Portraits aren’t all regal furs and awkward “Oh, didn’t see you there,” poses. They can be weird, abstract, figurative, unrecognisable, or downright adorable. It's not an easy task; capturing a realistic, unrelentingly vulnerable likeness of your own reflection, someone you’ve just met or one of your oldest buds takes a fair few stories, maybe a few beers and a willingness to tackle the intimidating notion of thinking up something new after decades of Archibald Prize winners.
Australia's top portraiture prize is back for another year, the Art Gallery of New South Wales's annual celebration of Aussie faces, alongside the coveted Wynne and Sulman prizes. The AGNSW has handed out the blue ribbon (and a cheeky $100,000) to Newcastle artist Nigel Milsom, who nabbed the Archibald Prize for his haunting, Edgar Allan Poe-like portrait of barrister Charles Waterstreet. French-born Sydney artist Bruno Jean Grasswill took home the 2015 Packing Room Prize for his portrait of Australian actor and The Castle legend Michael Caton. Caton apparently congratulated the AGNSW packing room staff “on their excellent taste in art.” What a boss.
After 832 entries, this year, these 47 Archibald finalists are the top tier of artists trying to make us wake up and pay attention (whether for great or WTF reasons) to Australia’s big ol’ faces. There's a few standouts for us this year, which you can see at the AGNSW's exhibition until September 27. There's Carla Fletcher's striking portrait of Australian fashion designer Jenny Kee, a pretty damn impressive self portrait of Australian artist and political activist Richard Bell, Adam Alcorn's sharply figurative portrait of Sydney award-winning writer, comedian, podcaster and radio host Alice Fraser, Julian Meagher's candy-coloured portrait of Daniel Johns, and Stewart MacFarlane's strange portrait of Cory Bernardi holding some kind of whip.
The Archibald Prize exhibition is on now at the Art Gallery of NSW, running July 18 to September 27. To view all the Archibald, Sulman and Wynne finalists, head over here.
Image: Carla Fletcher Jenny Kee (detail) 2015 Archibald Prize finalist © the artist.