Archibald Prize 2023
Lauded as the most prestigious portrait prize in Australia, the Archibald Prize garners a great deal of anticipation in the lead up to the announcement of its finalists each year. Administered by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Archibald was first awarded over a century ago thanks to a legacy established by J.F Archibald who was co-founder and editor of the The Bulletin in its pioneering hey days. Last week, we waited with bated breath as 57 outstanding artists were announced in this years line-up. Here is a selection of those works which especially caught our eye.
Vietnamese-born, Australian-based artist Anh Do’s recognisable brush strokes instil influential Gunditjmara Bundjalung singer-songwriter Archie Roach with a sense of gravitas in his portrait titled ‘Seeing Ruby.’ Anh began painting Archie prior to his passing last year and on hearing the news, returned to the studio to listen to his songs and begin a new work. The piece is named for Archie’s wife Ruby, who balanced his fear of dying with the thought that he might see her again. “In this portrait, I’m trying to capture that moment - the moment when Archie sees Ruby again,” says Anh. The portrait marks the 5th time Anh has been listed as an Archibald Prize finalist.
Artist, lecturer and theorist Oliver Watt describes his painting, ‘Heidi May, Elle Charalambu and the artist at Redleaf Pool’ as being “as much about friendship as it is a revisiting of the Australian beach genre.” Celebrating Australiana, nostalgia and our collective love of a day spent at the beach with friends, the portrait engages through what it portrays as much as what it represents.
Melissa Clements' self portrait, ‘In The Driveway, 40º’ is a candid portrayal of the artist taken in her car on a sweltering Perth day. The slant of the sun cutting across her face and the slight ozone haze which lays upon the work creates an almost empathetic experience for the viewer. Melissa’s direct gaze seems to make contact beyond the canvas while the small size of the piece invites closer scrutiny.
The detritus of life and the snapshot of an unpolished moment in time is what creates a strong rapport and familiarity within Katherine Hattam’s portrait of acclaimed author Drusilla Modjeska in her painting titled ‘The Nightingale and the Kookaburra - Portrait of Drusilla Modjeska.’ A half finished meal and the token excerpts of conversation painted into the scene as text draw the viewer right into the living room giving the feeling that they are within the scene rather than a casual observer.
Also of note is Andrea Huelin’s portrait of Melbourne-based stand up comedian Cal Wilson. Titled ‘Clown Jewels,’ the joyfully colourful portrait was awarded the 2023 Packing Room Prize. Posing in one of many headpieces she made from plastic toys and shiny ornaments during Melbourne’s drawn out Covid lockdowns, the painting captures Cal’s dry humour and animated personality through expressionism, pose and subject matter.
The full group of 2023 finalists can be seen here. The Archibald Prize recipient for 2023 will be announced on the 5th May, 2023. Feature images by Oliver Shepherd 'Maestro (portrait of Jessica Cottis)' & Kirthana Selvaraj 'Ramesh and the blue figure with snake'. Words by Tiffany Jade.