Who hasn't looked at Barry Otto's magnificent head and not felt immediately inspired to paint it? He danced to himself in Strictly Ballroom, and played ageing genius to his real-life daughter Miranda's up-and-comer in Proof on stage. He's one the most Australian actors — embodying our sense of quirkiness, solemnity and bewilderment. And while Barry Otto's fame rests on his reputation as an actor, he offers other non-theatrical ways into his head as well. Running parallel to his acting career has been a passion for painting, an extra-curricular pursuit which has seen him enter the Archibald more than once. For Artsite this year he's pulled out the pre-Raphaelite influences, to put on arsenic-tinted exhibition called A Romantic Obsession.
The pre-Raphaelites at first looked back to pre-Rennaisance, mediaeval art. They painted the flattened world of a telephoto lens, or a stained-glass window, loved by Ruskin, and their aesthetic later colliding into new forms in the time of Wilde and Beardsley. Otto has waited a little longer than the age of Wilde to get their pale influence out of his head, but he has their aesthetic in abundance and his happy to show it off to you on a flattened canvas.
*Artsite is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11-5.
Image of 'Music' by Edward Burne Jones by Martin Beek.