Self-portrait as new mum
  • Noel Thurgate - Homage to Peter Powditch. Thurgate was head of drawing at the National Art School, Sydney for nine years
  • Natasha Walsh - The scent of rain (self-portrait)
  • what - Robert Forster - a musician. Not a clue what what is.
  • Marcus Wills - Protagonist, antagonist (Thomas M Wright) He won the Archibald in 2006 and was a finalist of the Archibald Prize in 2015, 2016
  • Madeleine Winch - Facing the canvas (Self-portrait)

The Controversy

The controversy kicked off with a comment from a past winner who is also one of the artists painted by another past winner
followed by another article
“I have never seen anything so superficial,” said artist John Olsen. “The thing is so totally bland.”
and another one
followed by 
In 1943, William Dobell won with a portrait of fellow artist Joshua Smith. But Dobell’s portrait was accused of painting a caricature, and legal action was launched against the artist and the Gallery’s trustees by “concerned citizens”, including two fellow Archibald entrants. Dobell won the case and it paved the way for a more modernist approach to portraiture – in 2012 Tim Storier won with a self portrait that lacked his face – but the picture destroyed the friendship between Dobell and his sitter. Nearly half a century later, Smith called the issue “a curse, a phantom that haunts me. It has torn at me every day of my life”.
and the Time Out perspective - which emphasises old men in chairs (with an assembly on images from the competition to make their point)
except I'm pretty certain that Dee Jefferson, the Arts & Culture editor for Time Out Australia who wrote the article did NOT get the significance of the portrait of Steve Peters or that one of the people they're citing as sitting in a chair is actually sitting in a wheelchair. I propose the Arts & Culture editor for Time Out Australia should be selected as a 'sitter' for the next Archibald but that she do all her sitting standing up - and then she might understand why she has made such a crass comment!  The only people standing up for portraits are those who have been painted from photographs! It takes much effort and practice to be to stand still for a portrait and even the professional models get decent breaks!

Interestingly the Sidney Morning Herald provided a review of the selection prior to the winner being announced - which also commented on the suits
The Guardian reliably weighed in with an opinion as well via their Australian art critic | Andrew Frost
who comments as follows
It’s worth checking out the finalists of one of the UK’s mostly hotly contested portrait prizes, the BP National Portrait Prize now showing in London, if you want to see a truly conservative selection of contemporary portraits. Most of these works display prodigious painting skills, stick to generic rules and feature fairly standard compositions, and are for most part utterly boring.
Overall it's a jolly good discussion of the state of portraiture - and a recommended read, what the Archibald brings to the table and ways in which maybe judges overlook some of those who are painting fine portraits.

Previous posts about the Archibald Prize


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