10 of the best finalists in the Archibald Prize

Mark Kolbe/Getty ImagesEntries for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes arrive at the Art Gallery New South Wales.

A portrait of Australian singer Jimmy Barnes by artist Jamie Preisz has won the 2018 Archibald Packing Room Prize and $1,500 today.

The work is one of 58 paintings announced as finalists, chosen from 794 entries.

Ten of these really stood out on first glance in terms of composition, colour and texture.

Here are 10 of our favourites in the 2018 Archibald Prize.

Del Kathryn Barton – “Self portrait”

Art Gallery of NSW

Barton has already won the Archibald — twice now — in 2008 with a self-portrait with her two children, and in 2013 with a portrait of Hugo Weaving. This is her fifth time as a finalist.

“I completed the painting four months after Mum’s death. My hands open in a state of uncertainty and loss. A single finger touches a giant leaf. This leaf, vibrating with the life energy of the universe, is my departed mother,” says Barton.

The dog figure on her shoulder is Cherry Bomb, her three-year-old French bulldog who she calls her “studio wife”.

Amber Boardman – “Self care exhaustion”

Art Gallery of NSW

The figure in the portrait is Jade, who is a fictitious character and alter ego of Boardman’s.

“Jade looks aspiringly to online representations of beauty, selfie culture and trends such as ‘self-care’ and ‘me time’, but finds that trying to relax has become yet another thing she must add to her daily to-do list.”

“Jade attempts these ‘self-care’ tactics simultaneously, surrounding herself in the bath with a glass of wine, a blender full of green smoothie, self-help books, candles, a facial mask, a yoga mat, and her newfound hobby, painting.”

“On the surface, this painting – which is partly inspired by internet memes on the topic of self-care – is funny because she looks ridiculous and is trying too hard. On a deeper level, it questions consumption, wellness culture and the frantic pace of life,” Boardman said.

Boardman is a US native, and migrated to Sydney from New York in 2012.

She says “my work aims to highlight the absurdities of everyday life.”

Benjamin Aitken – “Natasha”

Art Gallery of NSW

Aitken’s subject is artist Natasha Bieniek who is herself a five-time Archibald finalist.

“She is a good friend and I felt I could nail a portrait of her because of that,” says Aitken.

Aitken surprisingly is a self-taught artist, and is known for his abstract text-based paintings, and doesn’t paint many portraits.

“I approached this portrait in a more conservative way to how I normally paint,” says Aitken. “But I wanted to achieve a realness. So, I have used a simple background and a naturalistic style to throw the focus squarely on Natasha.”

Yvette Coppersmith – “Self-portrait, after George Lambert”

Art Gallery of NSW

Australian artist George Lambert was known for his portraits and as a war artist during the First World War. He’s one of Coppersmith’s favourite artists.

“His style was academic, yet he supported the avant-garde in Australia and painted portraits of his artistic contemporaries Thea Proctor and Hera Roberts – both independent, self-possessed style-makers at a time of burgeoning female empowerment. In referencing George Lambert’s style, it’s like an outfit slipped on, creating a fixed image of an ever-changing self,” she said.

She originally wanted to paint New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, but she wasn’t available.

“I thought I might channel something of her in my self-portrait,” she said.

Johnathon Dalton – “Abdul”

Art Gallery of NSW

This portrait’s subject is multi-disciplinary artist Abdul Abdullah who is himself a four-time Archibald finalist and judge of the Young Archie competition for the last two years.

“Abdul has an infectious energy and easy affability that makes it impossible not to like him. But he has these moments of near laser-like focus and intensity when something catches his attention. I wanted to capture that penetrating intensity in his stare.”

Dalton was born in Ireland, moved to Spain, then migrated to Australia just over five years ago, and now lives and works in Sydney.

Graeme Drendel – “Portrait of Michel”

Art Gallery of NSW

Michel Lawrence, the subject of Drendel’s portrait, has been a journalist, a band manager, an advertising executive, a photographer, and a video director/writer.

“Michel came to my studio for a morning and the painting was done in a single sitting. He was doubtful about the result but luckily his wife Sue was convinced,” Drendel said.

Drendel has been a finalist in the Sulman Prize twice. This is his first time in the Archibald Prize.

Yvonne East – “The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC”

Art Gallery of NSW

An organisation of women from the initiative “First 100 Years” approached East and asked her to produce a portrait to commemorate the centenary of women being allowed to practice law and stand for parliament in New South Wales.

East accepted, and the result is this stunning portrait.

“My hope was to capture the commanding and graceful presence of the Chief Justice (and her love of stylish shoes). Her incredible intellect is represented by the books behind her.”

“There are 100 books: one for each of the 100 years being commemorated. Their spines are blank to represent the anonymity of the many women who have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals.”

“This portrait represents the strength and honour of women in powerful positions, combined with femininity and order,” East said.

Marc Etherington – “Me and Granny”

Art Gallery of NSW

In the painting, Granny is a whippet, but Granny doesn’t exist in real life.

“I don’t own a dog named Granny yet. My wife Kate and I have been talking about getting a whippet for a while now. Our son Lars insists we name him Granny,” Etherington said.

Etherington is a self-taught artist and works as an art handler at a regional gallery. This is the fourth year in a row that he has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize.

David Griggs – “The warrior and the prophet”

Art Gallery of NSW

This portrait is Griggs’ seventh submission to the Archibald prize, and is of Australian director Warwick Thornton.

“I eventually got to know Warwick through mutual friends. Every now and then people enter your life who exude urgency, passion, anger and sheer genius. Warwick is one of them.”

“I felt the only way to paint Warwick was to immerse him in a field of symbols from his own films. I felt I knew him well enough to simply let rip and allow his presence to dictate the energy and movement on the canvas,” he said.

Prudence Flint – “Double”

Art Gallery of NSW

The subject of Flint’s portrait is Saskia Beudel, an author.

“Saskia is my most accomplished and courageous long-standing friend and has always lived a driven, independent life. She is striking in her physicality and her quiet internal grace.”

This is Flint’s sixth time as a finalist in the Archibald Prize.


The exhibitions runs from May 12 to September 9 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

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