portraiture

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

November 17, 2017
Robert Mapplethorpe, 'Self-Portrait' (1985)

It may be the acid test of political correctness but it should be possible to dislike Robert Mapplethorpe’s work without being viewed as homophobic. Mapplethorpe often said he didn’t wish to be known as a “gay artist”, but he is such an icon for the LGBT community it’s virtually impossible to dissociate his work from … More


Salon des Refusés 2017

August 3, 2017
Wendy Sharpe: The Witching Hour - Elena Kats-Chernin (composer)

Every year I nurture a dim fantasy of a Salon des Refusés bristling with masterpieces rejected from the Archibald and Wynne Prizes by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Every year I relinquish this thought almost as soon as I step into the S.H.Ervin Gallery. The Refusés was a great idea when it … More


The 2017 Archibald Prize

July 28, 2017
Mitch Cairns's Agatha Gothe-Snape, the first Archibald Prize winner with a green nose

By the usual Archibald Prize standards 2017 is a low key year. There are plenty of neat, correct entries, a touch of quirkiness, a bit of thick impasto, but nothing to get the pulse racing with delight or indignation. Unless, perhaps, you’re a lunatic right-winger who starts to foam at the mouth at the merest … More


David Hockney

August 4, 2016
David Hockney
English 1937–
Barry Humphries, 26-28 March 2015
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 cm (each)
Selection of approximately 80 portraits, subject selection to be confirmed
Hockney Pictures
© David Hockney

“Los Angeles is an acquired taste,” says David Hockney, although he admits he fell for the city on his very first visit in 1964. After growing up in Yorkshire, Hockney was excited by the “eroticism” of L.A. It was like nothing he’d seen or imagined. To a young, gay artist from Britain’s gloomy north it … More


Ann & Sophie Cape

October 9, 2015
Ann Cape, 'Solitude', 2015, oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5cm

Today is World Mental Health Day and the last day of National Mental Health Week. Admittedly, such events always make me think of Tom Lehrer’s song, National Brotherhood Week – “Step up and shake the hand of someone you can’t stand…” and so on. The singer notes in his introduction that Malcolm X was killed … More


The Archibald Prize 2015

July 18, 2015
Winner: Archibald Prize 2015, Nigel Milsom, Judo house pt 6 (the white bird), oil on linen, 232 x 190 cm.

There was such a hullaballoo about the Packing Room Prize this year one might have thought that former Frenchman, Bruno Grasswill, had won both the Archibald and several versions of the Nobel Prize. In fact, he had won the kiss-of-death award, traditionally given to a picture of a good bloke or a good sort, as … More


Salon des Refusés 2014

August 9, 2014
Nick Stathopoulo, Ugly, Portrait of Robert Hoge, acrylic and oil on linen

So much has already been written about Sydney’s $9.3 million public sculpture proposals that I’m in two minds whether to comment or leave it alone. Nevertheless, it’s an issue that won’t go away. It’s depressing that the very idea of a city council spending money on art brings out the philistine in a large proportion … More


Archibald Prize 2014

July 19, 2014
Fiona Lowry, 'Penelope Seidler', acrylic on canvas,
225 x 185 cm

Imagine if the Archibald Prize banned all portraits that relied on photographs. The number of entries would drop from 884 to something less than 100, while the exhibition would be dominated by amateurs and unknown artists. Even the subjects would be strangers to most viewers because it’s unlikely that anyone mildly famous could spare the … More


Bigger is Better

November 8, 2013
David Hockney, Yosemite I, October 16th 2011. iPad Drawing printed on six sheets of paper (71 3/4 x 42 3/4 inches each), mounted on six sheets of Dibond, 143 1/2 x 128 1/4 inches overall. © 2013 David Hockney

David Hockney broke all previous attendance records at the Royal Academy of Arts last year, with his show A Bigger Picture. The RA tells us that 650,000 people crowded through those galleries to see a show largely devoted to landscapes of Yorkshire, the artist’s birthplace. It sounds hard to believe, until one sees David Hockney: A Bigger … More


Salon de Refusés 2013 & Jenny Sages

April 20, 2013
Jenny Sages, Irina Baranova (handing on the baton), 2007, oil and encaustic on board

This year’s Archibald Prize was one of the most even contests in decades, but also one of the least memorable. There have been pictures in previous competitions that would have romped home in this year’s field, but the luck and timing was with Del Kathryn Barton, not with the ghosts of Archibalds past. If there … More