It seemed only fitting that if we were heading off to the Art Gallery to see the 2023 Archibald Portrait Prize Finalists that we meet up beforehand at the recently refurbished Archibald Fountain situated at the northern entrance to Hyde Park. Commissioned in his will by the portrait prize’s namesake J.F Archibald, the fountain is symbolic of the peaceful and enlightened ideals for which soldiers gave their lives during WWI and it honours the association forged through war between France and Australia. Although a tribute to the French, the sculptured figures resting among the waters are of the Olympian Apollo, as well as other central figures in Greek mythology; Diana, Pan and Minotaur. The hexagonal base is adorned with horses, tortoises, dolphins and artful sprays of water that frame the Greek God’s podium.
Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park
Descending the escalators from the foyer of the Art Gallery, and prior to commencing our tour of the prize finalists, we took a stroll past the portraits captured by a talented bunch of Young Archie’s whose portraits all told the stories of relationships with their siblings, their grandparents, their cousins and in particular their dads.
The little boy in the cap, an oil painting by the very talented Rachel Kim depicted her little brother with such perfection it almost looked like a photograph. She described how looking at the picture allowed her to reminisce about his innocent youth and the fun times they’d had.
Another artist, Grace Featherston drew a charcoal portrait of My grandpa Taki, to celebrate his 88th birthday which is a special birthday in Japan.
Thirteen year old, Nate Sinkovic chose a pencil and paint pen to draw a portrait of his Dad with whom he shares such a special relationship, depicted not only in the portrait but also in the words he has chosen to describe him.
He says; my dad is kind, caring, loving, hardworking, forgiving, encouraging, comforting, and much more. He is always there for me when I need him, always encouraging me to do things even when they may seem difficult. My dad loves his family very much. He has done so much for me throughout my life, and I do not know what I would do without him. He is my role model and protector.
Wow! Just wow! I wondered and hoped that my own children would champion their dad in the same way. What a tribute and wonderful way to show appreciation for his dads devotion.
Others depicted their dads as best friends, someone they loved spending time with, and going on holidays with.
I loved the portrait below of a rather frazzled looking grandpa with a red nose after frying up hot chillies.
My grandpa (wai gong) by James Charlesworth (age 9)
It was heartening to see so many respectful sentiments coming from such young artists. In the portrait below, Georgie Porter captures her cousin Evie in an oil painting to remind us that hardship doesn’t always have to follow trauma and pain. After Evie being born with breathing difficulties and having a tough first year of life, Georgie goes on to depict Evie showing her carefree, fun and innocent spirit a few years later in A letter to you.
A letter for you, painted by Georgie Porter
Moving into the main prize gallery, once again it was the emotion and stories behind each portrait that drew me in; from David Griggs, blood-hued self portrait The melanoma and the stitches, capturing how he looked and felt postoperatively after having 27 stitches down his face following the removal of a malignant melanoma from his bottom lip; A very confronting portrayal when a member of my own family has just been diagnosed with the same condition, thankfully not on his face.
The sadness pictured in A portrait of intimacy in Gene Sherman’s face and depicting her emotional journey following the passing of her husband Brian Sherman, a reflective and introspective piece by prize winning artist Danie Mellor;
An uplifting and happy portrait by Emily Crockford of fellow mural artist, Jeff McCann, the subject of Jeff’s pink daisy eyelash clash, having fun amongst the daisies;
James Powditch’s portrait Sam I Am, of actor Sam Neill, a victim of cancer, and farmer who names all his farm animals after celebrities. In this portrait he is painted wearing a hand knitted headdress depicting his favourite pig Angelica, on either side of the painting is text supplied by Sam, a nod to New Zealand artist Colin McCahon and a film-like strip of landscapes from Central Otago where Sam lives;
Ahn Do’s life size portrait of singer songwriter Archie Roach, who once told Anh that he was terrified of dying, but another part of him was okay with it because he might get to see his late wife Ruby again. In the portrait Seeing Ruby, Anh tries to capture the moment after Archie Roach's death when he sees Ruby again.
I have to admit to not loving the 2023 Archibald Prize winner, Head in the sky, feet on the ground on my first viewing. Julia Gutman, age 29, and one of the youngest winners in the awards history uses paint, embroidery and textiles to create a portrait of her friend, the singer-songwriter Montaigne, known to her as Jess Cerro. The painted patchworks explore themes of feminism, intimacy and memory.
And then it was off to Fauna in Surry Hills for lunch and a discussion of our individual likes and dislikes. There was little consensus between the young and the old on many of the portraits, however our own family's People's Choice was unanimously awarded to the portrait of Sam Neill.
By the time we made our way through a memorable meal of spongy focaccia, the squishiest little morsels of porcini mushroom arancini with taleggio oozing out of them, creamy carbonara with specks of guanciale sausage and lemon orecchiette, it felt like all we needed to round out the lunch was an afternoon nap in the sun, however we found our own sunshine on the desert menu in the form of the most drool worthy Calamansi lime tart accompanied by a silky caramelized milk ice cream. It was like heaven on a plate and certainly worthy of its own ‘Archie’ for the most delicious desert in Sydney.
Calamansi Tart, Fauna, Surry Hills
With a new guest in town, we spent many days the following week exploring nature's own palette of beauty both in the picturesque Centennial Parklands in Sydney’s east before traveling back across the bridge to the North side for a walk along the shores of the harbour from Old Cremorne Point to Neutral Bay.
The peace and tranquility of Cremorne Point Reserve
Until next time may your days be warm, serendipitous, and enjoyable.