Archibald Prize 2013

23 03 2013

I really love the portrait of Hugo Weaving titled ‘hugo’ by Del Kathyrn Barton, the winning entry of the $75000 Archibald Prize for portraiture for 2013.

To be honest, I don’t usually write about painting. Probably because my professional and creative practice has focused more on the online and digital space where objects are created via an interface, electronically using software keyboard and mouse as opposed to canvas, paint and board.

Painting as art occupies a commodified space as a media form, because of the sale-ability and collectibility of the object, creating networks of power to barter the objects, something I have never felt comfortable with to a certain extent. When I started to use digital imaging to create souvenir objects in the Big Banana Time Inc. project and making my first vanilla html website in 1995, I was drawn in by the potential for people to edit and share media, and for the possible creation of new and different art forms as a result of that convergence. Art for everybody. Of course, that is a utopian idea, as there is still a digital and economic divide.

I think it was one of my painting teachers stating that it was the only media that mattered in art, and that it was the apex of art forms, that put me off being a painter. This is beyond paintings I create for myself, better known as therapy art.

From memory the teacher went on to say that within painting was another hierarchy of value –  portraiture, followed by landscape followed by still life. Funnily enough, it was my pencil drawings, portraits and self portraits copied from photographs and images from women’s magazines, that got me into art school. Autobiography plays a continuing role in my work, although not via a form of literal self-representation, rather it is via transmissive media and a connection to place, that a narrative is constructed around ‘self’ and experience. Scalpland was an exception of course, but it in a way it was a necessary linking between the body and the map.

As a viewer, I enjoy looking at paintings, particularly portraits, and marvel at the technical skill and broad interpretation of the genre. Earlier this week I was checking out the finalists of the Archibald prize on the website and spent some time looking at the mediums used by artists selected as finalists. I was curious because I primarily paint with acrylic and am starting to play with watercolour. Many entries were oil on canvas or oil on linen. One of the things stuck me about ‘hugo’ was the use of mixed media – watercolour, gouache and acrylic, it was good to see such skill in handling the media, each medium is recognizable in the work in a way that strengthens the image.

Archibald winner - hugo

Archibald winner – hugo by Del Kathryn Barton

I love how the cat ties the picture together, its tail wrapping like a snake and then morphing into the gum leaves. There is something appealing about the way the figure of Hugo is painted in watercolour, making his form translucent, like background painting, giving the sense that the painting is not quite complete, a story not fully told. The gesture of how he is absent-mindedly holding the cat, its claws creating scratches on his arm is quite intriguing. Is it a pet, is it a wild cat?

As yet I have not seen the exhibition ‘in the flesh’. I can’t wait to head to Sydney for a weekend soon 🙂




One response

23 03 2013

Reblogged this on Geokult and commented:

New post on mediakult about the Archibald Prize

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