Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Everything’s Archie: the 2007 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes

A relatively uncontroversial Archibald prize, this one. Of course, the best paintings never win. But that’s part of the judging process. The entry that pisses the fewest judges off usually gets the proverbial guernsey. And $35,000!

Artists continue to paint themselves and each other as well as their partners, kids, dogs and dealers... not to mention art critics and gallery trustees. (The sitter in this year’s winning portrait, installation artist Janet Laurence, is a former AGNSW trustee. She’s not the first.) Ho hum. Celebs and politicians -- and especially celeb politicians -- are also well represented. Too well represented.

I normally avoid exhibition openings like the plague. It’s just too damn hard to get anywhere near the art! But the Archibald is something else.

It’s exciting to see a gallery packed out with camera crews; to see Angela Bishop and Peter Harvey pondering portraiture. It’s also a rare opportunity to take photographs in a major gallery without being tackled by security. (At the National Gallery of Victoria sketching is forbidden!! I’ve been harassed for scribbling notes in a tiny pad!)

Apart from the (uncredited) top photograph of the scrum, which comes from the AGNSW web site, these pics were taken by yours truly... with my dogs bone. (I can’t be stuffed lugging my Canon around. The only feature my new K610i lacks is focus!) (Ahem!) Speaking of photo credits, I’m guessing that the photograph above was taken by this dude on the step-ladder, left.

As they say in the (pulpy non-fiction) classics, every effort has been made to contact copyright holders, yada yada yada...

If you’ll forgive a sporting mixed metaphor, here’s my ruckman’s view of the scrum. That’s Janet Laurence in the thick of it with the winning portrait (of her) by John Beard.

And here’s the ’Bald winner himself. (John Beard, incidentally, sat for the 1988 winner Fred Cress. What goes around comes around.)

It took about thirty minutes to get anywhere near him. The paparazzi are like bears. Don’t step between them and their cubs. Or their prey. You might get clocked over the head with an 85 kilogram gadget bag. (sic) [That’s sic gadget, not sic bag I hasten to add.] [Sic bag, heh!]

At the height of the media feeding frenzy, I chucked a lap. Checked out the art. I was delighted to find a portrait of brilliant tattoo artist and watercolourist eX de Medici and her beloved mangy old dog.

eX and Reg (detail) by Sue Taylor

Finding Lily-Rose, below, I scratched my head and wondered how the subject made it by the 85 year-old Archibald criterion: man or woman distinguished in arts, letters, science or politics. She’s famous, now, I guess. QED. A plaque next to the portrait tells us that her dad, artist Daniel Henderson, wanted to make an exquisite portrait of his daughter. I don’t know to break this to him... I reckon the image looks like a plastic doll with the good-evil switch flicked to psychotic. (Sorry, Daniel. I hope you’re not reading! And, Lily, here’s hoping you can’t read.)

Lily-Rose by (doting dad) Daniel Henderson

I also wandered through the still deserted Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibitions. This is a detail from the Sulman Prize winner.

Axis of Elvis (detail) by David Disher

And this is a finalist in the Wynne.

The Double Island by Alexander McKenzie

Standing in front of a massive canvas in an otherwise empty room -- part of the Sulman section -- was a vision in pink. A girl. Two years old, tops. It was a brilliant, if somewhat cliched, photo op. And I wasn’t fast enough on the draw.

Her mother later re-staged the pose... for her own camera! I had to settle for a shot of the kid doing marble angels...

Portrait of the artist’s daughter Paloma

Paloma -- Paloma blanca as I re-christened her -- turned out to be daughter of the charming and talented Evert Ploeg, an Archibald finalist with a rare talent for doing hands. (Well, with a name like Paloma, chances are your dad flicks the acrylics around, no?)

George Ellis by Evert Ploeg

Paloma’s dad has the dubious honour of finding his contribution in a sort of anteroom to the main exhibition. It’s a preface begging to be skipped. On the plus side (I think), Ploeg’s canvas sits opposite the painting that received the most publicity in the lead up to the Prize exhibition, Robert Hannaford’s self-portrait. Quite by accident, I appear to have cropped out his penis.

Tubes by Robert Hannaford (self portrait)

I was struck by the number of portraits, this year, executed in the time-honoured style of William Dargie and Ivor Hele. Stylish, stylised, good old fashioned likenesses. Nothing succeeds like success, I suppose. (How often did Bill Dargie pick up the prize?!) Still, it’s hard to dislike brilliant and sensitive portraits of the outside of the sitter.

Brian, the dog and the doorway (detail) by Adam Chang

Bill Leak is more like a Pugh or a Dobell, I guess. But even at his darkest and most probing, as here, there’s an unmistakable air of caricature... an observation not (necessarily) a criticism.

Portrait of Paul by Bill Leak

Cherry Hood’s work is bloody impressive, as ever.

Ben Quilty by Cherry Hood (detail)

If you click on the one, below, you’ll get a megapixel reproduction. (Most of the rest are VGA, dear reader.)

Zhong Chen self portrait

Here’s another Wynne finalist:

The Rising Tide by Paul Haggith

And a choice little detail from a Sulman finalist.

The Pornography of Hope (detail) by Andrew Frost

The Archibald Prize exhibition is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until May 13. Then Myer Mural Hall, Melbourne, from May 18 to July 1. It then tours to a number of regional galleries. Firstly Manning (July 6 to August 12), Grafton (August 16 to September 23), Bega (September 28 to November 3), Orange (November 9 to December 16) and Broken Hill (December 21 to February 3, 2008).

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Blogger Genevieve said...

I guess if you had taken the Canon, you would have felt like the paps anyhow. However that shot of yours only lacks one thing...digital cameras are the devil like that, as my daughter tells me (I of course would not have known.)
What a bunfight indeed. One of the only reasons I like being unemployed is that I can occasionally visit galleries during the week.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Thanks... reading that post was probably better than actually braving the Archibald myself,

9:49 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

I think the 'paps' would have turned their noses up at my Canon... it might be an EOS, but it takes film !

But, Genevieve, I'm not sure what you're trying to say. (Does your daughter find that digital cameras crop penises out?!?!)

And, Meredith, you're too kind. One thing I have saved you, is some cash. I'm not exactly sure why the Archy is a paying exhibition. That sucks.

I don't think I've ever had to pay to see it in Melbourne... then again, in previous years, only the Archibald finalists have done the road show. The Sulman and Wynne works haven't.

12:29 AM  
Blogger genevieve said...

Focus, sweetie, focus. In its larger format, it's a tad blurry. Otherwise it's a very fine photo.
Goodness, a paying exhibition - that is mingey.

5:29 PM  

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