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Louise Hearman has won the annual Archibald Prize with her portrait of ex-pat Aussie comedian Barry Humphries.

The winner of the $100,000 award for portraiture is selected by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW). Hearman was chosen from a field of 51 finalists.

The Melbourne based painter was thrilled with her win and, faced with the paparazzi scrum, she quipped that the Archibald is one of the few times that visual art gets as much attention as sport.

Hearman was joking, but there was a serious undercurrent to her comment. In fact, she took her moment of triumph as an oppourtunity to note the bittersweet nature of being an artist in Australia.

She described her sitter Barry Humphries as having a highly mobile “fugitive face” and she expressed her sadness that like so many talented Australian creatives Humphries felt he had to make his home elsewhere.

“Life in Australia has been pretty ragged for Australian artists over the last few years,” Hearman said. But ending on a high note she added, “but now I’m back in the black…”

Hearman expressed her gratitude for the award and urged the public to come see the art in person.

The Archibald Prize tends to grab the headlines, but two other prizes were announced today, both also won by women.

The $50,000 Wynne Prize for landscape painting or figurative sculpture went to the collaborative team of Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin and Sandra Ken, five sisters from the remote Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, for their large painting, Seven Sisters.

In a moving speech, two of sisters spoke of the importance of telling their stories and they thanked their grandmother for her wisdom.

The $40,000 Sulman Prize for subject painting, genre painting or a mural project was won by Esther Stewart for her semi-abstract architectural interior, Flatland Dreaming.

AGNSW director Michael Brand pointed out that this is the first time that women have won all three prizes.

 

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes
Art Gallery of NSW
16 July- 9 October

Tracey Clement